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Posts tagged ‘color street photography’

A Leica Liker Thanks for 2013, A Wish for 2014

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Dear Leica Liker Reader:

This year has been a hell of a year for O and me. O says that if 2013 were a fish, we should throw it back into the water. I agree. Not withstanding, I normally throw the fish I catch back into the water anyway.

My dearly beloved Dad, Robert C.T. Wang, passed away suddenly at the end of September. And so did my little baby dog Arta. You can see my post about her – here. Those life events took me to depths that required a great deal of my efforts to dig myself out. As a result, I neglected my Leica Liker posts for a good part of this year, especially these last three months.

I want to thank all of you for visiting my blog. It’s been 19 months and so far there have been over 241,000 views with over 5300 registered followers despite fewer posts. Deep special thanks to all my interviewees as well as all of you readers for your loyalty, love and repeat visits. And most of all, your patience!

Hopefully with the little I posted this year you still are inspired to do great photography each time you read something here. All feedback is greatly welcomed.

I wrote last year and I will write it here again: Use your camera to help you “see” and bring back your fascination with anything and everything in this world. Fascination means you treasure and value the living beings and the environment around you. It’s the engine of ‘living’ life, understanding, tolerance, grace, peace, discovery and great photography! Stay curious!

I know 2014 will be a great year. I promise more great photography, reviews, gear and interviews, so see you all here.

Wishing you a wonderful New Year!

Frohes neues Jahr
新年快樂。
عام سعيد Sana saiida
Bonne Année
Kali Chronia
שנה טובה
Nav Varsh Ki Subhkamna
Boldog új évet
Selamat tahun baru
Felice Anno Nuovo
あけまして おめでとう ございます
새해 복 많이 받으세요
سال نو مبارک
szczęśliwego nowego roku
С Новым Годом
Feliz año nuevo
Gott nytt år
Yeni yılınız kutlu olsun
Gelukkig nieuwjaar

BTW Photo taken with Leica M (240), 35mm ISO 6400 1/3000sec f6.8

#19 PIETER TEN HOOPEN, Stockholm (Sweden) Photographer

Quibdo, Colombia

Leica Liker is honored to have PIETER TEN HOOPEN, a Stockholm (Sweden) Photographer as our #19 guest. He is also our very first WORLD PRESS PHOTO Prize Recipient!!!

When I first saw Pieter Ten Hoopen’s photographs a year ago, I couldn’t get them out of my mind. The haunting images drove me to seek out the man; the persona; the eye, behind them.

haunt·ing [hawn-ting, hahn-] adjective 1. remaining in the consciousness; not quickly forgotten

Pieter’s images linger, like a drifting fog. But it’s not a blinding experience, not at all. Instead, he pulls us into his subject’s mysterious and private world, giving us an intimate view of a certain ‘state of grace’ in the human condition.

Quibdo, Colombia

Pieter talks of the importance of stories. And is committed to telling them. It’s what quantifies human existence in a way that validates who we are. When you look into his photographs, you can’t help but feel the depth of a life lived in his subjects –  old or young.

Quibdo, Colombia

Pieter rarely shoots to capture a moment in time, like many street photographers do. He’s not looking for the ‘decisive’ moment. Instead he works hard to give you a complex story of life. The characters he meets and photographs are introduced to us like old friends whether they are news photos or stories he worked on for months.

Through Pieter’s images, we are afforded a rare look into the fragility of humanity. He’s able to present vulnerabilities as a strength, rather than a weakness of the human spirit. And it takes a seasoned and caring eye to capture human dignity and hold it close to the subject’s heart.

Quibdo, Colombia

Here is my interview with PIETER TEN HOOPEN:

Nick Name: None that I am aware of. I am curious what it could be.
Currently living in: I split it between outside Stockholm- in the countryside and in the city of Stockholm.
Motto:  I never really thought about a motto to be honest.
Photographer since: Since 2002- 11 years.

Fargana valley, Uzbekistan/0508. Margilan

How did you get started in photojournalism? Did you start off in photojournalism first? First of all, I wouldn’t call myself a photojournalist. However, I studied photojournalism in Stockholm. I would consider myself a photographer or storyteller. Those are better labels. I do all kinds of photography. It’s a great challenge I enjoy.  I shoot different assignments from commercial to news. I never say no to any photography job. For me, the goal is to finance my books and projects, which are about storytelling.

