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Posts tagged ‘Bruce Davidson’

# 11 JAN MEISSNER, New York Photographer

Leica Liker is honored to have Jan Meissner, a New York Photographer with ‘street’ sense as our #11 guest. Also Leica Liker’s first WOMAN photographer!

paint·er·ly [peyn-ter-lee] adjective
Fine Arts . characterized by qualities of color, stroke, or texture perceived as distinctive to the art of painting, especially the rendering of forms and images in terms of color or tonal relations rather than of contour or line. –

Etymology of the word ‘photography’:
From the Greek words phos (“light”), and graphis (“stylus”, “paintbrush”) or graphí, together meaning “drawing or painting with light” –

If there was anyone who’s work exemplifies the etymological meaning of the word “photography”, then it’s Jan’s. I think you will agree, her photographs are simply painterly. They’re contemporary homages to early Renaissance paintings and frescoes albeit with the aid of a very modern, mechanical and electronic instrument rather than brushes, oils and tincture.

After conversing at length with Jan, we found we had a mutual love for early Renaissance painters like Piero della Francesca and Domenico Ghirlandaio, whose iconic images adorn museums and churches throughout Italy. Those images draw you in with amazing detail of light, form, color and perspective.

When you look at Jan’s photos, they are very often simple flat-on images. Much like many early Renaissance paintings. Yet each person or facade or object is lovingly painted with light or shadow. As a result, her colors are rich, full of texture, making you want to take it all in. Jan terms it the special balance between ‘luminosity’ and ‘density’.

However, there is a great difference between Jan’s inspiration from early Renaissance art and her ‘photographic paintings’. While the old masters often worked with allegory and metaphors, Jan’s work is about capturing a slice of life. It’s like comparing traditional writing that has a beginning, middle and end to alternative modern writing where you start from any chapter and not necessarily from the beginning. She emphasizes the ‘slice of life’ by the way many of her subjects are framed. People and animals often purposefully sit at the edge of the frame or are cut in action, as if to say, they are part of a continuum of life.

For a moment in time, Jan gives us, the voyeur, the ‘feeling’ of intimate interaction with her subjects, engaged in being themselves – being human. But true to the meaning of voyeur, Jan stands far enough away so that we can’t touch it. As if she is protecting her subjects from too much intrusion. Her goal is to show the many small wonders of life but does not offer it up for consumption.

Jan is modest too. She claims she is not a visual artist of any kind. Perhaps it’s because she’s from the small Texas town of Placedo Junction. Or perhaps it’s because the important people in her life are painters and sculptors, who had formal training in light, form and composition. Or perhaps it’s because she was trained as a writer where her tools were words instead of brushes and paints. But her ‘photographic paintings’ clearly prove otherwise.

While starting in the confines of traditional street photography, Jan has since branched out into the world of fine art. Like a true artist, her complex and multiple exposure work push far beyond the specific boundaries of street photography by establishing new interpretations and new ideas of what it means to shoot the street.

Remember the Polaroid? Well, I live in Los Angeles, where our museums are filled with works of influential California contemporary artists. David Hockney (a British painter who lived here in his formidable years), comes to mind. He took what was a specific format of a single framed print (83mm × 108mm with the image itself smaller as it is surrounded by a white border) and created a new way to look at photography through his artistic eyes. He created collages out of hundreds of Polaroid images thereby breaking the traditional way of looking at a single Polaroid.

Jan is treading a similar path of experimentation and trying to redefine what it means to shoot and present her view of the streets. And for a fraction of a second, Jan’s images give us distinctly unique, beautiful and treasured views of what it’s like to be human moment to moment.

Here’s my interview with JAN MEISSNER:

Nick Name: No, no nickname.
Currently living in: Downtown Manhattan
Motto: Harry Callahan admired the photographs of Ansel Adams but since there were no mountains in Michigan he decided he would have to look very hard at the ground beneath his feet. This is not so much a motto as a description of my approach to photography.

