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The Miami Street Photography Festival just concluded this past weekend handing out awards for best single image contest and series from Miami.
1st Place Singles Category Miami Street Photography Festival 2018 – Hsiu Ju Chang
The Miami Street Photography Festival just concluded this past weekend handing out awards for best single image contest and series from Miami.
Finally a photo without any animals places first. I have no idea what everyone’s infatuation with animals in street photos is. The winning image by photographer Hsiu Ju Chang is exceptional. I really love this photo and it is a great reminder to all photographers of any genre that you do not need to travel to a foreign country to take amazing photographs. You can find opportunities for great photographs anywhere. This winning image proves that good lighting, shadows, vibrant colors, and is still king! Purely at first glance, if someone said Alex Webb took this photo, I’d believe it.
This trend with animals and birds, and dogs, and cows I am sick of it! Stop! Just stop. The winning photo at Italian Street Photography Festival 2018 was an animal (or portrayed an animal). The third place image at Streetfoto 2018 looked like a “Got Milk”ad. Remember that from the 90’s? I like the cow image but it looks too perfect and how Jeff Mermelstein would say “Magaziney”. The first place image for Streetfoto….again we are at the presence of animals…Although the trio of dogs are not the predominate focus in the image ITS STILL THERE.
In the end, the winning picture in Miami is what we should be seeing more of. My hat goes off to the finalist judges at Miami (Nick Turpin, Constantine Manos, and Meryl Meisler) for getting this right for everyone!
Photokina 2018 came with no disappointments! Is the Fujifilm’s GFX 50R the future and soon to be best street & documentary camera! Release date in November 2018. Can’t wait to test it out. Read more here!
HAWAII STREET PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP
***100% Money-Back-Guarantee! I know this is a big investment but I am confident this workshop will help you get over your fear in shooting the streets. If I couldn’t provide enough value for you, I honestly don’t want your hard earned money.
Are you feeling uninspired with your photography? There are ways to work around that simply by trying new techniques in your photography (you can read here Photographer’s Block). I think every photographer would agree that there are times you get stuck and feel like you’re doing the same shit over and over again. But if it’s more than just a photographer’s block; you feel in a rut, unmotivated, the fun and excitement is no longer there, then you might want to consider shooting video. It’ll rattle you, in a good way of course, and change how you see things.
If you haven’t shot video before, it might feel similar to when you first started shooting street. You will be injected with excitement, curiosity and have no expectations other than having fun and learning something new. My experience is just the opposite. By trade I’m a videographer, I stumbled upon street photography when I was interning at a video production company in Chicago. Street photography is great for me because I can just go out and shoot with no agenda and basically just get my creative juices flowing. I was in a rut with video because my interest was not in commercial or mainstream projects like advertisements or weddings. There is rarely any demand with producing documentary or photojournalism pieces. Also, I felt stressed trying to find an interesting subject and had a lot of pre-planning involved.
Looking back, I wish I wasn’t as narrow minded then. I could have filmed nice scenic lifestyle type of videos of everyday life. You don’t need to find a specific person as your subject to video. Just go out and film what catches your eye and have fun in the editing room. That’s where the magic really happens!
Here are my basic filmmaking and video maker tips:
- Hold your shot for 10 seconds either handheld or better yet on a tripod or monopod. Make sure you tuck your elbows in!
- It’s better to slightly overexpose than to under expose
- Shoot wide then move in to a medium shot. From there go closeup, then extreme closeup if you wish. By doing this you have cutaway options. For example, if you are shooting a pizza, shoot the pizza in its entirety. Then move in excluding the crust. Then move in closer for a tight shot where we only see the toppings. You’ll have more flexibility in post-production.
- When you’re starting off and without much knowledge always overshoot from all angles. High angles, low angles, panning shots, tilt, and tracking shots where you follow the subject.
- Video is not only a visual medium, but sound and music play a big role too! Look for potential sound or ambient noise in the area you are shooting in and see if you can incorporate that into your video. Music choice is icing on the cake! I personally can’t start working on my sequence until I find the right music because I tend to edit based off of the beat and rhythm.
There are so many great videographers online that you can watch and learn from. My favorite is Philip Bloom. Or you can simply go to Vimeo and scroll through their short documentary categories. There are many awesome videos available to view and get inspiration from!
