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#17 PAVEL KOSENKO, Moscow (Russia) Street Photographer

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Leica Liker is honored to have Pavel Kosenko, a Moscow (Russia) Street Photographer as our #17 guest.

I first discovered Pavel Kosenko through his Russian website  http://www.pavel-kosenko.livejournal.com. No, I can’t read Russian but Pavel is a blogger and photo discoverer himself. I came upon his post from another post of “4 x 5” Kodachrome slides of the American war effort during World War 2. They are stunning examples of color and subject matter by industrial and military photographers. You can check it out here. It was from there that I found Pavel.

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What drew me to Pavel’s work is his sense of color. When you look at his images, you can just eat the colors. They are exquisitely rich and velvety or harsh and poppy. It’s as if he took them with Kodachrome, except it’s digital.

Pavel talks about the harmony between colors. He is devoted to the study of color. Not just with color wheels but how master painters, who have command of color, are able to combine colors to compliment each other.

Many of us start by contrast of forms, objects, composition, shadows and irony within the frame of story telling. Pavel on the other hand starts with color and in a way, emotions. Not emotions like happy or sad, but a kind of internal stirring. If you study many of his photographs, they are simple observations. Yet some of them have a subtle yet powerful complexity to them because of the variety and depth of colors. His colors define details that would have been overlooked had the image been too contrasty or over exposed. So you are pulled into the image wanting to explore every corner.  That’s not to say that sometimes Pavel also loves to make colors pop in high contrast shots. But when he is able to capture the digital version of that ‘Kodachrome’ magic, I can’t stop poring over every pixel of his photographs.

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Here is my interview with PAVEL KOSENKO:

Nick Name: No, I just have my real name – Pavel Kosenko.
Currently living in: Moscow, Russia
Motto: “You can only be happy here and now.”

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Street Photographer since: 2011
Profession/Job: Photographer
Websites: http://www.pavelkosenko.com
Organizations or Group: None

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What do you do as a photographer professionally? Technically photography does not pay my bills. I do many things to pay the bills as a photographer. For instance, I organize photography tours in a variety of countries like Turkey, Vietnam, etc.. I also teach master classes in color for photographers. I have written a book, titled THE LIVING DIGIT, which is presently only published in Russian. I want to translate it into English to get a larger audience.

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I also do color consulting for print. I have a small photography school in Moscow. I have a popular blog with 15,000 readers and 50,000 views posts per day. I have people who pay advertising on my blog. Camera companies give me cameras to use to write reviews about. I also have projects that are photography related. I have a friend in advertising who thinks my sense of color could be utilized in film. As you can see, I do a lot of things.

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Favorite Street Camera & Lens: Canon EOS 1D X with Canon 35 mm f/1.4 lens, Canon 50 mm f/1.2 lens
Back-up Street Camera & Lens: Fujifilm X-Pro1 with Fujinon 18 mm f/2.0 lens
What and when was your first camera? Zorki Russian camera. I don’t remember the number.
Favorite photography gadget: iPhone 5

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Favorite street food: Italian
Do you listen to music while shooting? Sometimes, but not often.
Favorite music when shooting and/or editing Photos: Royksopp, Delinquent Habits, Moloko, Cypress Hill, Depeche Mode, Die Antwoord, Pink Floyd, Royksopp, Django Reinhardt, Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show 🙂 etc.
Favorite photo software: RPP (Raw Photo Processor)

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3 Favorite Master Photographers: Gueorgui Pinkhassov, Alex Webb, David Alan Harvey
3 Favorite Contemporary Photographers: The same
Which 3 photographers’ prints do you own? Unfortunately, I don’t have any.
Color or Black and White? Color

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(Square images = Instagram)

Shoot Film or Digital? Basically digital because film does not have the abilities that digital has to offer. With digital, I have more possibilities to push the limits of color as well as provide the best quality. But sometimes I play with film because is has an inherent aesthetic component which digital does not have. Film allows me to improve my visual experience and I try to apply what I learn in my digital work.