Shooting the Streets since: 2006
Profession/Job: Photographer. Writer. I’ve held many jobs through the years—publishing world, art world, restaurant world—but none of them have been much more than mechanisms for survival.
Organizations or Group: No organizations and no groups.

How did you decide you wanted to be a photographer after being a writer? It was not really a decision so much as an accumulation of events, something akin to the confluence of events in life that I look for in my photographs. The camera seemed to catch the world in a more immediate way than my words did—that immediacy was powerful and exciting to me after the years of using the much slower medium of language.

Favorite Street Camera & Lens: Canon 5D Mark III with a 24 to 105 lens
Back-up Street Camera & Lens: I carry as little as possible so no second body but I often carry more than one lens.
Favorite photography gadget: No, no gadgets.

Favorite street food: I rarely stop to eat while shooting.
Do you listen to music while shooting? No. Music would impose itself on the very thing that I am surrounded by. I think of those moments in film when a crescendo of threatening chords in a piece of music intensifies the dread the audience feels, and, yet, if the notes of a light and comic score were played, the scene would have a very different effect on those watching. I, as the photographer, must be an audience for the streets and the streets have their own music. I sometimes have the odd and fleeting sensation that those sounds, that music, will be in the photograph itself. No, it won’t, but if I am in fact a street photographer, it is because for me the street is an organism, an entity, a metaphor for life made visible in a heaving scattering way that comes with its own sound track.

Favorite music when shooting and/or editing photos: After many years of living with a husband and son who could not let a moment go by without music being played, now that I live alone, I am happiest in the silence, the distant sound of the streets lending a kind of familiarity and companionship as I work.

Favorite photo software: Aperture and Photoshop

3 Favorite Master Photographers: I am not only new to photography as a practitioner but also as a devotee. Six years ago I began to look at the world through the eyes of photographers as well as through the eyes of painters and writers. Brassai and Lartigue and Atget and Henri Cartier Bresson were the first whose work came into focus, and, therefore, I name them as favorites, but they simply reside at the top of a long and changing list.

3 Favorite Contemporary Photographers: This is a bit like playing the game of word association—what first comes to mind is simply what first comes to mind. But there may be deeper and much more interesting answers to give and when I name Harry Gruyaert and Tyler Hicks and Phillip-Lorca diCorcia I must then add Alex Webb and when I add Alex Webb I must then add Bruce Davidson and Josef Koudelka and Elliot Erwitt, and, so, on it goes.

Which 3 photographers’ prints do you own? Unfortunately, none, but if I could own one, it would be Henri Cartier Bresson’s Barge Family, Bougival 1956. It exemplifies for me the very best of his decisive moments, and, even though I do not think of myself as so much looking for the decisive moment as looking for the decisive confluence of time and space, I love these people and I love Henri Cartier Bresson for sealing their lives, at that moment, into a capsule. My own life has been made richer for being able to witness that moment as being part of the continuum of human experience. Sentiment without sentimentality.

Color or Black and White? Color—always.
Shoot Film or Digital? Long ago, in the days of Antonioni’s Blow Up, I shared a Nikormat with the man I eventually married but that camera was a temporary attraction and he became a painter and I became a writer.

Is there a special time of the day you like to shoot or is any time good? I’ve come to know my neighborhoods—when and where the shadows fall or don’t fall—so I tend to shoot according to which side of the street I’m most interested in and when I expect that side to be dark or sunny. This is a partial attempt at an answer—my reasons are never quite the same for going out, but I do go out everyday, and, mostly, in the middle of the day when the streets are at their busiest.

How do you define “street” photography? I know that many street photographers have specific rules. A friend in New Zealand attended a seminar and was told never, ever, to crop—that cropping is a sacrilege. This is a kind of fundamentalism that does not interest me. It seems a fanaticism based on an arbitrary ideology. What I want from a photograph is to feel the touch, the very air of that place in which it was taken. However one arrives at that feeling is fine with me. Elliot Erwitt uses an air horn to get a dog or a person to turn in his direction. In a way that is like cropping. It is altering the moment in a way that works for him. I am not a confrontational photographer. I try to be the shadow on the wall. People are so often lost within themselves on these city streets and I try to catch them without their mask—human beings caught in the stillness of being human beings. There are often people at the edges of my photographs—life does in fact exist beyond the frame. For me, street photography is not about creating an alternative universe but the photographer is as much the maker of the scene as those within the frame.