Gear, however, is expensive but more accessible than before. You can really create good work with very minimal gear!
Video Gear on a Budget:
- Camera: I personally like the Sony A7 series, specifically the Sony A7Sii because it can shoot in low light and has SLOG for dynamic color correction. It can also record internal 4K. I’ve read the Sony A7iii is just as good as the A7Sii and much cheaper so you can look into that as well.
- Monitor: A small HD monitor has been the best purchases I’ve made. It’s very hard to see on the tiny LCD monitor for these DSLR cameras and there have been many occasions where I thought I was in focus but wasn’t. A 5-inch screen that’ll mount on top of your camera is essential.
- Audio: If you want to record audio for interviews buy a H4N audio device. It has two channels so you can plug in a wireless mic on one and a shotgun boom mic on another. I prefer a Sennheiser as a wireless option. I’ll also mount a rode mic as well. It’s better quality than capturing sound straight from the camera.
- Tripod: Here’s where you should spend the money! Do not go cheap on a tripod. Your tripod will be your best friend on shoots. A sturdy, good quality tripod can last forever. I recommend the Manfrotto carbon fiber or if you can spend a little more try this one here. Although a little pricier, make sure you choose a carbon fiber tripod. Unlike aluminum, carbon fiber won’t rust if you shoot on the beach or near water and it’s lighter, so you can be nimble when shooting.
- Don’t Get Caught Up: Don’t get caught up in the drones and gimbal stabilizers, for now at least. Keep it simple, hone your skills and then maybe look into those accessories. Don’t feel like you can’t tell a story with an aerial shot or a smooth tracking shot. That’s just foolish. Watch Philip Bloom videos, yes he uses drones for some work but overall his shots are on a tripod, static, some are long takes but regardless evokes an emotion from the viewer. Not everything has to look like MTV with lots of movement and fast cuts.
- Practice, Practice, Practice: Not happy with your footage. Keep practicing! Every time I shoot something for a client or a personal project I always learn something new. Like with your street photography the more you practice and the more you’re out on the streets the better you become and photographing people, the more fluid you get walking through crowds and anticipating a moment to happen.
The above videography tips are based on my personal experience as a shooter, editor, and producer. I hope these videography tips were helpful!
Hi Mike thanks for doing this. Where do you live and how does this influence your photography?
No problem, thank you for reaching out. I currently live in Evanston, Illinois just outside of Chicago. I’d say it mostly influences my photography in that I’m located in an area that has a lot going on all the time. I would much rather shoot something interesting happening than random people on the street, so its nice living someplace with a lot of options for me.
When and how did you get into “street” photography?
I picked up my first real camera in 2013 with the idea of jumping into street photography. The genre had always interested me since I was younger, even if I didn’t know any of the big name photographers until much later. I imagine the Vivian Maier story had an impact around the time I got my camera as well.
Tell us your creative process when you’re out on the street.
How much influence does social media have on your street photography?
Social media is fun and I enjoy looking at people’s work on various platforms like Flickr and Instagram, and I use them to try and promote my own work of course, but I wouldn’t say it influences me. One lesson I learned at some point along the way is to not pay too close attention to what shows up online. I found photo books a much better tool for learning and finding influence. Bodies of work where people spent a lot of time thinking about and editing their work before presenting it – rather than social media where people (myself included) pretty much just post never-ending streams of every passable photo they take.
If you had to explain your work to a child how would you describe it?
Interesting things are happening in everyday life all around us all of the time, if you just pay attention to the world. I try to use the camera to capture those happenings in an interesting way.
What frustrates you about photography?
I don’t know if it’s a frustration but the idea that you’re never really satisfied and always trying to improve is something I didn’t really understand early on. That as I improved and reached various goals as I grew, my tastes would adjust upward as well. It’s what Ira Glass talks about in that piece about “The Gap.” The Gap is very real and if you don’t constantly feel and see a gap between your work and the work you aspire to, then you’ve stopped growing as a photographer. Like sharks and relationships, your photography should always be moving forward or else it will die.
What are your thoughts on today’s street photography landscape?
I’m not sure I have any…. I feel like there was a big boom a few years ago when the Vivian doc came out, and I myself was probably a part of that. The surge of new photographers on social media seems to have waned in the last 2 to 3 years. Seems the thing nowadays is to get a certain level of recognition (re: social media following) and parlay that into selling workshops and whatnot. The growing festival scene is interesting also with new festivals popping up every year and the established fests continuing to grow in a robust way.
