Skip to content
Advertisements

Posts tagged ‘color’

# 15 PETER KOOL, Stekene (Belgium) Street Photographer

Kool 484

Leica Liker is honored to have Peter Kool, a Stekene (Belgium) Street Photographer as our #15 guest.

When I first saw Peter’s photographs, I chuckled over their whimsy and often, comical nature. When you look at his images, it’s clear he champions the street photography vernacular of the humorously absurd.

Peter’s surrealistic images make us look at ourselves with a wink of the eye. He has an acute ability to capture life in a split second and simplifying it to a playfully awkward moment. When you study the photos, you see a deceptively simple scene. But it takes a seasoned eye and a wicked sense of humor to be able to dig out these moments.

Kool 516

What I love most is Peter’s modest approach to life. In his world, there is no such thing as the mundane, boring, or insignificant. In his world, every moment, no matter how miniscule it is, is worth laughing and sharing. “Life is good” in the true meaning of the phrase.

And to top off the delight in life Peter presents us, his name is simply cooler than Kool.

Kool 367

Here is my interview with PETER KOOL:

Nick Name: I don’t use a nick name.
Currently living in: Stekene in Belgium.
Motto: Respecting, relativizing, enjoying.
Street Photographer since: 1980, with a break between 1990 and 2005

Kool 465

Profession/Job: Retired steelworker.
Websites: www.peterkool.be and http://www.flickr.com/photos/peter-kool/
Organizations or Group: I am a member of the “EasyFit” gym, if that counts.

Kool 447

Favorite Street Camera & Lens: Canon 5D Mark II with the 17-40mm zoom.
Back-up Street Camera & Lens: None at the moment, but I will probably purchase the Fuji X-Pro 1 soon.
Favorite photography gadget: That would be the blower. Handy when the chicken soup is too hot.

Kool 439

Favorite street food: Sometimes I yield to the temptation of a burger with fries.
Do you listen to music while shooting? I only listen to music in my car.
Favorite music when shooting and/or editing Photos: I like silence when editing.
Favorite photo software: Photoshop.

Kool 428[2]

3 Favorite Master Photographers: Cartier-Bresson, Doisneau, Winogrand, etc.
3 Favorite Contemporary Photographers: Nick Turpin, Nils Jorgensen, Carl de Keyzer, etc.
Which 3 photographers’ prints do you own? I don’t own any prints, but I have several books.

Kool 530

Color or Black and White? That’s a tough one. Depends on the photo. Sometimes it’s clear which to use, but often I can’t make up my mind. I don’t want to do only Color or only B&W.

Kool 315

Shoot Film or Digital ?  I prefer digital. I used to develop the films and photos in my darkroom, but that’s a very time-consuming process, not to speak of the retouch afterwards. Maybe negative has more soul, but I think when you work on the contrast, darks and lights you can put soul into digital too.

Kool 504

If Film, what type of negative? I used to shoot with Kodak Tri-X and Plus-X.

Is there a special time of the day you like to shoot or is any time good? Any time is good, but a low sun is nice.

Kool 318

How do you define street photography? I think the collective “in-Public” has a good definition. You can read it here. But I don’t think it’s important to discuss whether a photo is street or not.

Kool 317

Why did you choose Street Photography and not another form of photography or stamp collecting?  Nature made me a father so I started taking pictures of my children. In doing so, I got the bug and went to the art academy where I discovered the street photography of the well known’s, but also other forms of photography. I don’t want to do only street. To make a good portrait for example is also a challenge. Collecting stamps is not very creative, it’s better to use them for love letters.

Kool 418

What motivates you to photograph the streets? It’s that urge to be creative I think. And in my case it happens to be photography. My only mission is to make an image that the eye likes.

Is Street Photography an obsession? About obsession the dictionary says, “to be pursued by a thought or an idea”. So yes in that case it’s an obsession, I think of it a lot. I don’t think it’s a sick obsession…yet. My wife can still live with it.

Kool 388

Are you a lone shooter or do you like shooting with friends or a group? I like to hunt alone, it’s better for the concentration.

Are you an invisible photographer or visible? Sometimes I fantasize that I can make myself invisible for the photos that I could make and perhaps steal some money back from the banks… No, I think with a camera one is more visible than without. People are very quick to notice the slightest attention you give them.

Kool 498

Favorite street photography city: That would be Antwerp, but only because it’s nearby. In the late seventies I was in New York. I would like to go there again in the future. It’s a fantastic city and the people too (most of them).