Building a photograph is what every photographer does–we frame–we deal with focus and aperture and shutter speed and ISO. We deal with elements like tone and depth of field that carry emotional weight, elements, or tools, that change the emotional weight of a photograph. I use color as an emotional tool. Some photographers use black and white as an emotional tool. But, tell me, what could be more “fake” than the abstractions that black and white create. Black and white is simply a tool, as color is a tool, as framing is a tool but the aim is always to cause a single photograph to capture the emotional weight of ordinary life. I build many, but not all, of my photographs and to a great degree I believe that the decades I spent as a writer have set me up for this. The additions and subtractions that I make to a photograph always exist within moments of one another. For me, they belong together within their frame just as much as any one solitary unmanipulated image belongs within its own frame. Street photographers shoot the world, life, incidents and accidents in all their variations. But for me, no categories exist. There is no need to separate or define or fear the encroachment of any one way of working on any other way of working.

Why did you choose “Street” Photography and not another form of photography or stamp collecting? I was a short story writer. I began a novel that absorbed me for ten years, and at the end of those ten years I felt a bit lost. A friend gave me a small point-and-shoot camera to photograph the kitten he had also given me. Other friends were amused by the photographs I took. My friend began to urge me to use a larger camera, to go outside, to look at the world through a lens, and I have to say that when I did, finally, I experienced one of those moments of epiphany that cause one never to look back.

What motivates you to photograph the streets? The possibilities of confluence—the endless confluence of time and space—object and event—architecture, shape, form, color, faces, limbs, long winter coats, wind-blown hair, shadows, clumps of humanity shaping and reshaping themselves. The possibilities for surprise are endless in this city. There is a whirling quality to the streets, kaleidoscopic, and if I turn the lens to take in time as well as space I get that bounded space in which the endless parade of humanity can be framed. From the beginning I was never so much searching for the decisive moment as the decisive clump, the parts that came to be a whole.

Is shooting the “streets” an obsession? Perhaps it has become so. I was born and raised in the flatlands of South Texas, a place of little color, a place of vast and stretching emptinesses, few people, grazing cattle, low rows of cotton, wooden windmills and tilting oil rigs outlined against an ever present skyline, a skyline enclosing those long straight asphalt roads that served as pathways through a heat and dryness that vied with solitude for the thing that most oppressed those who made their lives and livings there.

But now I live in Tribeca and have done so since the seventies—my neighborhood is downtown Manhattan—Soho, Chinatown, the Lower East Side, Chelsea and the Meat Packing District—neighborhoods that hold a life so rich in all its vagaries that I find in them an unending source of fascinations. And this is exoticism enough for me. Perhaps I will tire of them and need the strangeness of some foreign place, but, for now, I need no mountains.

Are you a lone shooter or do you like shooting with friends or a group? Always alone. I’ve tried shooting alongside another photographer but somehow the magnetic quality that I feel pulling me to an image is weakened. Also, I do like to remain as invisible as possible. It is crucial to my way of shooting.
Favorite “street” photography city: New York.

What inspires your photography? I’ve spent so much time in museums—looking at walls holding worlds within frames, worlds composed in the same way that life composes itself on the street, and that is what I look for—perfect compositions of parts that make the kind of solid mass I believe we most naturally sort out and create for ourselves when we use our eyes, when we see, when we feel with our eyes. We frame, create an edge, and, therefore, we change the relationship of everything that exists within those boundaries the edge itself creates.

Your photographs have a very painterly quality. Is there a philosophy, concept or aesthetic behind your compositions that you apply to your photos?
Perhaps not so much a philosophy or concept as an aesthetic. The fact that I did not study photography left a kind of open pathway for what I had absorbed in looking at the works of painters like Piero della Francesca and Giorgione and Titian. There is a special combination of luminosity and density in these paintings—light coupled with a darkness that holds a presence, a darkness that is not flat, a darkness that conjures up space, an infinite space shot through by light. My eyes were trained on oil and fresco and the LCD screen has become my canvas. I will adjust the aperture and shutter speed to find that balance I am after. Form, for me, can sometimes stand for content.

And, in terms of content, I have to say that I am not looking for the amusing moment or the outrageous moment simply because I believe that, for me, such loaded images disturb the quiet balance that resides within the power of ordinary life. I do very much enjoy these amusing moments in the work of others but they are not what I am after. There is a man in Soho who walks the streets wearing a life-size ram’s head as a mask. Many photographers photograph him. I have photographed him myself as well but I find that I cannot use these photographs.

What do you look for in a good photograph by others and by yourself?
Photography can be art and art is the very thing that tells us what it means to be human, that connects us to the future as well as to the past, that makes us one with those we’ve never met and never will meet but that we understand with that same momentary flash of recognition that the photographer understood. When I see that family on that barge I recognize a moment of beauty in which a narrative is told without words—the residue of human life laid bare.

How do you go about shooting a street photograph? I have no training as a photographer. I plunged into this medium head first and have had to create workarounds that are perhaps flawed but that seem to be effective for me. After awhile I think one reaches a point when the photographs begin to compose themselves, when a moment of almost unconscious knowing takes over, a kind of muscle knowing that does the framing, a knowing that is built on all the failed as well as all the successful photographs that came before.

How do you go about composing a shot? The process begins long before I press the shutter and goes on after I download the file. I compose on the street, but, for me, there is also the further composition that goes on in the darkroom of photoshop, where the manipulation of the rawness of raw images takes place. Perhaps I build these photographs in the same way that I once built short stories—bit by bit—one bit affecting another bit so that other changes must be made to accommodate the new whole.

You started shooting traditional street photography where every shot is completely unposed with no alteration. Many of the images shown here are just that. But with some images, it seems you have been experimenting with multiple exposures as well as multiple layering. Is this true? If so, then what part of the image is unposed and what part is manipulated? Can you explain briefly what you do to create the image? Can you define manipulation that is beyond the standard push and pull dodge and burn or light and contrast touches?

Yes, I have begun to manipulate some of these images much more than others. Last December I was feeling dissatisfied with the work and wanted more than I was getting by using straight shots and the tools of photoshop that had, until that time, allowed me to manipulate not just their color, not just their luminosity, but also their very spacial reality, somewhat in the same way that Weegee would burn out backgrounds in order to bring forward the startled faces of the crowd. I was interested in creating layers of space by using light and shadow, layers of space that were reminiscent of the actual three dimensional world that held these figures I was shooting.

I am not a photojournalist, not a documentarian, not what some might call a “street photographer,” even though I shoot my own version of these three ways of looking at the world. Nothing in my photographs is ever posed. No one is ever asked to turn their head or change their stance. The figures in these photographs are unaware of me. I am simply watching. And very often, what I see, as I watch, are groups of moments, an accumulation of “decisive” moments that remain too separate from one another to contain the complexity of the very thing I saw, that remain too separate to come together in a single narrative and narrative is always what I am looking for. As I have said, I am not interested in the incident or the anecdote. The place and how it holds the figures that pass through it create a momentary universe that I must manipulate if I am to achieve the emotional narrative I have been witness to. The three girls running in front of a yellow alley wall were too far apart to come together in one frame and so I took one from her frame, created a mask, and placed her in exactly the same position she was in–inside the other’s frame. Their momentum and their rush to reach the playground on 6th avenue was only capturable if they were together–one girl alone would simply be one girl alone. The rush of their desire was only visible in the unity of their race toward pleasure. That race, that rush, that unity, was what I wanted to communicate. And, so, the final photograph was created from a series of closely linked moments.

What made you step out of the typical street photography world and into the fine art world? I see no separation between those worlds. For me, there is something so glorious and so powerful about the notion of photography itself–the practice of photography–that I am loathe to divide it into categories. It seems demeaning to chop up this powerful way of seeing the world, to turn it into artificial categories that confuse the potential power of photography itself. I hope that this entire interview suggests my feelings of distrust about hyphenated categories.

After shooting a normal street photograph, what is it about the image that prompts you to decide to add additional layers or manipulate it? A strong photograph for me is always a complete world. Composition is crucial and the frame is the most powerful element of any composition. I rarely, if ever, crop. I frame in the camera. The edge shapes the photograph in an emotional as well as in a physical way. But then I will very often manipulate what is actually inside that frame. Yes, I dodge and burn and intensify colors, since I do use color as an emotional tool, but I don’t know how to create multiple exposures–I don’t overlay one exposure on another. Rather I take elements from one frame and place them in another. The Boy Under the Bridge, with which you begin this interview, was taken in a moment, a split second. On the other hand, another boy, the one with which you end the interview, this boy on a skateboard was moved from his own frame one Saturday afternoon when the mayor of New York had closed the streets and the absence of cars brought crowds of riders and skaters and lingerers out onto this one small patch of ground where a falling skateboarder hit the asphalt and I pressed the shutter, and, for me, this photograph is no less real than the other.

How do you choose your shots when you edit? What tells you that the shot is good? It’s not easy to say but I do look for a kind of harmonious balance between luminosity and density, the two qualities I mentioned earlier. That balance is the first thing I see—but I look as well for a balance between stillness and motion in the people who inhabit that place and that moment in time—people moving toward destinations that we cannot see for reasons that we cannot know. That momentary slice can be filled with the mystery of an invisible narrative, and illusive narratives are, for me, more potent than those made visible by specificity.

Best 3 tips for shooting the streets: Patience coupled with impatience—desire and hunger coupled with a kind of quiet inner abstinence—the ability to wait at the same time that you are pushing forward—greed coupled with self-discipline. I am not a quick get-in-and-get-out photographer. I will sometimes spend an hour in one spot, or, not. It depends on what is happening around me. As always, as everyone says, wear comfortable shoes!

Best single advice on how to improve your work: Look at an image without preconception and try to see what you have captured—try to keep what you want that image to be from affecting what it actually is.
Best single advice on how to edit your work: Ruthlessly.
Best single advice for someone who wants to get into street photography: Shoot. Someone said, I can’t remember who, that the best camera is the one you always have with you.

What’s the best moment in your street photography career? Harry Gruyaert has described that moment when a woman in Morocco turned away from him in order not to be photographed and revealed the miracle of a swaddled child hanging on her back. I’ve never had that miraculous moment but look forward to its arrival.

What’s the worst moment in your street photography career? I don’t really think I’ve had one.

What projects are you working on? It’s been a brutally hot summer in New York and I’ve begun taking time out from the street to photograph at the aquarium, the zoo, the cool rooms of a museum, a day or so spent indoors with my cat and a collection of Indian saris— ‘still-lifes’ in a way—but I’ve come to believe that anything can be street photography if street photography is simply made of photographs taken with the immediacy the streets offers no matter where they are taken.

At the same time, there is always the ongoing project that I have come to call Down Along the Island—photographs of these neighborhoods that are tightly bounded grids of cobblestone streets and cast iron buildings, places where time is compressed in a way that has come to define the very thing that I want the photographs themselves to be.

Where do you want to be in 5 years with regard to street photography? I couldn’t say.

Are there exhibitions planned in the future? There are plans for a show in Arles, France next July. This summer I showed eighteen large photographs in a gallery in Dunkerque, France and, also this summer, I showed one photograph at a gallery in New York in a show called 31 Women in Photography. Seeing both a single photograph and a large group of photographs together made me realize that multiple images not so much complete one another as extend parameters, help to describe one another and to explain one another as well as the very eye that made them.

