Interview With Photographer Aristide Economopoulos

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.

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To keep up with Aristide Economopoulos’s work:

Instagram – Follow @aeconomopoulos

Website – www.aristidephoto.com

Adding this donate button. Any donation will be greatly appreciated. Your monetary donation will be used for coffee and photobooks. Mahalo

Interview with Street Photographer Jill Maguire

Jill! How are you? Thanks for doing this. Can you start off by telling us a (brief) story on your background and how you first picked up a camera?

I’ve always liked taking pictures but wasn’t serious about it until well into adulthood. In 2009, I bought a DSLR to take pictures of my dog. From there it was a lot of experimentation until I finally landed on street photography in 2014. When I made the switch, I never looked back.

What is it about Street photography that keeps interested?

I am happiest in urban areas and at events, so even if I don’t shoot well, I try to enjoy wherever I am and eat well in the process. I’m all about the experience. I like to try new places, and those I like, I revisit.

How would you describe your street style or photographs?

I would call it a work in progress. I like color and light, but there’s often a shortage of both in Seattle. I’m still looking for a good project to do in the dead of winter that gets me out of the house consistently.

How has your style or approach changed or evolved since you started shooting?

If anything, my bar is higher, and some days I feel like deleting everything I come home with. Maybe that’s ultimately a good thing, but it does make for a pretty slow Instagram feed. On the other hand, I’ve learned to cut myself some slack, knowing just how hard street photography is.

I know you’re an avid (Dog or animal) lover. Do you try to include animals in your photographs? something that easily catches your eye?

 I love animals–both real and unreal–in street photography. I have an ongoing zoo project, but it’s on hiatus for the summer. I’ll go back in the fall when the clouds return.

The animal theme is intentional or unintentional?

Intentional, for sure. Far from mastered, though. Lots of other photographers are better at it. My Flickr (whatjillsaw) favorites are filled with animals in street photography.

 I notice you shoot a lot at the seattle state fairs or the local Zoo. How does that compare to when you’re shooting out in the street?

At the zoo, I’m looking for similarity between people, animals, and the landscape, so in a way, I know exactly what to look for. My Washington State Fair work evolves each year. I’ve tossed several years of fair shots because as I’ve gotten more experienced, I don’t like my older work. I consider all “out on the street” shooting to be practice for the fair. Occasionally I’ll get a shot that fits into some of the other loose themes that I’ve created semi-formal projects for (like my shots from California), but the OK/random shots don’t tend to do it for me.

This is all complicated by the fact that I am loyal and sentimental about these locations. I’m not interested in traveling to other fairs or zoos. I tried that and it didn’t work for me.

What makes Seattle unique for street photography?

I have a love/hate relationship with Seattle. I’ve finally started to embrace some locations here, but I hate the rain, and traffic is terrible. On the plus side, the summer days are long and chock full of events. In addition, everyone is extremely polite. I’ve never had any problems shooting here.

Whose work do you admire?

I admire photographers who can make Anytown USA look interesting. Besides Stephen Shore and William Eggleston, I’m really into Don Hudson and Sixft Whiterabbit right now.

If you can have one street photographer shoot your wedding who would it be?

Martin Parr, no question. We got married in Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, and Parr would’ve been the perfect Vegas photographer.

If you could shoot a particular style of a street photographer who would it be?

My photographic fantasy is to take a summer road trip, Stephen Shore style. I want to stay in cheesy hotels and eat at greasy spoons. I can’t explain why this appeals to me, but it does, much more than traveling somewhere foreign or exotic.

My favorite photo of your is the lucha libre kid with the silver mask. I remember seeing it in our flicker group from our workshop with Jack Simon and was like “WOW”. Could you tell us the story behind that photo?

Why, thanks, Tim! This was shot last year during one of my favorite workshops–a Magnum workshop hosted by Constantine Manos in Los Angeles. I made two wonderful friends that week, and we spent an evening on Olvera street. I saw this boy running around in the mask and couldn’t resist following him. He finally sat still in a sunbeam, but only long enough for one shot. I think being a woman helped me here, since his dad was there and didn’t object.

In your opinion, what makes a photograph work or interesting?

Light, color, and something unexpected. Sometimes 2 out of 3 works.

What goals do you have with your street photography?

My ultimate goal is to have enough shots in a project to make a high-quality book. In the meantime, I have this dream of eventually finding a type of street photography that I’m really good at and that comes easily. I’m convinced this will happen any day now. I just have to keep shooting, and the projects will find me.