What inspires your photography? Other photographers and films. The long play Chaplin films for example.

Kool 508

Is there a philosophy, concept or aesthetic behind your compositions that you apply to your photos? A subtle move, glance or emotion often makes a great photo, but hard to catch. I also look for balance, humor and elegance.

Kool 469
What do you look for in a good photograph by others?I have seen wonderful photos with lousy compositions, so no rules for me. If the eye likes it, then it’s okay.

How do you go about shooting a street photograph?I wander around and wait for an impulse. Sometimes I have several but it also happens I can’t make a single shot all day. I also look for events that take place.

Kool 487

Could you please describe the process – what was going on in your mind when you first started to think to take the following two images all the way until you pressed the shutter release? I noticed the man with the black eye and saw the girl crossing the street, I wanted her in the picture too. When I thought it was the right moment I rushed forward to surprise the gentleman to avoid him turning around or cover his face; he gave me a bit of a strawberry with mustard smile.The girl rubbing her eye at that moment was a nice present.

Kool 455

As opposed to the previous picture, this was an ongoing situation. I just walked in to it. I noticed the two caps and took some time to make the composition. I wanted to hide the reflected guy with the cap behind the bald guy and that was not difficult because he was huge, I was relieved they didn’t hear my Canon go off.

Kool 534[2]

How would you describe your style? How has your style changed over the years? I don’t know. A little old-schoolish perhaps? If you see change it’s probably the change of time. I don’t think my style has changed. But I try to avoid pigeons now. Hahaha.

Kool 419_12Bw

There seems to be a difference between your black and white and color photos. The black and white seems to capture moments that are personal and intimate. The color images seem to include irony, satire. Are you conscious of that difference? If so, why the difference? I always process a color and b&w version of a photo, look at them next to each other and then decide which one to publish. It not only depends on the photo but also the mood I’m in, as I often change my mind. But you’re right about the intimate photos: For instance, I like to shoot black and white for portraits. Color disturbs the expression. Then again I’ve seen beautiful portraits in color too….. it’s complicated.

Kool 373_15zw

How do you choose your shots when you edit? What tells you that the shot is good?
A very good shot you recognize instantly I think. I look at the rest and then look again, delete some and get some back from the bin, look at them again and put them back in the bin and so on.

Kool 491bw

Best 3 tips for shooting the streets: Be concentrated and alert. React on your feeling and don’t hang your camera on your shoulder.

Kool 328

Best single advice on how to improve your work: Use the force.

Best single advice on how to edit your work: That’s pure technical, so that you can learn. I can recommend “RAW” a book by Johan W. Elzenga but I think it’s only published in Dutch. It’s a very small book with only the things you need for improving your photo: that is – working on the lights, darks and contrast with raw files.

Kool 458

Best single advice for someone who wants to get into street photography: Don’t think the more expensive the camera the better the photos. You can make great chicken soup in a cheap pot.

What’s the best moment in your street photography career? The ride in a New York police car around Manhattan.

Kool 339

What’s the worst moment in your street photography career? In 1979, I had just started photographing. I went to New York with my wife and children. At the end of 42nd street, gospel singers where doing their thing and just around the corner was a row of shoe polishers. I took a picture and in no time there was a bunch of guys around me asking for money and pulling my camera. Another New Yorker just came standing beside me and they suddenly slunk off. Someone must have called the police, because a few minutes later we were in a police car riding around Manhattan searching for the muggers, having a nice chat with two friendly policemen.

Kool 427[1]

What projects are you working on? I have no projects, but maybe a good idea to do something on a single theme. I’m thinking about it.

Where do you want to be in 5 years with regard to street photography? Just hope to be healthy enough to keep on doing it.

Kool 377

Are there exhibitions planned in the future? No exhibitions. I rather spend my money on a journey. To New York for example, and take a look again at 42nd street.

Kool 472

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

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

This is Peter’s self portrait.

Kool Self 535

Advertisements

FAN HO, Hong Kong Master Street Photographer #1

On the stage of life

Leica Liker is honored to have Fan Ho, a Hong Kong Street Photographer, to launch our “Master Street Photographer Series” and be our first 2013 guest. We are especially proud as Mr. Ho is also our first Chinese guest.