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If Film, what type of negative? Last time I used film it was Kodak Ektar.
Is there a special time of the day you like to shoot or is any time good? Any time. But lately I like to shoot without sun light (in the evening and with candlelight in rooms).

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How do you define street photography? Exactly like Henri Cartier-Bresson defines it.
How did you get into photography? Actually my life was originally not destined for photography. I was born in the small Russian town of Protvino in the Moscow region. It has around 37,000 people. Protvino is a town of scientists. The main business is the research institute. It’s a tradition for young people in this area to go to the Moscow Physics Institute to become a scientist. The parents force their children to follow their footsteps. I left because I studied in Moscow at the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute where I was for 1-1/2 years. But after attending the institute, I realized I needed to be creative. I went to music school for 5 years instead. After that I realized music was not my thing.

When I was 6 years old my father gave me a camera. I was shooting everything from family to friends, but primarily for myself only. While I was in music school I figured out photography was my where my passion and interest lied.

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What is it about the medium photography that attracts you? What are you trying to express in photography?  For me it’s like drugs. I need it. I wake up and grab my camera. Or I switch on the computer and search for photographic images. I need to improve my visual experience all the time.  Even when I was studying physics and music, I was taking photographs. Sometimes I leave my camera at home and then I have to have it a few days later.

Why did you choose Street Photography and not another form of photography or stamp collecting? I did not choose only Street Photography. It was my interest for the last 2 years, but I like art photography too. I try to mix it up.

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What motivates you to photograph the streets? My interest in ordinary people and their lives.
Is Street Photography an obsession? I think yes.
Are you a lone shooter or do you like shooting with friends or a group? Both

Are you an invisible photographer or visible? Visible. I like to communicate with people. I believe that photographer cannot be invisible. You can’t shoot outside and think you have no effect on it. Each photographer sees his own particular way. We all get different photographic results, even if we all shoot the same place and in the same direction.
Favorite street photography city: Istanbul

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What inspires your photography? Art, especially by Russian painters. I was a jazz musician in my past life. Although, I haven’t played the guitar for 6 years, the idea of art as an expression of me is extremely important. I love music. Sometimes I shoot while listening to music in my headphones. It is important what I listen to because the combination of the music and what I shoot is the process of my artistic expression.

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Here are some painters I look to for inspiration: Konstantin Korovin (http://pavelkosenko.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/constantin-korovin/), Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, Victor Borisov-Musatov, Nicholas Roerich, Arkhip Kuindzhi, Alexandr Rabin, Wassily Kandinsky, Alexandr Zavarin, Caravaggio, Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, etc.

Is there a philosophy, concept or aesthetic behind your compositions that you apply to your photos? I think it is better to quote Gueorgui Pinkhassov:  “Shoot the bad pictures, you might get a good one.”

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What is your style? I don’t think I have a style. Often photographers don’t see what they see. It takes others to see what the photographer saw. My reaction to my fotos is often much too critical, sometimes dismissing good shots. I need to have a curator.

In general, I look for color and “chiaroscuro”. I am interested in light and dark colors. For showing light we need dark. I experiment in colors, dark, light. I always think about dark and light in my color compositions.

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How has it changed over time? I think like everyone, I took travel photos first. After that I realized that they were good but they were like postcards. You know, National Geographic-type. It’s the first level of photography that everyone reaches. I realized I had to go to next level. I then went to one town and stayed a long time whereas before, I stayed 1 day in each town like a mindless tourist. I extended it to 3-4 days to a week. At first, I responded to anything exotic. For instance, if you come to Moscow, your first day would be spent at the obligatory Red Square. It’s not a deep level of understanding of our city. It’s only after spending a year can you have a chance to see life that’s not at a touristic level. I consider myself now  at 2nd level. I’ve been to Vietnam 9 times now. At first 2 weeks, then 2 months at a go. In the beginning, it was ‘pop’ like Britney Spears. Now it’s more impressionistic because I am getting the feel of the real Vietnam. SO I would say my style has moved from travel photography, to street photography and it’s moving towards art photography. I am more interested in impression and not information. I call it art.