Whose workshop do you want to take next?

There are so many great workshops outside the US right now, but logistically the West coast is easiest for me. Coney Island is on my workshop bucket list. I also plan to host a one-person workshop (me) in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire next summer. This is another locale that appeals to me deeply, but my husband thinks I’m crazy.

What have you learned about yourself and/or society from shooting street photography?

Before street photography, I never realized how drawn I was to the hustle and bustle of crowds and urban areas. I’ve also learned how fun and exhilarating it can be to travel alone to workshops. Street photography gives me a way to indulge in both of these.

Currently, is there something you’re having difficulty with in your street photography?

I’m starting to feel like the keepers are like prime numbers–the more you shoot, the less keepers you find over time. This interview caught me at a crossroads. I’m thinking of trying something different (still in the street photography realm). I need to get off my butt and go do it.

I’ll list a few street photographers and describe them or their work in one sentence.

1. Alex Webb

Supernaturally good. Take his and his wife’s workshop if you can. You’ll learn a lot of about sequencing and bookmaking (bring your book collection and they’ll sign them). You’ll be on your own for shooting, though.

2. Martin Parr

My first exposure to flash. I like his sense of humor.

3. Bruce Gilden

Not my style. Too harsh.

 

4. Eric Kim

Nicest person you’ll ever meet. I know he’s polarizing but I’ve learned a lot from him and consider him a good friend. His workshops are as much about connecting with people as they are about photography.

5. Jack Simon

Tied with Eric Kim for nicest person you’ll ever meet. Love his quirky eye, and he’s a great instructor. Highly recommend his workshop in San Francisco. Jack is proof that the best workshops are hosted by locals.

6. Constantine Manos

I’m a huge fan of his color photography and keep a copy of American Color II at work. His workshop in Hollywood last year is one of my favorites. He’ll teach you a lot of rules that you may or may not agree with. I still refer back to my notes from him so he definitely made an impression on me. He’s VERY opinionated about what makes a good photograph. Only take his workshops if you have a similar style.

7. Jesse Marlow  and 8. Aaron Berger

I grouped Jesse and Aaron together because I took a workshop with them both this year and learned a lot from their vastly different shooting styles. They put a lot of effort into giving everyone equal time when shooting. Very approachable, supportive, down-to-earth guys.

9. Henri Cartier Bresson

Required reading, but not a daily inspiration for me. Untouchable.

10. Vivian Maier

Fascinating story. Didn’t we all go through a B&W phase after seeing her work?? She was extremely talented, but I’m also drawn to that era. No wonder it’s impossible to duplicate her style now.

Any personal tips or advice on street photography?

Travel to workshops and make new friends. This has been the best part about street photography for me, more so than any pictures I’ve come home with. Nothing beats going to a new workshop and running into familiar faces (like Tim!)

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Follow and Keep Up with Jill Maguire’s work!

Website: www.whatjillsaw.com

FlickR: www.flickr.com/photos/jillmaguire/

Instagram @whatjillsaw

Interview with Thai Street Photographer Poupay Jutharat

I met Poupay very briefly at this past year’s StreetFoto San Francisco.

She had a pretty large crowd around one of her finalist image (she had two in the international singles category) and I decided to join in. Poupay is a very humble person and amazing street photographer to say the least. I didn’t know until the festival was over that she was also a finalist in the series category as well! Obviously, she is a very talented photographer, many of her work have been accepted as a finalist in competition (Eyeem 2016 & 2017, Brussels 2016, Life Framer, Streefoto) , all happening in the short amount of time that she’s been shooting “street photography”. Everyone keep an eye on her, Poupay is going places!

Poupay thank you for your time! You have so many wonderful images, could you tell us what it’s like when you are out shooting. Your creative process…and/or how you go about shooting the streets. What made you pursue street photography?

I started shooting street photography in 2015 when I was still living in Thailand. At that time, there was a street photography workshop from SPT (Street Photo Thailand). I joined the workshop and started shooting from then.

The one who inspired me to take street photography is Tavepong Pratoomwong. He’s one of the members in Street Photo Thailand who won the Miami Street Photography Festival 2014. One of his photos that won the award is the photo of the dog in his village. That photo changed my mind on photography. I realized that I don’t need a lot of equipment or go to another country to make a good photograph. It’s about the way you see things.

There’s been a major renaissance within the last decade in street photography and Thai street photographers have added a lot of influence on that. How did that come about?