I first came upon Mr. Ho’s photographs quite by accident. I was shooting around Union Square in San Francisco and saw the Geary building which hosts many photography and art galleries. When I walked into the Modern Book Gallery, I was stunned to see the most artistic and amazing street photographs of my birth home, Hong Kong, hanging on the walls. Images taken in the 1950’s and 60′ of a place I saw in old movies. I couldn’t have asked for better inspiration than what hung before me.

Construction

When you look at the images, you can’t help but feel like they were taken with a filmic or cinematographic eye. Indeed, Mr. Ho is a retired film director and actor. His command of natural light is masterful. He uses it to emphasize the drama of the subjects. He uses light not just for illumination but to create a mood, an atmosphere. Locations look like film sets which he has carefully sought out in his reconnaissance. The compositions are simple, clean and feel modern. They combine a keen sense of graphic juxtaposition of elements, depth and perspective. Each image appear to tell cinematic stories of a time lost.

Triangular

Hong Kong was going through a transition from old guard to progress of the new guard during the 1950’s and 60’s. Mr. Ho seemed to have his finger on the pulse of that grand event: The old and young walking into the bathing light of the future; People pushing hand carts along the railroad of progress; A Child at work as part of the old world; A modern business man rushing by; Construction workers silhouetted against the old bamboo scaffolding- building the future… Like great storytelling, they also draw on life’s themes beyond old versus new.

Each of Mr. Ho’s photographs transport us to another time with their nostalgia. He even calls the streets the “Living Theater”. Most importantly, they seem to hold the hopes and dreams of the captured soul, touching our empathy and pining for what once was, an intimate time in our history.

approaching shadow

Here is my interview with FAN HO:

Nick Name: Bah gam – Cantonese for ‘great scholar’.
Currently living in: San Jose, CA. But came from Hong Kong via Shanghai
What brought you and your family to Hong Kong? During the Sino-Japanese war in the late 1940’s my parents moved to Macau to work and left me in Shanghai alone. I was around 10 years old when I decided to run away. Hong Kong was the place to go. Besides, it is near Macau

Motto: I don’t have one.
Profession/Job: Retired Film Director and Actor.
Websites: http://www.modernbook.com/fanho.htm

Organizations or groups: Elected Fellow of the Photographic Society of America, Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, England; Honorary Member of the Photographic Societies of Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Brazil, Argentina, Singapore and etc..

Her Study

Favorite street camera & Lens: Rolleiflex and some times Leica.

Why do you like the Rolleiflex? I personally love the square format. The square size of the negative was suitable for my purpose of cropping – I like to crop vertically and horizontally. This is my trademark.

Did you ever use a Leica? If so, which one? And did you like it? My first camera was a Nikon during the late 1940’s or early 50’s. But I used it for snap shots. I have shot with the Leica. I can’t remember the model . I especially used it for the candid street scene shots as well as photojournalistic shots because it was small and light. Some shots in my book were taken with the Leica.

Back up street Camera & Lens: I’m like a cowboy, I use one camera- I seldom used two cameras- maybe because I’m lazy or it was too heavy to carry two cameras. One camera is enough.
Favorite photography gadget: I’m a simple camera person. No gadgets.

Hongkong Slum

Favorite street food: None

Do you listen to music while shooting? No- absolutely not! I concentrate on photographing to take a good picture. It’s actually very hard work. You must see and think all the time. You have to think how to surpass your past work with a new angle or a new style or a new feeling. You must use your heart to determine that decisive moment which Henri Cartier-Bresson talks about. You must get the feeling and get a response from the subject you are shooting. At that moment you must care, breathe and love the universe – it’s not just about making a beautiful picture. I put my whole life into a single photograph. Negative was expensive in my day, when you click a shutter it cost money. I am like a cowboy with one bullet and not a machine gun, looking for that decisive moment.

Favorite Music When Shooting and/or Editing: None when shooting. I do listen to classical music sometimes when I edit.

Favorite photo software: I use Photoshop and Lightroom to enhance my images. I prefer to go to a dark room but because of health reasons I don’t go there any longer.

Hand in Hand

3 Favorite Master Photographers: Henri Cartier-Bresson

3 Favorite Contemporary Photographers: Henri Cartier-Bresson- He is still contemporary and relevant for me.
Which three photographers prints do you own? None unfortunately.

Color or Black and White? I love both.

Film or Digital? I am old fashioned I still use film. I personally love to shoot the old way. I love to hear the sound of the shutter. It’s like music to me. I also love the darkroom.

Is there a special time of day that you like to shoot or is any time good? I like the sun to be low so I can get long shadows.