As far as the photos themselves, I don’t think much has changed. Street is a very big tent and there are so many various styles and philosophies on display. At the big contests, it seems that visual one-liners and trick-shots are still the style du jour but I think that’s waning a bit still. A lot of photos that are taken technically very well and look real “whiz bang” as far as how it all fits in a frame – but they lack any emotion. I take a lot of photos like that and I’m trying to do better and focus more on capturing feeling of some sort.
What do you think of Vivian Maier? Was it her story or photographs that inspired you?
I think Maier is fascinating for all of the usual reasons people are fascinated by her story. I do think her story is inspiring but I would say that her work inspired me more than her story. I live in the same area where she lived and nannied and have met people that knew her. She just always had a camera with her, always taking photos. That seems to be what people remember about her. I wouldn’t say I think she took the most amazing photos – but I think I was maybe struck more by the way those photos aged. The way they act as a time machine to record what Vivian saw and what about that scene made her click that button.
What are you most proud of in terms of your work?
Any time a photographer I admire gives me positive feedback. Also getting to a point in my own photography where others seek out and value my opinion on what they’re doing. Those are both things that bring me a lot of pride but otherwise I just am trying to plug away at it and not get too self-satisfied with what I’m making.
Which street photographer inspires you and why?
These days I have to say Alec Soth. Not sure he’d be labeled a “street” photographer though his photos certainly have that aesthetic. I saw him speak in Milwaukee a few months ago and everything he had to say really made sense to me.
Name three contemporary photographers you really admire?
Alec Soth, Martin Parr, Don Hudson. For various reasons.
If you can have dinner with one street photographer past or present who would it be?
Garry Winogrand. Does anybody not answer Winogrand here?
When you aren’t making pictures you are doing what?
Binge-watching something probably.
As street photographers, we all get that “got it” feeling when we get the shot we are after. What needs to be present in an image for you to get that feeling or know you nailed it?
I don’t know what needs to be present but it’s like that old saying “I’ll know it when I see it.” I did watch some YouTube video about street photography when I was first starting out that gave the advice to always try and get three interesting elements into each photo. If you can get three interesting elements, it’ll probably be a good photo. I’m not sure how true that is or how good I am at making photos like that but I think it’s good advice to think about.
Do you want to make money with your photography (commercial, weddings, or street, do workshops, sell prints)
I think if I had to make a living with photography I would very quickly start to hate photography. I sell prints here and there; have sold to a few magazines. I don’t’ think I’d ever be at a level where people will pay me for workshops but that’s something that could be fun in the future maybe.
If you didn’t have to worry about earning a living, what type of work would you do?
I think I’d be a really good private detective.
Do you have other things that inspire you outside of photography (Philosophy, painting, film, etc)?
All sorts of stuff but mostly films and going to live music. I really love going to concerts and have started doing a bit of concert photography on the side just for fun. I’m also really into comedy and politics and searching for mid-century treasures at estate sales and thrift shops. I think all of those things have an influence on what type of photos I make.
What is your dream assignment/project?
I’d love to spend an entire presidential election cycle covering it from all angles but with my street aesthetic. From the small state rallies and diner meet & greets all the way up to the conventions and inauguration.
To keep up with Mike McCawley’s work
- Website – http://www.mccawleyphotos.com/
- FlickR – www.flickr.com/people/mccawleystreet/
- Instagram – Follow @mikemccawley
Adding this donate button. Any donation will be greatly appreciated. Your monetary donation will be used for coffee and photobooks. Mahalo
Only had a few hours at Coney Island. Better than nothing. Check out my “ok” photos.
Welcome back Michael. You took a hiatus? How long?
Well, I’m afraid there’s no simple answer to these questions. The “welcome back” may be somewhat premature, however. I did step away from photography for a while, if not taking photographs is what you mean, yes. I remained firmly in the photography world as a writer (I write for magazines like Photo Life), and I remained a judge at the World Street Photography Organization. I just didn’t feel the urge or the need to actually pick up a camera. I sold most of my equipment and for a whole year only took a handful of photos using an iPhone. It felt good. So, although the dates are blurry, I was away from the game of making photographs for a solid year.
What did you do during that time?