Fargana valley, Uzbekistan/0508. The city of Fergana.

In the past, I worked for New York Times magazine, Time and some European media. Although, I like to work for Swedish clients as they pay better. Sadly, Swedish print media such as newspapers and magazines are  quitting much of the struggle. It’s a dying outlet for news and stories. Because of this, I had to find other ways to make money to supplement my goal. So I teach workshops, in all parts of the world and Sweden. I also shoot more commercial work for companies these days. As you see,  all different forms of photography. I’ve also been providing visual solutions for clients in both film (moving) as well as stills. At the moment I’ve been filming a lot, which I really enjoy.

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I am also a full member with Agence Vu in Paris. They represent me and resell my journalistic photo stories. They also sell my books but not my art prints. Those are sold through my homepage and some galleries in Sweden.

Profession/Job: Professional photographer

Websites: www.pietertenhoopen.com 

Organizations  or  Group:  Agence Vu

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What was the first camera you started with? I started with a compact camera whch a friend gave as a gift.

Favorite Camera & Lens: Nikon D800E, DX3. I tried all their cameras and lens models and my favorite lens is 35mm these days. Although before it was 28mm. I always work with prime lenses – no zooms. I’m one of the photographers Nikon is sponsoring. I also often use Yashica box cameras as well as the Widelux- which is very sensitive.

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Back-up Camera & Lens: Nikon D800E is also my back-up with the 35mm lens. I always work simple. I work with one set of cameras with back-up in hotel room.

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Favorite photography gadget: I am the most boring photographer. I only use whatever is necessary to get the job done. No more and no less.

In general, I am not interested in cameras.  Being a camera geek was always for the techno insane. But I am slowly appreciating the technology and camera equipment, thanks to Nikon’s sponsoring.

I want to say, photography is about a feeling in my body. That’s why I like to test shoot with many cameras to find that feeling.

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Favorite street food: We don’t have that much in Sweden. I avoid street food because I am picky. I prefer a good restaurant in the evening.

Favorite music when shooting and/or editing Photos: Never when shooting. When editing- I listen to quite a lot of radio in the background – like public radio, news programs, music as well. A lot of trance- like quiet trancey music playing continually in the background all the time to create the right atmosphere.

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Favorite photo software: Photoshop C6. I work with RAW files. I generally don’t do much post work – just dodge and burn and correction of colors. We’re not allowed to do any post work when it comes to news and journalistic work. I work the same way on my own work. I am quite consequent that way. 

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3 Favorite Master Photographers: I am a big fan of Eugene Richards. He’s my all time darling. His story telling is fantastic. Otherwise, I don’t look that much to photographers anymore. I am more a movie guy. Movies are about effective storytelling. I watch a lot of slice-of-life movies. Not spectacular fantasy, just small little stories. I love to experience the feeling of small things.

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Deliverance was the last movie I watched recently. I have seen it time and time again. I think it is a fantastic movie. The tension is insane and horrible. I love to dig through archives and DVDs and watch them many times. They are super inspiring for my photography.

Balakot, Pakistan

3 Favorite Contemporary Photographers:  I have no specific persons whom I follow or see as favorite. I think I’m more interested in film and there I have plenty of favorites, too many to mention I guess.

Balakot, Pakistan

Which 3 photographers’ prints do you own? I collect a few and exchange with fellow photographers. For instance, I have a print from Erika Larson, an American. I have a bad conscience, I still owe her a print of one of my images. She will get it. I also own a great print of the dead Swedish master of social photography, Christer Strömholm. Another print I have is by Erik Refner a Dane. I also have prints from a lot of Russian photographers. Russia has some exciting photographers. When I do my workshops there I swap with them.

Balakot, Pakistan

Color or Black and White? Nowadays I work 99% in color. I enjoy color way more. Just gives me more inspiration, more options to visualize – I love the relationship to the story. Black and white doesn’t inspire me anymore. If I do something nowadays in black and white then it is an emergency scenario because I can’t fix it in color. Color is more complex and challenging.