Journey to uncertainty

How would you define street photography? I would venture to follow Henri Cartier-Bresson’s definition of the ‘decisive moment’:

“To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

Why did you choose street photography and not another form of photography like stamp collecting? In reality, street photography chose me… I was a big movie fan as a child and in Shanghai, I watched many movies all alone. I love story telling. So when I escaped to Hong Kong, I wanted to tell stories in some way. After a while, I entered St Paul’s College, one of the best if not the best college at the time in Hong Kong. I wanted to be a writer. I did so well in my writing classes that I earned the nickname the “great scholar”- Bah Gam, even from my professors. I was an exceptional student and was able to work from home while my classmates had to stay in school.

I loved writing of all kinds, especially novels. Then one day, all of a sudden, I couldn’t continue studying anymore. I couldn’t read because I had a migrane that wouldn’t go away. The doctor couldn’t cure me. I found the only way to relieve my headache was to breathe fresh air by walking the streets. It became so boring, so I took snap shots to wile away the time. I entered a contest and got the 1st prize and was encouraged. So I started telling my stories using photography as the medium. The best thing, it gave me no headache. To tell a more complete story when looking at films.

The Search

What motivates you to photograph the streets? Like I said, it helped relieve my headaches. It was a way for me to express my love to tell stories.

Is street photography an obsession? It’s life saving.

Are you a lone shooter or do you like shooting with friends or groups? I always shoot by myself. I can’t have distractions.

Are you an invisible or visible photographer? I dress to blend in. I never try to stand out.

Favorite street photography city? Hong Kong is a beautiful place especially the nostalgic old Hong Kong. When I shot it in the 50’s and 60’s, it was close to me.

What inspires your photography? I love to be a filmmaker. I love drama, poetry, art, sculpture, music – all this gives me inspiration. Oh, and in particular -Brahms and Mahler symphonies.

Is there a philosophy or aesthetic behind your compositions that you apply to your photos? I took pictures according to my instinct. I didn’t find anything in particular that was attractive. I just took photographs the way I saw it and didn’t follow any particular master, style or philosophy.

Back alley

How does film directing and acting affect what and how you see? I see the street as a Living Theater. It’s also the title of my book. You can say ;I wait for the actors to walk to their marks.

How do you go about shooting a street photograph? I usually find a location and stake the place out for a while. Many of my photographs are shot n the same place at different times of the day and year.

What do you look for in a photograph by others and by yourself? Actually, I would like to tell you about it by showing you my favorite photograph. It is titled As Evening Hurries By – 1954. It was shot in the western district of Hong Kong. I studied Chinese literature at the time. I read a poem that greatly impressed me. So I had to find a place that had the same feeling I got from the poem. The mood, the atmosphere and main character — all had to express the same emotion as the poem. Once I found the location, I went there for many days. Tricycle carts and the men walking home; the silence followed by the surf crashing the walls; the lighting was low… for me the decisive moment was simply amazing. The image still haunts me today and I shot it half a century ago.

As evening hurries by[1]

What kind of style would you describe your photos? I would say cinematic, nostalgic. I crave for the nostalgia of good days gone by.

What criteria do you go by that would qualify as a decisive moment for you? I find a location I like and wait until the suitable subject matter appears. The lighting, the mood and the composition that matches a certain climax that I anticipate.

What are you trying to express with your photographs? Both normal street and then the multiple exposure shots? I express what I feel at the time and what is in my heart. At first I have an image in my head. I say to myself, I know that it will come out like this. The expression is about a time past. Something along the lines of longing I suppose.

I also like to experiment and to juxtapose images against each other to see both the compositional effect and the content.

How do you choose your shots when you edit? What tells you that the shot is good? If the feeling that appealed to me during the time I shot the image still remains, then something content inside me must move me as confirmation.

Did you ever print your own photos? I use to love the dark room. I did all my own prints. Now I have the assistance of the computer.

Childhood

Do you still shoot a lot? No. I don’t shoot anymore because my health doesn’t permit it. Except the occasional snap shot.

Best Single advice on how to improve your work: I feel technique is not too important. It’s more important to use your eyes, mind and heart. Techinique is something everyone can do. If you want to take your photography to a higher level, you must tell something. Move something. You must feel it when you make the photograph and that will take you to a higher level. Photography needs to be haunting and worth remembering.

Best single advice on how to edit your work: It has to move something in me.