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What do you look for in a good photograph by others? What makes a color photograph look good? I don’t look for anything specific in other photos 🙂 I rely only on feelings. I am drawn to pictures with vivid colors, but I like b/w pictures too. With colors, I like harmony and rich variation (not many difirent colors, but many variation with lightness and saturation). And I don’t like supersaturation. In b/w I like geometry, texture and rich variation of shades of gray. Composition for me does not matter, because it is pseudo-science. The important thing is feelings and emotions.

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How does color play a role in photography? Funny you should ask. My book THE LIVING DIGIT is exactly about that. When modern photographers look for colors they go to post production books to study histograms. This is the wrong way. The main idea in the book is to question the colors you find in museums. I mean, you need to study color through painters and history of art. Study the visual experience. After you have enough visual experience, your eyes can actually see what colors are in harmony and what not. And what works with each other. Then you can use digital tools to help you. It is about the aesthetics of color. In my book I start off with psychology of perception. I write about saturation and perception of colors – blue works better in dark regions while yellow is better in light situations. For example, I show how people normally see and perceive, from art to post production. Then I show the ‘art’ of perception followed by raw files and how it works. I use language of the modern digital photographer to explain a complex language in simple photo language. I talk about this in my master class.

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How do you go about shooting a street photograph? Sometimes I like to sit at a café and watch for around 1-3 hours. I see. I look. If I find an interesting background, I wait for some people to walk into my frame. But some times, I like to talk to people. For instance, last time I went out to shoot, I walked on the street and immediately spoke with people; to connect with them and to learn about their lives. While we were talking I noticed they had relaxed. That’s when I took a relaxed portrait of them. Not passport photos. Of course it’s very important for me to form interesting geometric frame. So while I’m talking to them, I am constantly looking for an interesting viewpoint. I am more interested in the art of the shot and  not the classic street frames. So my shots tend not to be classic street captures. Sometimes it’s just the color. I like to take impressionistic images. For instance, Vietnam before bedtime.  That’s the direction I am more interested in.

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Can you describe the entire process of photographing these photos, from preparation to when you pressed the shutter button?  I took this picture in Colombo. It was the last day of my two-week trip to Sri Lanka. By this time I thought every shot I made were all “masterpieces”. I just walked around the city with a camera in hand, and assumed the images would somehow make interesting photo-stories. As always, I am interested in texture and color. So when I walked past the garbage, I took about ten shots, not counting on any one to make a good photograph. But when I worked the Raw-files, I saw a good picture. It was  interesting, not only in color, but the scene itself (crows and cats).

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In this photo (below), what is interesting is not so much the picture but the story behind this woman. Her name  is Kulipa. She lives in the village of Jeti-Oguz on Lake Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan. She is 80 years old and raised 11 children in the one-room apartment with total area of about 30 square meters. Now  her kids have grown up and gone to different cities and countries, but sometimes they come to visit their mother. They come with their wives, husbands and children, so in this tiny apartment sometimes there are 20-35 people. In this case, sleeping on the floor, one next to each other. It sleeps 10 people, therefore 10 or more are awake. They all take turns sleeping.

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I managed to get into the Kulipa’s house, because I was working on a project in Kyrgyzstan at the time. The project was linked to the search for information about Soviet astronauts who trained at the local air force base. Kulipa worked at the base as a cook from 1960 to 1970.

I was visiting Kulipa for many hours. We looked over all of her family photo albums. She told me a lot about her life. We drank tea. After 2 hours she was used to me and stopped paying attention to my camera. That’s when I snapped the picture.

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How do you choose your shots when you edit? What tells you that the shot is good? This is the most complicated process. On the selection of photos I spend 100 times more time than processing them. I try to focus only on my gut feeling.

Best 3 tips for shooting the streets: Stay in the moment. Use mostly wide angle lenses. Treat people well.