Well, as I’ve said, I wrote for magazines about photography and I also did some judging. I am a teacher by profession and I began in a new position, which required me to focus on getting settled into a new environment. I am also teaching a new course and needed to write some curricula etc. I traveled some during that time. I teach classical world, so I traveled back (after many years) to both Rome and Athens and didn’t make a single photograph in either place. It felt wonderful! I worked on a writing project with Martin Sheen. I also got into collecting expensive mechanical watches and learned all about that world.
Why were you away and what made you come back?
I’m not really sure why I felt I needed to step away. In a piece of writing, which you reference below, I talked about how street photography is overrun with bad photography and I think that was part of my decision. I was just seeing too much of the same. Everyone copying each other and producing so much of the same. It became very boring for me. You know, underexposed photographs of people lurking in shadows amidst splashes of color in the backdrop. How many of those photographs does the world really need? Or photographs of people passing in front of billboards and aligning with something in some way that apparently is ironic or interesting. Oh look, a woman with a pink shirt walked in front of a pink billboard. Snap.
Then you have the photographs of kids jumping in and out of water, young woman on cell phones, or people holding umbrellas. So much of the same. Do I sound bitter? I’m not really, truly, but I am tired of it all in some way. The unimaginative repetition is visually exhausting for me. I recently judged a competition with nearly 2000 images and it was truly disappointing how many were repetitive and familiar. Now, I want to be clear, I’m not saying that there is no good street photography out there, or no good street photographers. I’m just saying that they are becoming very hard to find amid all the noise. The fight to find good, creative, original work by sincere, kind, collegial photographers was draining.
I was tired. I was either seeing bad photography or running into ego-driven self-important photographers – often both in one package. I was also put off by the “workshop” explosion in street photography. Because no one can sell street photographs, everyone became involved in selling street photography workshops. It felt icky to me. It felt like a pyramid scheme. I didn’t want to be part of that hustle and so, without doing so, I drifted off the radar. At that point I felt as though it was a natural place to step away and do something else for a while. I’m happy I did.
Don’t you think in today’s world you need to promote yourself to get your work seen. To inch one step closer to your goal whether that’s publishing a book, or have a solo exhibit…isn’t self promotion inevitable even at times it may seem like “ME ME ME”. What do you recommend?
Absolutely. But I think it can be done with taste and moderation. I think it can be done with a respect and kindness toward others. In fact, I think you might gain more ground by supporting others than by merely promoting yourself. That’s been true for me at least. I think the community would benefit from more, well, community.
With the workshops, people see an Eric Kim whose making six figures and think this is an opportunistic time. You’re basically saying many shooters have the wrong motive. Am I correct?
Well, are you an artist or merely a business person? Yes, I do think you can be both, but it is a dance. I think some of the people selling workshops are primarily just business people, some very successful, but their art is suspect to me.
In fact, with some of these people I cannot even really find much of a body of work. Doesn’t that raise any flags for the people forking over their money? I think if I were just about business I’d chose something like real estate, not photography (laughing). Make those very average six figures into seven or eight figures! Art is about something greater and deeper than making money, at least it used to be.
Why does all of this bother you in that you see the same and people copying each other, etc?
I’ve never been a fan of copied art. I mean, paint by numbers, okay, if you need to relax. But painting by number and trying to get gallery representation? That’s a new phenomenon. And, to be clear, it doesn’t “bother me”, I just find it to be counterproductive to the evolution of the genre.
Clear the air for everybody. I saw the online backlash when you wrote that article about how street photography is running itself into the ground, therefore you decided to take a step back?
I’m not aware of any backlash to that article, particularly. Although I don’t read online forums, so maybe I missed something. I think most people took it to mean that I was, personally, burnt out and needed a break. Fair enough. My claims about the genre as a whole were, I think, largely dismissed. I don’t think there is a lot of appetite for genuine aesthetics-related conversation in street photography. I don’t see too many people writing about street photography from an informed place. I mean there are a lot of people writing (and YouTub-ing) about it, but few of these people have a background in art or art history etc. The conversations are not even skin deep most of the time. I just watched a video where a guy claimed that Edwin Land (founder of Polaroid) whom he mistakenly called Travis Land, invented the reflex camera. Wait, what? I mean come on. Then, when anyone does write genuine criticism (I mean that word in its true sense) there is backlash. No one wants to be told that their art sucks. I get it. As I always say, the lack of commercial gallery interest in what we call street photography today speaks volumes. Indeed, nothing more need be said, really.