Best single advice for someone who wants to get into street photography: You have to love to want to do it.

Inferno

What’s the best moment in your street photography career? Printing my work and seeing my concept materialize on a piece of paper.

What is the worst moment in your street photography career? None. All are good. All are memories.

What projects are you working on? Since I can’t shoot anymore, I am going through my old images and working with them with a new context. You can find some samples in my web site under new work.

Are there exhibitions planned in the future? Yes. New work exhibition of my montage work will be shown along with my new publication, ‘Fan Ho: Hong Kong Memoir’ will be taking place this year and in 2014. Please contact Modernbook Gallery for more information here.

umbrellas

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

Fan Ho’s books are available from Modern Art Gallery here.

We also thank Mark Pinsukanjana of Modern Book Gallery for arranging the interview.

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

Here is his portrait standing next to prints of his photos.
FanHo

# 13 KATE KIRKWOOD, Lake District (United Kingdom) “Rural” Street Photographer


Leica Liker is honored to have Kate Kirkwood, a Lake District (United Kingdom) ‘Rural’ Street Photographer as our #13 guest. Also Leica Liker’s second female photographer!

I think you will agree, when we speak of street photography, the first images or thoughts that come to mind are primarily humans interacting in city centers or city street scenes. Most likely because the majority of people live in cities. So the probability of photographs shot and published are naturally taken by city folk in their natural habitat. And if you are lucky to be living in the countryside or are a roving photographer, you might be shooting some from rural areas. Like Henri Cartier-Bresson who took photos of pigs looking out of their pigsty in Holland, a lone duck floating down a stream in the countryside of France or three geese walking towards an abandoned windmill on the plains of Tralee, Ireland. There’s a few rural life photographers out there. But these photographs are far and few between. Even the Flickr group, “Rural Street Photography”,  has just a handful of members. So when I was introduced to Kate’s work, it was like looking at gems.


Kate’s photographs gently leads us into the intimate life of northwest England, where the landscape is a national treasure. It is also the home of romantic poet William Wordsworth and children’s book writer Beatrix Potter, the creator of Peter Rabbit. Their words and drawings conjure images of bucolic England. Kate’s images aspire to the same.

Surrounded by pure unquieted landscape and animals, where humans are far and few between, the idyllic life has definitely helped shape Kate’s vision of the world. The rich colors and raking light combined with powerful compositions showcases her emphasis of animals and humans living in harmony with nature, giving landscape photography new life. More importantly, she has been able to offer her unique definition of rural street photography.

an·thro·po·mor·phic  [an-thruh-puh-mawr-fik] adjective
Ascribing human form or attributes to a being or thing not human, especially to a deity.

However, what really draws you into Kate’s work is the unique voice she has given to her subjects, especially animals. Kate talks about looking for the “minuscule, heightened moments in rural spaces, where seemingly little happens…” Whether it is two doves having a chat about their day as they cross the country lane, or the silent response to her car light on a lamb caught enjoying a private moment. Subtle humorous moments. Each character has its own secret life.

Through Kate’s eyes, we can see a complex story being lived. We realize that, like humans, animals have a deep intelligence. Their lives are unwittingly anthropomorphized through her lens. And our empathy comes from connecting their daily routine with ours.

When you look at Kate’s work, you can’t help but feel you’ve shared a glimpse of ‘sublime life’. As if to say, as stewards of earth, we have a responsibility to respect all living beings. Perhaps it’s because Kate understands the devastation of prejudice when she and her ex-husband published anti-apartheid literature in their past. Or maybe it’s because she lives in a remote area where she interacts with animals more than with humans. Most likely all of the above. The result is not ‘minuscule moments’ as she modestly comments, but a profound look into the richness of life at its simplest.

Here’s my interview with KATE KIRKWOOD:

Nick Name:  None
Currently living in: The Lake District, United Kingdom
Motto: Never seek what you’re expecting; set your camera and your heart to serendipity.

Street Photographer since: 2007-ish
Do you have formal photography training? No I don’t.  I run a Bed and Breakfast where I live and had some fishermen stay with me who were gear heads. It was interesting overhearing them talk about equipment and techie things for hours, despite most of it going over my head. I try to keep up with developments, but things move fast. I think I have enough basic  knowledge of how to use the camera so I can just get on with actually looking at the world. Perhaps I’m missing some tricks, but my primary pleasure is in fishing for images, trying things out, and then seeing what I’ve caught that day. I don’t mind bumbling along, learning as I go.