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Best single advice on how to improve your work: Visit the museum and look at paintings.
Best single advice on how to edit your work. Excuse yourself from work and go shoot some photographs.
Best single advice for someone who wants to get into street photography: Study the classic street photographs.

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What’s the best moment in your street photography career? I do not have a career in street photographer. I shoot for pleasure.
What’s the worst moment in your street photography career? See the answer to the previous question.
What projects are you working on? Now I’m interested in a whole series rather than single shots. It’s the direction I am taking.

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Where do you want to be in 5 years with regard to street photography? I am not sure that in 5 years I would do exactly street photography 🙂

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Are there exhibitions planned in the future? I am not ready for a serious personal exhibition. However, I have been repeatedly invited to participate   in group exhibits. As soon as I’m ready to show a body of work, I’ll do it.

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Leica Liker thanks Pavel for sharing his experience and inspirational advice with us. We look forward to checking in with him in the future.

You can check out Pavel’s book here.

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

This is Pavel’s self portrait.

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#17 Pavel Kosenko’s Gear

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We are pleased to have Pavel Kosenko, Moscow (Russia) Street Photographer as our #17 featured street photographer.

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You can check out the interview under “Inspiration” here in this blog.

I love Pavel’s equipment! Talk about the adventure photographer. He shot these photos in March in Yakutia, Russia at -53C. The fact that he got shots off and is still shooting with his cameras is a testament to their ruggedness. Below is Pavel’s description of his equipment:

“Last 2 years I didn’t use photo bag and usually use minimum equipment. For every trip I choose1-2 cameras and 1-2 lenses. In the aircraft I take the cameras in hand luggage. On places of shooting use my neck and special strap for shoulders. Here is the equipment I choose from:”

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Canon EOS 1D X
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Fujifilm FinePix X-Pro1
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1
iPhone 5
Canon EOS 3 (sometimes I use film camera)
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Lenses:
Canon EF 35 mm f/1.4L USM
Canon EF 50 mm f/1.2L USM
Fujifilm XF 18 mm f/2 R X-Mount
Fujifilm XF 35 mm f/1.4 R X-Mount
Fujifilm XF 60 mm f/2.4 R Macro X-Mount
Fujifilm XF 18-55 mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS
Sonnar Carl Zeiss T* 35 mm f/2
“I don’t use tripod, filters etc. But I use many additional batteries.”
Other Devices:
MacBook Pro, iPhone, iPad, external HDD etc.
Software:
For developing of Raw-files I use Raw Photo Processor (RPP) and sometimes Adobe Photoshop.

#16 ANIA VOULOUDI, Thessaloniki (Greece) Street Photographer

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Leica Liker is honored to have Ania Vouloudi, a Thessaloniki (Greece) Street Photographer as our #16 guest.

When I was on the search for photographers that have a unique point of view, several fellow street photographers suggested I look at Ania’s work. You’ll have to agree, when you look at her work, there is a quirkiness that stands out from the crowd.

Ania’s photographs exposes that a flip of a dress or the whisp of hair all have an aesthetic worth looking at. For instance,  the photo below: We’ve all done this.  Swimming, blowing bubbles, and hanging off the edge of the pool.  But the juxtaposition against the other feet and the point of view, makes this very mundane moment a special moment in the memory of a life.

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What attracts me to Ania’s images is that they evoke my own memories. Bringing a warm feeling. So it was serendipitous that Ania speaks of shooting to remember. To remember what she saw. But funny enough, she talks of what she saw is often not what comes across in the photo. We humans walk around with filtered glasses, with our own stories to tell. Hence, we see the world as we want to see it. But the beauty of  life is that it has its own reality. You experience it as one of many. So perhaps more importantly, Ania shoots to remember what she lived.

Back to evoking memories. I love that Ania’s photos spark the collective sharing of insignificant moments in our lives. Moments that we will undoubtedly forget when we become older. For instance, lying on the grass in the sun, a girl climbing up a door frame, a ball bouncing in front of a window, dogs walking by and growling at each other. The creation of human history – cell by cell, second by second, frame by frame . It is what makes us human.