So, yes, was I frustrated by a lack of reception by trying to initiate a deeper conversation about the genre, and the crisis I think it is in aesthetically, yes. Did I run away because no one appreciated what I was trying to do, no. I’ve been writing opinion and criticism for twenty years, my skin is much thicker than that. However, I really do wish that more people in the street photography world would try to understand what we are seeing in the genre and how (or how not) it fits in with the greater conversation of photography and the history of photography.
For example, my work in my book, The Human Fragment, is directly descendant of Mark Cohen’s early work. It not a copy, and anyone who knows our work would agree on that, but it is related. My work and his work share some DNA. Yet, no one, not one person, ever, has initiated a conversation with me about this obvious lineage – about how my work in “in conversation” with Mark’s work. I find that tremendously disappointing as an artist. I guess I long for a bygone era. I long for those days when artists bothered to know about those who came before them, in a genuine way, and worked to find an “opening” whereby they could join a larger conversation. Maybe in the days of the Chelsea Hotel when artists sat around (mostly stoned or worse) and worked to understand things intellectually, not just from an ego point of view. Today is seems to just be me, me, me. Look at my work, isn’t it great? My work is my own. It’s new. It’s original. It’s all mine.
So what exactly reignited the passion or was it just simply being away taking a breather.
I’m not sure the passion is reignited, Tim. I mean, yes, I am making photographs these days, at times. But, I am not really passionate about street photography any more. I think this comes from two places. One, everything I’ve said so far in this interview. Two, that I have made my contribution to that genre. I think my work in The Human Fragment is unique. Now, let’s be clear. I am not saying that it is good or iconic. No. Yet, I am saying that I made a body of work that is consistent, recognizable, and unique. It is in conversation with others, like Cohen, but it stands on its own. I will defend that claim indefinitely. I can be accused of many things, but no one who knows art history can claim that I just copied someone else or made photographs that were already recognizable. That said, that work came to an end. I just cannot make “that” work any more. It’s done. It is what it is. Good or bad, it is its own thing and it is finished and will now have to live out its own life. This doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be a photographer or make photographs, however. I am, by nature, a photographer. I will always have that urge to capture time and make it my slave. That doesn’t go away. At least I don’t think it does, does it?
Talk about your new work. Were these created during your hiatus? Reminds me a bit of William Klein. What inspired this?
The camera I am using inspired this work. I am using a Harinezumi, which I have used for years. Most notably, I made my book, Michael Sweet’s Coney Island, using the Harinezumi. Although those images were in color. In fact, those images are all about color and its vibrancy etc. Ever since that project I have been curious about what the Harinezumi can do in monochrome. So much of the work we see from this camera is in color. I also like how the camera is so unpredictable. There are no settings. You cannot really subjugate the camera. The camera, in some way, make you its slave. I point and I shoot. I then wait and pray that the camera is on my side. I like that it adds distortion and blur and, sometimes, things that I cannot even explain. More than once I have looked at a photograph after arriving home and have not been able to even identify what is going on or where I made the image. These photographs take on a life of their own. As for William Klein, yes, I can see where you are coming from – about the blur etc. Yet, as a great admirer of Klein (and a fanatic about understanding photographic lineage) I would be cautious to make any comparisons myself. I think, perhaps, where we converge is in that no one appreciated his images when they were first made, especially in America. I think a lot of people also don’t get my work here. They don’t get the “blur” and the abstraction. This work is proving successful for me overseas, but here in North America it is seen as very sub-par in comparison to my work with a “serious camera”. And that’s fine. I am not looking for anything with this work. I am merely satisfying my own curiosity about the Harinezumi and black and white photography.
Sneak peek into any projects you are working on? New book?
I don’t think I have the energy for a new book just now. Publishers these days are very demanding about how much of the work you take on yourself. No one wants to invest in your book if you are not committed to going out and peddling that book everywhere! I just cannot do that right now. I have two book still under active contract with a publisher and I need to promote those books and that work, for now. As for new work in general, well, I am making a few photographs here and there. I am not taking anything too seriously at all. I’m just a guy with a toy camera. Someday, more down the road, I want to return to photography more seriously but not street photography. As I’ve said, I have made my contribution there. I think I want to tackle portraits next. I know nothing about making portraits and that seems exciting to me. I love to learn new things.