Lately street photography in Thailand is very popular. I guess because it’s not difficult to become a photographer (but super difficult to be differentiated yourself). For me Thai street photographers are very talented but I think we don’t really present ourselves or show our work to the rest of the world.

What’s so unique about Thailand for street photography compared to NY or anywhere else in the world?

Thailand is a very absurd place, unintentionally. We have a lot of nonsense stuff that happens in public, like fake police officers stopping drunk drivers. I found this to be humorous and unique but also depressing at the same time.

In New York City, you can find weird people doing weird things everywhere. For me when you stay at one place long enough, you become immune to the weirdness around you. You don’t find them surprising anymore.

I felt this when I was in Thailand. Nothing was interesting back then. I’ve always wanted to come New York and shoot the streets. NYC is still a very exciting place for me. But I also want to go back to shoot in my country.

You’re currently living in NY, correct?

Yes. But I will move back to Thailand next year. I came here for studying in ICP’s (International Center of PhotographyOne Year Certificate Program.

If you could choose between making one iconic photo that lives forever but never produce anymore photos thereafter that you’ll be satisfied with or similar to Vivian Maier’s situation, being discovered and rewriting the history books but only after your passing. Which one would it be?

I’ll make one iconic photo then produce something else. Maybe go into film or other types of artwork. I have various interests. These days there are lots of way to make art, not just only photography.

When you’re out shooting, Have you experienced any benefits or setbacks being a female photographer?

I think I look more friendly than male photographers and people will feel less harmful when I point my camera at them. But because I’m female, sometimes guys will smile to me when I’m trying to take a photograph of them. And that ruins everything.

Who are some of your favorite street photographers?

My most inspirational one is Tavepong as I mentioned. The other one who inspires me a lot is Pau Buscato. His photography has a great combination of everything I like; color, graphic, gimmick, story.

I’ll list a few street photographers and describe them or their work with one word.

1. Alex Webb: Perfect

2. Martin Parr: Witty

3. Bruce Gilden: Courage

4. Tavepong: เทพ (He will know lol)

5. Tatsuo suzuki: Strong

6. Vineet Vohrah: Complex

7. Jesse Marlow: Lively

8. David Gibson: Fun

9. HCB: Classic

10. Vivian Maier: Mystic

Choose how you would make a comfortable living from street photography (sell prints, publish books, teach workshops, editorial work, selling your own brand of products).

I think teaching workshop is what I would like to do for a living. Because I like to talk to people with the same interest. I’m a very quiet person but when it comes to street photography, I can’t stop speaking. But I can’t teach if I don’t have work to show my students. For me it’s important to have a good body of work before teaching someone else. And it has to be consistent. I’ll stop teaching if I can’t produce more work. I don’t think you can live with your past success forever.

Your work has been in a lot of major exhibits, festivals, online competitions. What’s another festival or goal you have been waiting to check off?

My biggest goal now is Miami Street Photography Festival. I’ve submitted my photos to the festival last year but couldn’t get in. Another thing is that I’m working towards a body of work or photo series rather than single image(s). So I want to submit a photo series to many festival as well.

I ask this to everyone, which street photographer would you hire to shoot your wedding and why?

I probably choose Siegfried Hansen because he’s one of my inspiration and I wanna see how he can turn a wedding event into a graphic.

Whats your favorite food?

Thai food is the best!!!

You’re walking through a rough neighborhood which sp would you bring with you?

I will bring Pau Buscato because I love his work and I want to see how he works the scene as well. Actually I want to bring European street photographer to Thailand to see how will they shoot in the country that is super messy.

How are you able to see or find humor on the streets?

I’m considered a very serious and not-funny-at-all. But Thai people love comedy and I believe it is inside me without knowing it. I’ve been surrounded by Thai funny advertisement and tv shows since I was young. I guess humor is one of the things we are good at. Then it became kind of my style of seeing thing on the streets. But trust me, I’m a very serious person.

If you can take a five day workshop from any photographer past or present who would it be?

I would love to take a workshop with Elliot Erwitt and Martin Parr. Both of them are so good at creating photo series and I want to know more about sequencing photos and the way they edit them. I still have to learn so much more about editing photos.

Be a member of Magnum or be known for an innovative street photography style?

Be a Magnum member!

Any advice or tips on street photography?

Have fun when you go out shooting first, good photo is a plus!

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See more of Poupay’s amazing photographs!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/136837396@N08/

https://www.instagram.com/poupayphoto/

https://www.eyeem.com/u/jutharatpoupay