Balakot, Pakistan

Shoot Film or Digital ? I love to shoot both. When it comes to commercial clients it is digital. But my new book next year is all film. My Tokyo series was shot 50/50.  I would like to have all the options open. I enjoy film a lot. It still gives such a beautiful warm, imperfect feeling while the sharpness in the digital files has its own qualities.

If Film, what type of negative?  I always use Kodak Portra 400 or 120 iso Professional.

Balakot, Pakistan

Is there a special time of the day you like to shoot or is any time good? If I have the possibility to choose, then late afternoon when the light is soft. Although, I can work in all kinds of light. You’re not always able to choose.

How do you define photojournalism? It doesn’t matter how it is defined. I think the term was born in the US. It is very American.

Pieter Pak08Balakot

Why did you choose photojournalism and not another form of photography or stamp collecting? Storytelling. Simple as that. I chose this line of work because I enjoy communicating with my stories. It is like movies: there are so many ways of telling and making perfect stories. If you look at my “Tokyo stories” series you’ll see I love to work closely and intimately with people.  I like to tell the poetry of daily life.

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How do you choose a journalistic subject? Depends on the story. For instance in Tokyo, Jay is a friend of mine. So it was a natural. In the story, the others are friends of his. In other stories you might use ‘fixers’: people who are on the ground who can help arrange the meeting of people for you. In Montana, I just did a lot of door knocking. So it all depends. You have to seek out any opportunity that works with the situation. You have to be flexible.

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What motivates you to photograph in general? Pure storytelling and to pay my bills. I do my specific things, but I have to pay bills like anyone else. Sometimes it’s poetry and sometimes it is just a job.

Pieter09V1

What motivates you to photograph difficult subjects? They may be difficult topics but they are important issues ‘of our time’ and important to communicate. We need to cover them because we need to make the atrocities against humanity or to nature official.

Pieter13V1

Is Photography an obsession? It is not. I think if it is an obsession it tires you out. It has a strange vibe that makes it difficult to deliver high quality images. You have to be sharp and strong to work the material. If you work in top form, you are really focused. I enjoy it a lot. I am good at it. You have to be so good in the field in the thing you are doing. It would be like a soccer player walking with a soccer ball all the time. I need to be able to focus and relax. So I never carry a camera around when I am not working.

Pieter11V1

Do you always develop a relationship with your subjects? By developing a relationship, are you trying to make yourself invisible to your subjects? In my line of work, you are very close to the subjects because you work in the same space. You photograph everything they do. It depends on the story you are working on but it’s clear you are part of their life during the period of day, week, or month. I am not invisible, but the aim of my presence is to make myself non-intrusive and not distracting to the subject.

Pieter06V1

How do you approach a subject to develop such a relationship? You explain who you are.  In Montana, I spent over 10 years documenting. You must be very straight forward as to who you are and what you want to do. You tell them you want to tag along. If they don’t like it in the beginning then they won’t like it in the end.

Favorite city to shoot in: I love Tokyo – it is one of my favorite places to be. I love the Japanese people. It may sound strange but I feel relaxed in that city. I love to walk there. I love Istanbul too.

Pieter18V1

What inspires your photography? I like paintings. It’s very important for what I do. I studied other photographers but I find studying paintings gives me much more. I always look at the Dutch maters because of the light, even if you don’t like the subject but the light is fantastic. I also love Egon Schiele’s work.

Pieter01V1

Is there a philosophy, concept  or aesthetic behind your compositions that you apply to your photos? The aesthetic changes based on the mood and atmosphere of the story. Every story has its own character, temperament and feeling that determines what it will be. It is not a philosophy but a fact.

PieterPTH_4960

When you shoot, do you come with preconceived ideas or a specific point of view of the subject, or do you let events unfold? When it comes to stories, I need a clear picture of what I am going to do there. It costs too much money to do these projects, so I can’t afford to have it not pay out. You can pitch it to a newspaper and magazine; you contact people; you have to do a lot of research; and the most important part of the story – you have to research the ins and outs of the topic you are working with. Once you’re on the ground you continue researching. This is where you have to let things unfold before you. You’ll often find that your previous research might have given you a specific view. But when you get there it is not what you envisioned and it turns out to be nothing like you expect it. You have to be able to recognize that and go with the flow and not stick to your initial point of view. Positive or negative.