Keep up with Michael Ernest Sweet’s work on Instagram – Follow @mesweetphotos
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Currently you are a staff photographer at the Star-Ledger in New Jersey tell us your photographic journey.
I took a high school photography class my sophomore year and I became hooked. I attended the Rochester Institute of Technology on scholarship and while in school I interned at 4 different newspapers throughout the US. After graduation I returned home to the Washington DC area where I freelanced for the Washington Post for almost 2 years. I took my first staff job at the Dubois County Herald in Jasper, IN and was there for 2 years and then another 2 years at The State Journal Register in Springfield, IL. Since 2000 I have been on staff at The Star-Ledger and NJ Advance Media in New Jersey.
Is it more difficult making a living as a photographer than before? Yes! I’m fortunate to still have a staff position but a number of publications have cut their staffs. Friends of mine who won a Pulitzer Prize were even let go by their papers. There is more competition with the popularity of digital photography and less work to go around with budgets being cut. You just can’t be a talented photographer now, having good business skills are essential for a successful career. Sadly as I finish writing this, the whole photo staff at the NY Daily was just fired.
Is photojournalism a degree and career still worth pursing? Yes because stories will still need to be told. We live in a more visual society than ever before. Yes, there is a lot of competition but the cream will still rise. Also, with the rise of web publications there is a bigger demand for quality photo editors. More and more students coming out of school are not becoming photographers but are going into editing and multimedia. Students need to be realistic with their skills but also be willing to put in a lot of work because someone else will.
Has social media changed things for better or for worse? There can be arguments for both! With the internet and social media we have become more visually aware than ever before. One could even argue that social media has also devalued what a photographer does. Everyone is a photographer and we judge pictures by likes but not if they communicate anything while giving content away for free.
What’s the difference between documentary and street photography? There doesn’t have to be a difference but I would say that there is more of a trend in street photography for photos that rely on graphics or quirky compositions. These types of photos might be visually fun but they can start to look a lot like each other. I feel that documentary photography relies more on photos with intimacy and emotion although they can be graphic also. The strongest photos rely on strong visuals, a decisive moment and either emotion or intimacy that makes you feel something.
Are you more of one than the other? Both! Earlier in my career my photos were more based on just graphic elements. I’m striving for more intimacy and emotion in my photos these days. There are too many street photography photos where you are just the observer and you don’t feel anything. I guess working for a newspaper has made me want more than just something that is pretty. I was lucky early in my career to be surrounded by some really talented photojournalists and great photo editors that pushed me for something more.
Here is some great insight from one of my mentors who was responsible for 4 Pulitzer Prizes where he use to work
The Language of Photography in the Newsroom
By JOE ELBERT
The Washington Post
TWP pictures fall into categories: informational, graphically appealing, emotionally appealing and intimate. The right combination of these categories in a single image becomes an award winner.
INFORMATIONAL — This is the lowest standard of photography. I often refer to these images as real estate pictures. Shortly after I joined TWP and edited with a photographer, I knew that something just wasn’t clicking. The photographer explained that he had been taught to see each assignment as shooting an overall of the battlefield, and getting a mug shot of the winning general. We still shoot informational pictures, but we know when they’re needed and do not see them as a standard. Pushing informational pictures is lowering the bar.
GRAPHICALLY APPEALING — Most newspaper photographers discovered this trick in the early ’70s. Hell, they even won awards. But these are not a case of fitting an art form. They resulted simply because wide-angle lenses were developed. A photographer with a limited sense of composition could create an image that suddenly had dimension and depth. These images are intellectually appealing but don’t have much emotional impact. Many newspaper photographers consider these stunning, and too often rely on composition alone to carry a situation.
EMOTIONALLY APPEALING — Photographers talk about capturing moments. Cartier Bresson, one of the five founding fathers of Magnum Photo Agency, titled his 1952 book “The Decisive Moment.” The challenge was to push the concept of decisive moments from the magazine world into newspapers. Patience, sensing the environment, and intuitively sensing when the moment will occur are the building blocks for capturing emotionally appealing images. The skill is very much like that of a wildlife photographer’s, but the subject is humanity. This involves a lot of sitting in a blind and waiting, unnoticed, for the picture.