Leica Liker thanks Jan for sharing her experience and inspirational advice with us. We look forward to checking in on her in the future.

You can check out Jan’s gear in “Liker Bags’n Gear” here.

We also want to thank Richard Bram for introducing Jan to us.

This is Jan’s self-portrait, taken at arms length in the late summer sun.

# 7 CHARALAMPOS KYDONAKIS, Rethymnon Street Photographer

Leica Liker is honored to have Charalampos Kydonakis, a Rethymnon (Crete) Street Photographer as our #7 guest. He’s also known as Dirty Harrry [sic], author of a very informative and purely visual street photography blog – Dirty Blog.

If you’re like me, I began my street photography journey by poring over countless photography books and of course, the ubiquitous internet. One of the first websites I came across was Harrry’s ‘Dirty Blog’. It is a wealth of information. Photos upon photos, conveniently organized into categories and alphabetized. You can see some very inspirational photos by masters, contemporaries and even little known photographers.

What really drew my attention was not Harrry’s encyclopedic endeavors, although I very much appreciate it, but rather his own photographic work. Many of his photos are raw images (raw in the sense of visceral) of people and animals at night,  instilled with a surprised and sometimes nightmarish vision. They occasionally hark of alcoholic induced momentary flashes (literal with flash lighting) of  the figurative paintings of existentialist painter Francis Bacon. And with a little inspiration from master street photographer, Bruce Gilden to boot.

Harrry’s street photography work takes surrealism to another level, in particular his multiple exposure photographs. His use of allegory is whimsical, adding a layer to street photography that is not often seen. My favorite being the feature image here with the dog’s face overlaid over a woman smoking. Some have a twisted sense of humor which often appears even in his less ambitious street photographs. And his subjects are not always shown in the most positive light.

We live in a world where we are bombarded by images of flawless people, photo-shopped to absolute perfection no matter if you live in a developed or underdeveloped country. So it’s refreshing to see artistic images that poke fun or simply point out the banal side of our human selves.

Here is my interview with  CHARALAMPOS KYDONAKIS.

Nick Name: Dirty Harrry
Currently living in: Rethymnon, Crete
Motto: If I get to 80 years old, maybe I ‘ll have one.
Profession/Job: Architect

Street Photographer since: I started shooting street photos in 2008. But I consider myself just a guy with a camera shooting and not strictly a street photographer.
Street Photography Blogger since: March 2011
Websites:  and

Favorite Street Camera & Lens: Canon E60D with a Voigtlander Colorskopar 20mm , f3.5
Back-up Street Camera & Lens:  I don’t carry a backup camera. I always carry a second battery and a second memory card. When the batteries run out or the cards fill up then it’s time to put the camera back in the bag and go get some rest.
Favorite photography gadget:  My bicycle and my sport shoes.
Favorite street food: Beer

Do you listen to music while shooting? No
Favorite music when editing Photos: Astor Piazzola, Vicente Amigo and many more.
Favorite photo software: I open the raw archives with Lightroom 3 and the jpegs with Photoshop CS4.

3 Favorite Master Photographers: Weegee, Martin Parr, Garry Winogrand, and  Diane Arbus. Sorry. I couldn’t end up with 3.
3 Favorite Contemporary Photographers:  Martin Parr, Bruce Davidson, Trent Parke
Which 3 photographers’ prints do you own? Unfortunately I don’t have prints by others. The only prints I own are about 30 of  mine. Unfortunately, I have not been able to see all my photos printed.

Color or Black and White? In the past, I shot only black and white. Now, I think  about 5-10% of what I shoot end up in black and white. I only turn to it for a few photos, mainly the ones that I shoot at night. It’s difficult for someone to throw away the easy vintage-romanticism of black and white photography and create something with valour in color terms. But I believe this is the challenge. I still like black and white photography and haven’t rejected it. But I think the future belongs to color.

Shoot Film or Digital? If there were someone to develop and print for me for free, maybe I would shoot film. Right now I think spending time and money in developing and printing can make someone a better printer, but not a better photographer. Time is more important to me than exposure tolerance, grain etc..

Is there a special time of the day you like to shoot or is any time good? I like to shoot early in the morning (unfortunately this can happen only on weekends and vacation), or 1-2 hours before sunset. The light in the beginning and the end of the day is beautiful.

But most of the time I prefer to shoot at night. It somehow has different rules from the day. In the day you can be invisible.  At night I use a flash. You can’t be invisible and I don’t’ care.  I just shoot. Most of the time it doesn’t work. But once in a while you get lucky. You just have to shoot a lot. It doesn’t matter if it’s day or night. The more you shoot; the more you read; the more you see what other people shoot; the more it helps your photography.

Why did you choose Street Photography and not another form of photography or stamp collecting?  I bought my first analog camera in 1997 while I was at university. It was required for my studies and work. At that time, I shot only buildings and urban spaces. In 2008 I bought a digital camera and started to shoot more. Then I saw some Magnum photos and realized that I would like my photos to tell human stories.

Street photography is what gives me adrenaline. But lately I have started to shoot anything and everything, not only street.

What motivates you to photograph the streets? I like the surprising wind that blows out there. You never know what to expect. It’s a challenge to walk endless hours trying to discover things around me.

Is Street Photography an obsession? I think photography is an obsession, no matter if it’s street or not.

Are you a lone shooter or do you like shooting with friends or a group? When I shoot strangers I want to be alone. It’s definitley fun to go out shooting with friends but if I look at the final result, all the times that we didn’t separate while walking I ended up with nothing. I need to concentrate. But I do have a few photos of my family and friends that I like. And finally, I don’t care if the subject is of strangers or friends or whatever. I just care that I end up with something worth viewing.

Favorite street photography city: I ‘ve shot in some European cities and it’s nice to shoot anywhere. But as everyone’s finest work is a result of how much time he has spent somewhere, I must say that my favorite photos I have are shot in my town, Rethymnon in Crete.

What inspires your photography?
-The work of masters of photography and a lot of contemporary photographers
-Movies by Sam Peckinpah, Akira Kurosawa and Luis Bunuel
-Books by Nikos Kazantzakis and Gabriel Garcia Marquez

What do you look for in a good photograph?  The composition and the possible story that might come out of something unimportant that passed before the photographer’s eyes.

How do you go about shooting a street photograph? I always carry my camera with me. Whenever I see something that catches my attention I go close and shoot one or more photos.

Is there a philosophy or aesthetic behind your compositions that you apply to your photos? Back in 1997 when I was in university, we had a drawing and painting course. Instead of just drawing, my professor wanted us to present black and white photos of what we saw. So I bought my first camera. I learned how to ‘see’ and compose that way.

The main thing is I shoot a lot. I also spend time looking at other people’s photos. Maybe I get some ideas that way. I’m sure it’s in the back of my mind. So when I go out and shoot, I might see something and find a connection between what inspired me and what is in the street. But none of it is conscious.

As for aesthetic – My images may seem surreal but it is my effort to interpret reality. What I mean is, you see something real and then you give metamorphosis to it. If there is no metamorphosis, then you are just documenting life.  Documentation is somehow objective and I want it to be subjective. I want to tell my story. I’m not interested in documenting life.

I also love spontaneity. When I drink alcohol, I always experience spontaneity.

You’ve been shooting more multiple exposure shots. Is that your new aesthetic? I get bored doing the same thing. I wanted to try new things. There was a time I did ‘Gilden-type’ street portraits. This has its limits. I needed to get over it and move on. And street photography has its limits.  We must be as open minded as we can.  In the end, I don’t care about labels- I just care about what I see and if I like it or not.

Are the multiple exposure images planned or random? With multiple exposures, you only see the first frame. The second, third or subsequent layers are done by instinct. I know the focal length and I know my 35mm lens well and the specific angle I will get from a specific distance. That’s it.

When doing multiple exposures it’s more conceptual and less spontaneous. I have to think 2 or 3 frames in advance although the shots are made up of spontaneous un-posed moments. But in the back of my mind I have to try to combine these things.

Why did you start a street photography blog? I began with a Flickr account to post my work. But I wanted to really show my images. At the same time, I was looking at a lot of photos from other photographers. And I would come across photographic diamonds.  I discovered so many good things that I wanted to share them. I also want to see these gems again and again because they are inspirational to me. So I decided to present their work in my blog along with my own images.

You’ll notice my blog is about showing photos and not a lot about my opinion of the work or the photographers. I just want to show photos.  I get bored reading too much. For instance, I don’t care to read about tips.  Photography is about images.  I don’t care if the photographer is famous or not.

Why did you name your blog “Dirty Harrry Blog” (now titled Dirty Blog)? I don’t know. Harry is short for Charalampos. It’s  pronounced ‘Haralampos’. The ‘C’ is silent in Greek. And then there are my dirty photos.

Best 3 tips for shooting the streets:
What I usually do is:
-Try to forget everything and concentrate on what is happening around me.
-I shoot without thinking if it is right or ethical to shoot.
-When I ‘m out in the night, I drink beers.

Best single advice on how to improve your work: Forget anyone’s tips and just open your eyes.

Best single advice on how to edit your work: 

  • If edit is referring to processing: don’t edit too much.
  • If edit is referring to curation of your own stuff: ask 2 fellow photographers whose talent you trust 100% and have them tell you their opinion about your projects.

Best single advice for someone who wants to get into street photography: Shoot whatever can tell a story, no matter if it’s peopled subjects or unpeopled. No matter if it’s pure street or not.

What’s the best moment in your street photography career? I don’t have a career, that’s why I don’t know its best moment. However, I know the 2 most funny moments while shooting:

  •  In 2008 I went to Barcelona and the first day I took a photo of a girl walking. After one week I was shooting around, at some moment I went inside a church to rest a little and I saw her sitting nearby. I remembered her and showed her the photo in the camera and afterwards we went in the neighboring park of Ciudadella to ride a boat. Suddenly she started to sing Spanish songs as she was moving the paddles!
  • Once it was evening in my town and in an empty road there was only me and a couple hand in hand on the other side of the road. I went and took a flash portrait of the girl from a very close distance. Her boyfriend got mad with me and started to push me. I told him to relax and we started to talk. After 5 minutes he told me that he had a lens that he didn’t use and asked me if I was interested in buying it!

What’s the worst moment in your street photography career?  Once I went alone into a decadent bar to shoot photos at 4 o’clock in the morning. Everybody in that bar were like gangsters and criminals. I was excited to come upon such a subject. Unfortunately, I didn’t succeed in taking any photos because the owner of the bar pushed me out when he saw me with a camera in my hands. He threatened my life if he saw me again. The bad thing wasn’t that I was kicked out of that place or that I was threatened. The bad thing was that I didn’t take any pictures there.

What projects are you working on? I’ve been shooting street photography for many years. Now I think I am interested in anything: Landscape, portraits, still life. Every form has its difficulty and its charm. Shooting anything (or almost anything) helps me to observe better.

Where do you want to be in 5 years with regard to street photography? In the future I will try just not to get bored of what I shoot. Which finally means not to get bored of myself. If my photography will be street or whatever, I don’t really care.

Are there exhibitions planned in the future? I have an exhibition titled ‘CIVITAS RETHYMNAE’ from July 8 to August 30 at two different locations here in Crete, together with my friends Lukas Vasilikos (Leica Liker Interview #2) and Ania Vouloudi . Everyone is welcome 🙂

Leica Liker thanks Harrry for sharing his experience and inspirational advice with us. :-) We look forward to checking in on him in the future.

You can check out Harrry’s gear under “Liker Bags’n Gear here.

This is Harrry’s self portrait.

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