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Here is my interview with ANIA VOULOUDI:

Nick Name: none
Currently living in: moving between Thessaloniki, Greece and Rethymnon, Crete
Motto: Bukowski’s “Don’t  try
Street Photographer since: 2009

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Profession/Job: Construction Engineer
Websites: www.aniavouloudi.com and http://www.flickr.com/photos/vouloudi/
Organizations  or  Group:  None

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Favorite Street Camera & Lens: Canon 550D with a canon 24mm f/2.8 lens
Back-up Street Camera & Lens: Canon 400D with a cosinon 28mm f/2.0 lens
Favorite photography gadget: Built-in flash

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Favorite street food: Kinder Bueno
Do you listen to music while shooting? No. I want to be able to hear what I shoot.
Favorite music when shooting and/or editing Photos: Rebetika when I edit.
Favorite photo software: Lightroom 2.7, Photoshop CS6

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3 Favorite Master Photographers: I don’t have any. I haven’t searched, so I don’t remember who is who. But I have seen an exhibition of Sally Mann. I once took a quick look at a Diane Arbus’ book and as a kid I had a poster of Doisneau’s kiss. I remember something from them and they are three. But not my favorite, yet.
3 Favorite Contemporary Photographers: Todd Fisher, Kate Kirkwood, Charalampos Kydonakis, Laura Rodari. I can exclude none.
Which 3 photographers’ prints do you own? I own many of my father’s. He used to shoot the family. His photos are wonderfully raw as anyone’s who does it effortlessly.

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Color or Black and White?  Color. I see color, I shoot color.
Shoot Film or Digital ? I have seen nothing digital being as beautiful as anything analogue. But I can’t wait and have no money to spend on film.
Is there a special time of the day you like to shoot or is any time good? Anytime.

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How did you get into photography? When I was a kid, my father used to share with me his Zenit and afterwards his cheap little snap shot camera. I think many people start this way.

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When I was in college, I never really enjoyed the field of my studies and realized I needed a hobby. Then I saw a pamphlet of photography lessons and convinced myself it was fate. I guess that if I would have seen a pamphlet of cooking lessons I would now be an amateur chef. So, I followed this random fate and found myself amongst housewives who needed better photos of their grandchildren, policemen who needed better photos of the corpses and co-students who were bored, too. We had a great time, we didn’t do much photography, I didn’t go there often but all that made me buy a Nikon f65 in 2007. I went to these lessons for 2 years. In the second year I got a loan from the bank and bought a Canon 400D with a 50mm lens but that lens was a bad choice as I always had to stand far away.

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I actually got into photography much later around 2009-2010, I learnt what even my camera can do after I had quit those lessons and I recently ended up with a 24mm which allows me to be myself and get closer.

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Why did you choose Street Photography and not another form of photography or stamp collecting? I don’t feel that I have chosen any form of photography and I collect stamps, too.

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How do you define street photography? All I know is that it has no literal meaning. Street can be the park in front of your house, the morning route to your job, your grandmother’s backyard, the underground parking of a building or the shopping mall. It can be your home, your kitchen, your dog, the sea, museums and airplanes, massage rooms and carpet stores.

The truth is that I don’t really like labeling photos. I don’t care if a photo is called street or posed or unposed or who is in the photo etc. If I like it, it has a reason to exist, it’s part of the photographer and it can take no label on it. What is street and what is unposed? Is “street” shooting strangers? My photos do not include only strangers. Does “posed”mean that you put everything in the order you want? I never know what order will come up in a photo. I care for the feelings that a photo can cause, I care for the visual result not for the description of it in words.

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What motivates you to photograph the streets? I shoot to remember things. To remember how I used to see. Memory makes you what you are.  About the streets, I like the fact that I don’t decide what goes where and almost nothing is under my control.

Is Street Photography an obsession? Photography yes. Street no. I don’t shoot regularly and I rarely shoot “street”. Friends tell me to shoot more. I guess I should. The more you search the more possibilities of finding what you are searching for.

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Are you a lone shooter or do you like shooting with friends or a group? I can’t concentrate when I’m with others.

Are you an invisible photographer or visible? I feel invisible. But it can’t be.
Favorite street photography city: Rethymnon. It’s a small town on the island of Crete that changes every day.

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What inspires your photography? I’m often inspired by boredom. When I’m trapped in traffic, or in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, when I am at a wedding of an unknown cousin or when I have to mop, I shoot.

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Is there a philosophy, concept or aesthetic behind your compositions that you apply to your photos? The true answer is no. But if I were a 3rd person looking at it from a bird’s eye point of view, maybe I could come up with a philosophy or a concept behind it.

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Do you think working on buildings and engineering might have influenced your view of the world?  I have never thought about it. I shoot what I like. I don’t know what influences my photography or when it might be. I suppose everything:  my dog, friends, parents, what I eat. Everything.

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Can you describe your style? Do I have a style? I don’t know if I have a specific style. You can probably answer the question better than I can.

How has it changed over time? It constantly changes? Nothing can stay same. When I am happy my images are happy. When I am pessimistic they are also pessimistic. I grow up, they grow up, too.

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What do you look for in a good photograph by you and others? To feel like I haven’t seen it before; to be something that I am or can be.

How do you go about shooting a street photograph? Sometimes I run and strive and sometimes it happens unconsciously like breathing.

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Could you please describe the process – what was going on in your mind when you first started to think to take the following image all the way until you pressed the shutter release? I had to take photos for the exhibition we had with Charalampos Kydonakis and Lukas Vasilikos last year. It was difficult to exhibit with great photographers who already had a bunch of photos for the subject of the exhibition while I didn’t. So, I had to search almost every day for them.

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One day, I came across with an upside down chair. I thought it could be something but not by itself. After I spent time shooting distant, boring humans passing by, a white dog came to me. I started petting it and then a black dog appeared. They were growling at each other but when I see this photo I tend to forget it. Reality differs from what I see or want to see. It is what I like about photography.

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How do you use flash and not feel like you are intruding? You use flash even in the day – is it to give more luminance?  When I use the flash during the day, people don’t understand what is going on. When the flash goes off, they look behind them at the direction that I pretend to look, too. At night, I do the same and hope they will act the same. If not, I use the smile. And if not, I use the “ I-am-a-tourist smile”.  And if not, I’m gone.

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As for luminance, I like light. I like everything to be bright and in the same light value. I guess the aim is to have everything visible. Another reason is the settings. I don’t enjoy spending time on finding the right ones at night or indoors, so with my same, lazy, favorite settings and my flash on I get what I want.

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How do you choose your shots when you edit? What tells you that the shot is good? Instinct. But I can’t always l trust it. People are emotionally attached with what they create, so sometimes I ask the opinion of people and photographers I trust. It’s another talent to be able to choose.

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Best 3 tips for shooting the streets:  Tips are useless. People can do whatever they want. They should and they will.
Best single advice on how to improve your work: Take as less photos as you can.
Best single advice on how to edit your work. Delete as many photos as you can.
Best single advice for someone who wants to get into street photography: If you have made the decision and you are aware that you are getting into street photography, do not.

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What’s the best moment in your street photography career? Every time I see a good photo in my camera.

What’s the worst moment in your street photography career? The worst moments come when I don’t shoot for a while.

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What projects are you working on? I’m working on my little cousin. I haven’t seen her for a long time and now we spend time together. I also realized that I have an ongoing project with a lost toenail of mine, but I still have time before the new one will come out. The surgeon had to take it out and granted me a three months project.

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Where do you want to be in 5 years with regard to street photography? Still shooting is a fine goal.

Are there exhibitions planned in the future? No.

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

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

This is Ania’s self portrait.

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