Profession/Job: Book production/design
Websites: www.katekirkwood.com
Organizations or Group:  None

Favorite Street Camera & Lens: Simply what I have: A Nikon D60 with a Nikkor 18-55mm lens.
Back-up Street Camera & Lens: Ha ha, my old little Fuji E900 P&S, which is held together with tape. I’m not very good on the techie side of things and find the options and discussions of such things overwhelming. I prefer a simple camera, simple settings (I use ‘Programme’ mostly), and concentrating on subjects.
Favorite photography gadget: A large farmer’s raincoat that I can zip up over my camera.
Favorite street food:  A pocket of salted licorice, if I’m lucky.

Do you listen to music while shooting?   Sometimes, but my old Shuffle went in the wash last week so that’s kiboshed that.
Favorite music when shooting and/or editing Photos: All sorts – Bach; PJ Harvey; Cinematic Orchestra; Mercedes Sosa; Cocorosie; Bill Evans; Lou Reid, Schoenberg Anouar Brahem; the Pixies…. I’m listening to Jocelyn Pooks as I write.
Favorite photo software:   I’ve only ever used Photoshop and I currently have version CS5.

3 Favorite Master Photographers:   Only three? I’d like to mention Helen Levitt, Fay Godwin and Ruth Orkin as there are few women in the usual lists and organisations. There are many whose photographs I look at again and again.  I love Robert Frank, Saul Leiter, Ernst Haas, many others … (and of course HCB goes without saying).

3 Favorite Contemporary Photographers:   Only three? How about Pentti Sammallahti, Sally Mann and Josef Koudelka.


Which 3 photographers’ prints do you own? It would be easier to answer the question ‘Which three prints would you like to own?’ I have wonderful prints from my photographer boyfriend who is one of the best in the street field. Otherwise, I have plenty of well-loved postcards of favourite images on my pinboards – does that count? And a lovely poster of Sirkka-Liisa Kontinnen’s photo ‘Girl on a Spacehopper’, and one by Lee Miller from a V&A exhibition.

Color or Black and White? Colour, though I’d like to play with monochrome.

Shoot Film or Digital? Digital. For me the absolute magic of the immediacy of digital still thrills; I remember very clearly the afternoon that someone showed me a small point-and-shoot in operation for the first time.  It was as riveting and exciting as the occasion, when, as a small child, I saw a zoetrope in action. I began trying to photograph more than just family snaps in the age of digital so it was hardly a consideration, and it’s more affordable and simpler, though I’d love to experiment with older cameras.

Is there a special time of the day you like to shoot or is any time good? I enjoy shooting in the first and the last light of day; right at the edges.

How do you define street photography?  Perhaps many genres can be “street” if you don’t determine what you’re going to shoot before hand. A few years ago I had the experience of seeing the best photographic exhibition in my life; was a huge show of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work. I was immediately afflicted, I wanted to try this art, street photography, too.  But where I live, I see the postman once a day and sometimes I don’t see anyone else for days. When I go to the city, the best treat is to simply wander the streets. However, because I live out in a rural area, I enjoy what I have, approaching moments and unfolding spaces in rural spaces with the mindset of a street photographer, even though I don’t live in a place with people. I suppose I try for a kind of rural street photography, although I’m also trying to find fresh ways with the possibilities of landscape photography.

Street photography requires an abandoned sense of wonderment, an openness. But you can’t just click away and assume that the act in itself will muster up an image. It’s so rare; it’s that little crucial moment that I think might be symbolized by the way Cartier-Bresson used to pop up on his tippy toes as he pressed the shutter. Seldom, if ever, can I claim to have snaffled what Roland Barthe’s calls ‘punctum’. Street photography offers a kind of slow accretion of modest wisdom. The more you photograph, the keener your observation, the more you notice about the world … perhaps you grow a little wiser each time because you’re in a state of watching out.

Decades ago I was involved with an anti-apartheid publishing house my then husband ran and some of the ground-breaking young photographers of that time in Johannesburg had a dark room at the back of the place and they offered my first understanding of what documentary photography is about. I often consider and puzzle over the difference between documentary and street photography. Documentary photography has a responsibility while street photography doesn’t. Yet it tells a lot of truths. Street brings attention to our foibles and reminds us of delight. It’s lovely to go to exhibitions of street photographers you know and see the public responding to the delight in everyday life.  It’s like enhancing all the little things that happen when we don’t have our cameras.