PieterHOO_4116

The magic thing about doing stories is you constantly have to adapt to a new situation. If you go into the story with a specific vision and force it, you will be bored. That’s not saying it’s not frustrating when it first happens when things don’t go the way you envision it to go. But it’s liberating when it happens because you have to adapt. It is part of the fun.

Mineral invest

Can you elaborate how you develop a complete series for the media like New York Times? Is it any different when you develop a book? The two are distinctly different. The photographic material for news must fit to the text the reporter is writing. There are specific details you have to communicate. When it comes to a book, then it is a personal choice and very emotional.

PieterHOO_4532

What do you look for in a good photograph by others? I don’t look that much for aesthetics. I look for emotions in other people’s work, a good body of work. I want to be touched, either positive or negative. Most importantly, it must communicate it successfully.

PieterHOO_6660

What do you look for in a good photograph by you? I don’t think that much in single images, I think in a series. A series is difficult when it comes to my feelings. It has to do something to me. It has to trigger me in some way. It has to create curiosity, awareness, beauty and poetry. It must be emotionally compelling. I see movies in the same way as my photos – you take the viewer into this little trip. The art is to keep people involved in the whole trip – otherwise they are not good enough.

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How do you go about shooting a photograph?  I tried for many years to blend in and it doesn’t work. I have a big camera and I am quite tall. I gave up that game. Now I just work. I don’t care about other things, I just focus on what I have to do.

PieterHOO_5410

Can you describe the entire process of photographing these photos, from preparation to when you pressed the shutter button?

From the series: Kitezh in Russia. This is a story about my search of the invisible city of Kitezh from an old Russian myth about sacred waters. I never found it so I decided to take pictures of the people I came upon in my search in Vladimirskoe. I used only the late afternoon and evening light during the work on this series. I love to continue working this way. The light becomes like silk helping to create a lovely atmosphere in which to shoot. The story won the First Prize in the 2007 World Press Photo Daily Life Stories.

Kitezh

Kitezh

Nikolaij

Kitezh

Vladimirskoe

From the series: Stockholm- Book. This picture was taken during the time I worked on my Stockholm book. A dear friend called me and told me his father had died of cancer and wondered if I could photograph them saying their farewell. I remember this moment clearly as it was very peaceful.  The family was close as they gathered during this moment of grief. Before it was normal in our culture to photograph family members who had died. But I think this has changed in the modern society where we don’t want to be reminded. For me personally, this was a very intimate situation and moment to be part of.

Pieter08Bok

From the series for New York Times Magazine: ER Kabul This is a picture taken in a war hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan. I was doing a story for the New York Times Magazine about this hospital. I spent a long time in Afghansitan working on different stories but this one in particular was important to me. We worked most of the time in the emergency room and did follow-ups once the patients were doing there rehabilitation. Most of the men and women who come here are injured by mines or bullets. (see photos below) This young man was badly injured and he died some days after this image was taken because of complications. Before he came to the Emergency war hospital he was mistreated and wrongly diagnosed in other hospitals. So the damage was to very bad when he arrived.

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ER Kabul: Man with pink gloves I shot this during the same assignment for the New York Times Magazine as mentioned above. The man works for the Italian war hospital emergency. One of the biggest suicide attacks in Kabul in years killed 80 and injured hundreds of people. The injured and the dead were all driven to this entrance at the hospital. There were literally lots of body parts coming in.  The man in the gloves is gathering the body parts which were laying on the street.

Pieter19ER

I cannot remember really what I was thinking during this shoot. When you come upon a day like this you work and work harder just so you can cover (shoot) it all. This goes for mentally and physically too. The only thing I remember was a brain laying on the street,  an image I shot after this one. It was a child’s brain which was laying in perfect shape on the street. The moment I saw this, it hit me how horrible it was. I could not really let go of the image and thought of it for quite some time. Still today I think back to this moment often. Many children died this day after this big explosion resulting in many lost body parts. Most are injured for the rest of there lives.

Pieter Kabul24ER

Prostitutes in Damascus The story is about Iraki women being forced into prostitution in order to earn money to support their children. It was a longer reportage and all these women had lost their husbands during the war in Irak. And because of the fact they can’t show a death certificate they are not entitled to get any financial support from the government.