INTIMATE — Working with truly gifted photographers helped me to realize that we could push the decisive moment and emotionally appealing images a bit further, and I chose to call this category “Intimate.” The description scared off the wannabes, and I came to know whom to work with. I can’t give you a description of an intimate picture; it’s something that can be felt.
Walk us through your creative process when you’re out photographing? First, my question to myself is what do I want to say? I use to go a hundred miles an hour and right into looking for a photo but realized that some of the best photos are right behind me. I now like to walk around the periphery of a scene. Looking at the light and shadows and how they playoff each other. Then I look at the people, their relationships and their body gestures asking myself what really is the story here. With this knowledge I try to predict where moments will happen. I like to by the fly on the wall when I’m photographing but not the fly you want to swat. There are two ways to take a photo. The first is where the photo is completely candid and the subject has no idea that it was taken. The other is when a photographer gains the trust of a subject and then they start to ignore the photographer. One way is not better than the other. A talented photographer can be very inconspicuous even if the subject knows they are there and especially when there is a lot of drama going on around them.
Do you capture your street photos simultaneous when you are working on assignments or do you shoot on your days off? Both! You have to have a balance with work and personal photography. Otherwise you spend all of your life documenting other people’s life and not living yourself. I incorporate street photography into my daily assignments and especially on photo essay projects for work. I also have a couple of personal long term street photography projects I’m working on too. The light mirrorless cameras have made it easier to carry a high quality camera more frequently. I currently have a couple of the Fuji models I use in addition to my Canon work gear.
What’s your favorite subject to photograph? Generally speaking people. I like the diversity of subjects I cover being a newspaper photographer. That being said I specialize in documentary essays.
In regards to your photography, what are you most proud of? Producing high quality work on a consistent basis. Anyone can get lucky with one photo but working hard and producing quality work daily for my publication shows my value to being on their staff.
Is there something you’d like to improve on in your photography? Any challenges you take upon yourself? Getting closer not just physically to my subjects but emotionally. I know I and others sometimes get in a formula on how we like to shoot it be either a certain lens, a distance to a subject, a time of day or style of light. It’s good to break away from this and change things up. Years ago a friend of mine was a photo editor a small paper and a rodeo was coming to town. The staff of 5 photographers went to shoot it as a team project. They were allowed only a limited number of rolls of film with one camera and their favorite lens. Then they were told to give their favorite lens to the photographer to the right of them. The photographer who liked to shoot all long lens sports with clean backgrounds now had a 24mm lens!!!! As a staff they were challenged to work differently but as a whole they produced some great work. Things like this are great to do and occasionally push yourself to see and not get to comfortable.
Was there a photo or photographer that had a lasting impact on you? A couple – from a pure traditional street photography aspect Magnum’s David Allan Harvey and Alex Webb have been influential. I was fortunate to work with former Washington Post Photographer Carol Guzy who has won 4 Pulitzer Prizes. Her photos are visually amazing with a lot to say on important issues. Lastly, legendary LIFE Magazine photographer Bill Eppridge was a friend and mentor.
“A journalist does not necessarily imply ‘artist’ but you are not going to make your point if you cannot make a picture that people will stop and explore…the ‘artist’ in one instant must establish a sense of time, a sense of place, a moment of importance, a moment of aesthetic beauty all in the same frame, one moment in history. In terms of importance, the fewer of these present, the less significant the photograph. Anybody can take pictures, but not anybody can become a photographer.” – Bill Eppridge
A favorite photo of from your own collection – I call it “Endless Summer.” I was working at my first staff job in Jasper, IN, and it was the 4th of July on Beaver Lake. The kids felt comfortable around me and just ignored me as I took their photos. To me this photo is timeless.
Any advice to you’d give to photographers? Work hard because if you don’t someone else will. There are less job opportunities than the past and more photographers looking for work. Be flexible and diverse in your skills but be able to specialize or show an editor why you are unique and should be the right photographer for the job. Use all the tools and tricks of the trade but make your own photos and don’t feel you have to copy a style. Your pictures should rely on a moment and emotion and not on how you light the scene. Otherwise you’re bringing yourself down to just technique. Also extremely important is to understand the business of photography. Making a living through street photography is not an option for most photographers.
To keep up with Aristide Economopoulos’s work:
Instagram – Follow @aeconomopoulos
Website – www.aristidephoto.com
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