I’m not so keen on street photography which is malicious, grossly intrusive or that pokes fun at vulnerable people. I prefer and enjoy photographs which are taken with a kind of tenderness and respect. This is a tricky differentiation; I enjoy much of Martin Parr’s work and he’s a great one at poking fun, of celebrating our ludicrious possibilities. Perhaps it should be celebratory rather than derisory, although I strongly believe we should always deride misused or misplaced power….

Some of your images remind us of the comic strips of Gary Larson, where the animals take on human or at least anthropomorphic intelligence. Is that how you see them? Perhaps. I have this one very tame hen that sits next to me when I am in the sun. So I painted her nails. One day a builder was here fixing the chimney and after a cup of tea and a chat he bounced off in his van and ten minutes later he came bouncing back and in a rather matter of fact way handed me the hen through his window. She had got into the van and settled down in the passenger seat when he wasn’t looking. I suppose she wanted a little expedition.  Yes, animals have huge intelligence but it’s of their own complex sort. I love being in a position to try and capture some of that.

Why did you choose Street Photography and not another form of photography or stamp collecting? To me Street is more an attitude than a genre, a way of encountering the world, without too many preconceptions, wherever one happens to be. It invites intuition rather than rationality; it requires an emotional response before an understanding. I also love the excitement of anticipation, seeing a moment coming.… What I do to earn a living requires planning, organization, parameters, words; wandering around with my camera is an antidote to that. We don’t have to prepare anything, and we don’t have to tell the whole story – suggestion and puzzlement are good intentions.

What motivates you to photograph the streets? The world is a different place when we’ve a camera in our hand. I love having this reason to be out in the world, in the sun and the rain, instead of hunched at my computer where I spend my working day. It’s a bit like taking a dog for a walk. I live a quiet life in the countryside and when I get out the world has a wam-bam! impact on me. I think, crikey! look at what’s going on, look at what all these people or dogs or cows or buses or road signs are up to! What havoc, what strange order, too…Photographing out there is a sort of gesture of love; kind of blowing a kiss to the world.

Is Street Photography an obsession? Perhaps, yes. I drive with my camera on my lap. I feel undressed if I chance out of the door without it, and return in panic to fetch it.

Are you a lone shooter or do you like shooting with friends or a group? I find it a meditative practice – if that doesn’t sound too pretentious – best carried out alone. I get into a ‘dwaal’, as Afrikaners say. But I take my camera where ever I go, whether I’m in company or not; I just don’t go on group shoots. I don’t go on ‘shoots’ per se, I just take my camera along in life.

Favorite street photography city: I don’t get about much, and photograph mostly in rural areas. I enjoy the quirky small towns on the coast near where I live, and I get to London when I can.

What inspires your photography? I think everything we encounter can inform our photography; current politics for example. I enjoy all sorts of art and literature and go to galleries when I can, and if I can’t, well, I count myself fortunate that I have Google Search and the Internet, which can be like making a big Christmas pudding every day; loads and loads of ingredients at our fingertips! Recently I saw Grayson Perry’s tapestries; and marveled at the small details of contemporary life he’s observed in them. I also saw Munch’s paintings and was very moved and also inspired by the daring and photographic points of view in his compositions.  Things I’ve read recently? Will Self’s  Psychogeography was big for me, as was Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Space. Of course I read a couple of blogs, and I try to find out what other photographers are saying, and enjoy their biographies, but mostly I soak up their images, as much as I can and as often as I can.

Is there a philosophy, concept or aesthetic behind your compositions that you apply to your photos? I suppose the isolation. In the last 4 years I’ve been mostly on my own here. Roaming around the area is very solitary. There is a state of grace to be learned from that. England is a small, crowded place but the gaps of space and silence and minimalism are there. I find it easier to compose with simpler and fewer elements.

When I am in London I like to go out early in the morning. If you go out to somewhere like Oxford street in the middle of the day and people stream by you can invariably dredge up  an image. But perhaps because I am used to country life, I find the empty streets of the early hours more manageable. Maybe it’s a bit of a cop-out, but I find myself doing it.

On the other hand, I have a problem with some landscape photography which is often quite dull or clichéd. Landscape images become beautiful or beguiling or special when something unique happens in them, when the photographer invests some emotional intelligence in her or his summoning of the landscape.  Some of Ansel Adams’ photographs manage that; a small spark, that tiny black horse, a living spirit.