Prostitution in Syria

The story was mostly shot in the area where Irakis were displaced during the war. Most of the women suffered from physical and mental problems because of the work they do. Most of them had been badly beaten up by their customers… I had problems to photograph the women but it was made more problematic because it was a big project to gather all the women to be able to make it work.

Prostitution of Iraqi women in Syria

The story was published in Swedish media and was shot for a TV show which was assigned by the EU. After the publication I was called both from Damascus and from the Syrian Embassy in Stockholm. I was told that I’m not welcome in Syria anymore. The reason for this was not that I had shown a sensitive or forbidden topic but the fact that the newspaper which published the work was pro Israel –  so they told me. This is not true. It was published in one of Sweden’s most respected and best newspapers.

Pieter13Syria

How do you choose your shots when you edit? What tells you that the shot is good? You have to ask what is the story about. You come home to 1000’s of raw files. You reduce it to 200, 100. When you are done, you start over again to see if you made the right decision. Books take weeks or months for me.

Prostitution of Iraqi women in Syria

Best 3 tips for shooting the streets: 1) Everything is about the light- choose your light. It is extremely important. 2) Feel the place, feel the topic. 3) You need a full stomach. It’s hard to work with an empty stomach.

Pieter Tokyo071

Best single advice on how to improve your work: Just shoot. Like any other sport, if you want to be good, you have to practice. It will come – you need to spend time with raw material- you need to know what you are shooting. Spend time with your images, in a meditative way. Go through your work in order to understand your work to see what you are doing right or wrong. I do a lot of workshops and teaching. So many students spend a half day with their work and think that’s enough. You have to show respect to the week or month of photography.

Pieter Tokyo401

Best single advice on how to edit your work: You have to spend time with your raw material to be able to undertand what is in front of you. Selection is about making large edits. It becomes smaller every time until you reach the storyline.

Pieter Tokyo251

Best single advice for someone who wants to get into photojournalism: Well, you have to enjoy what you are doing. You don’t have to be a professional. The joy of the work is extremely important. Don’t go for the quick fix. It is a marathon. Breathe. Having a long breath is what counts.

What’s the best moment in your photography career? I have no idea. Yet to come I hope!

Pieter Tokyo091

What’s the worst moment in your photography career? Shooting in misery about misery. It doesn’t make you happy- it has its impact on you. It makes you grow old so you have to be aware.

Once, I had an assignment in Cairo after a man in California made a movie that was seen as against the Prophet Mohammed. I was shooting people on the streets protesting. Some guys took my iPhone which can happen. They were hooligans going crazy and attacking journalists. Religious demonstrations are normally peaceful, but it’s stuff like hooligans that create the large headlines dominating the protests at Tahrir Square. I have to say, journalists are experiencing more and more problems there.  It’s not a good thing for freedom of press in Egypt.  But a job is a job. I rarely do short news assignments anymore. I normally do long projects, so there is a balance between the stories.

Pieter Tokyo261

What projects are you working on? A book on Hungry Horse, Montana  titled “Hungry Horse”- next year. I have been working on it for 10 years with 1-2 trips a year.

What’s your next assignment? Will be working in northern Kaukasus this autum but a short trip will include Stockholm. It’s been a busy year. But I would love to work more at home.

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Where do you want to be in 5 years with regard to photography? I am already where I want to be – I do my books and projects. I would love to produce more books. – you can’t make a living on photo books, you need commercial assignments. They normally cost you money. It’s a love.

Are there exhibitions planned in the future? I will show my Hungry Horse book in New York and also the multimedia work produced in cooperation with Mediastorm in NY.

Kitezh

You can view Pieter’s WORLD PRESS PHOTO prize winning entries below:

WPP 2007

WPP 2009 -1

WPP 2009 -2

Pieter teaches workshops. You can check them out here from time to time.

As of posting, Pieter’s short film KITEZH – VLADIMIRSKOE, was accepted into competition at the Stockholm Film Festival. Congratulations Pieter!

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

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

This is Pieter’s self portrait.

Pieter SelfPTH_01

#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.

Pavel family

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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