Do you think your work in typography, proofreading and publishing  has an impact on how you shoot and view street photographs? Perhaps because I’m making decisions about color, line and form in the earning work. The world can be compositionally structured through a viewfinder much like the graphics on a page. I work on academic books, mostly about Africa and global issues So I often browse for images for book covers and illustrations, looking through stock photos, finding fresh elements for design.

What do you look for in a good photograph by others and by yourself? A difficult question, often asked. I know the effect of a good photograph: it’s a sort of searing prod, like with a branding iron; a prod in the head or a prod in the heart or even the funny-bone; and then the day is different after that.…

How do you go about shooting a street photograph? I do not have a plan or a way of doing things. I just make sure I have my camera and that the battery is charged, and I try to remember to check that I haven’t left exposure compensation on, which I frequently do! I simply take my camera along and don’t feel a desperation to find a shot, to make a catch. I take quite a lot of photos while en route on country roads – grinding to a halt, reversing, causing mahem, plunging into muddy fields ….

How do you go about composing a shot? If there’s time I’ll check if there’s an alternative point of view; an element that could be included, a framing shape I might not have seen at first. I once took a landscape photograph, which ended up in the Tate archives, of a farmhouse and snowy mountains in the background, but I was bothered by some pesky black silage bags and old tyres cluttering the foreground. Then, as I adjusted my position, I realized that filling half the frame with this detritus actually made a better photo. This can happen in street situations, when you take a few shots and then notice that things might line up or juxtapose or create a better shot if you just shift a little. But you need the luxury of time for that. Mostly taking a photo is a sort of blurred panic.

Best 3 tips for shooting the streets): When I got my little DSLR a friend picked it up to admire it and promptly threw the lens cap in the bin. ‘You won’t be needing that’, he said, ‘you won’t take street photographs with a lens cap on’. So perhaps that’s some good advice: throw away your lens cap and get a UV filter to protect your lens instead. Another tip I learned is to carry on shooting even after it feels like a moment is over. I’ve found that if a person who’s in my shot is curious or put out by my including them they mellow if I try find something nice or respectful to say, to explain that I thought they looked wonderful there in that light, or that I liked their nice jumper or that their kiss looked so loving.

Best single advice on how to improve your work: I don’t really like the word ‘work’; people who toil away in paddy fields or down mines or in garment factories do ‘work’. We photographers who’re not doing it to earn bread or rent, are just enjoying ourselves, making our projects, dilly-dallying, learning to look and understand a little more.

Best single advice on how to edit your work:  I spend some of my working time cutting and paring book texts down to the bones, and it’s good to try to do this with photographs. I find it a good challenge to be really strict and honest with myself when it comes to sorting through images. You know that an image is actually not very good, you just do, and it’s better not to try to persuade yourself it is and to just move on. So being ruthless helps. Distilling, from a big fat mush of stuff, just one brief succinct or poetic phrase.

Best single advice for someone who wants to get into street photography: I’m not sure what you mean by ‘get into’. There’s no right way to do it, no club, no certificates. Just walk out with a camera and see what happens.  It’s fun to share the results and learn from others on websites like Flickr, to become savvy and enter competitions and things, but it can get hectic and misleading.

What’s the best moment in your street photography career? It’s not a ‘career’, it’s a hobby really; I don’t have grand ambitions. I do take it seriously and am passionate about it, but I have no pretensions to a career. Street photography is not really about that; even master street photographers do mostly commercial work to survive. The delight in getting a satisfying photo is a very rare and ‘best’ moment, every time.

What’s the worst moment in your street photography career? I haven’t had any ‘worst’ moment I don’t think. Being shooed off down the street in a local town by two big lads who could shout ‘fuck off’ and fire half-eaten chips from their mouths simultaneously was a bit exciting.

Other than that, because I live in a small community, the people, farmers, are all generally wary about being photographed. The older folks aren’t too bothered by it but the younger ones are.

What projects are you working on? With street images things perhaps become projects as they accumulate. I am also trying to start a couple of documentary projects about things that I feel are important and if anything I’d hope to develop in that direction.

Where do you want to be in 5 years with regard to street photography? Simply to still be looking, snapping and learning for the enjoyment of it. With perhaps a little more technical savvy and perhaps a project I’m proud of…

Are there exhibitions planned in the future? A small presentation in Amsterdam, and a selection in Life Force magazine are coming up soon.

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

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

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

Here is Kate’s self portrait.

%d bloggers like this: