Skip to content
Advertisements

Posts tagged ‘Garry Winogrand’

#18 RUI PALHA, Lisbon (Portugal) Street Photographer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Leica Liker is honored to have RUI PALHA, a Lisbon (Portugal) Street Photographer as our #18 guest.

As you might guess, I often scour the web in search of images that touch my heart. I will drop whatever I am doing to find out more. I distinctly remember seeing the image below on Flickr. It instantly drew my attention. It was like a movie still.

RuiPalha00025

The director couldn’t have done a better job, starting with the window frame and the scratched and worn glass from which we look through. The actor’s hand in pocket, the other holding a newspaper, keeping it close to himself; The hunch – something weighing heavy on his mind; The backlight putting him in silhouette giving him an anonymous feel – perhaps it’s what he’s feeling;  People ignoring him – what life often is about – you’re on your own… I was moved by its simplicity and its complex emotion of loneliness.

So I was thrilled to find that it wasn’t just a one hit wonder but part of a whole body of work from a true humanist.

RuiPalha0070

Rui’s images seem to be devoted to that independent soul. He is drawn to the loner, the one who stands out from the crowd. Man or woman against the environment; against the world.  The underdog. Rui has a connection to them. It’s deep in his Portuguese soul.  And he wants us to share the humanity of his “people”- the way they conduct their lives.

RuiPalha0061

When I spoke with Rui, I asked him about this recurring theme. He told me indeed it is something he yearns for. He believes solitude is a prevalent condition not only in Portugal but throughout society. People are generally lonely in crowds. It’s a sad fact of life. A state of affairs that we must live with. There’s even a Portugese term for it – “Fado” which literally means ‘fate’. It’s a Portuguese national symbol really.

RuiPalha0071

FADO: a type of Portuguese singing, traditionally associated with pubs and cafés, that is renowned for its expressive and profoundly melancholic character.

The singer of fado… speaks to the often harsh realities of everyday life, sometimes with a sense of resignation, sometimes with the hope of resolution. – Encyclopedia Britannica

RuiPalha0062

What I admire is Rui’s ability to juggle between street photography and street portraiture.  He’s able to give us the beautifully lit and composed master shot- the overall observation and then come in for the close-up – to catch the quiet humanity of a person.

Most street photographs and portraits convey something of strangers in the moment. But many of Rui’s images come from deep empathy and sharing of an unforgettable life. I love to see them as a collection because together, they tell us a story that transcend the photographic medium and gives us a glimpse into precious souls.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here is my interview with RUI PALHA:

Nick Name: None
Currently living in: Lisbon, Portugal
Motto: Live the day like it was the last day.
Street Photographer since: Photography has been a hobby from 13 years of age, with great interruptions up to 2001.  Since then, I have devoted myself to street photography almost all the time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

How did you get into photography in the first place? I loved photographing since I was 13 years old. I even had my own dark room. Many, many years ago I invited all of my colleagues to photograph with me in the streets. Over the years working, I saw my friends become mad, become crazy. I ran away to escape. Instead of watching tv or going to the movies, I photographed the streets. I always worked with multi-disciplinary teams in my main job (mainframe computer technology advisor). I created a union between us via photography. I organized the groups to walk the streets during the weekends or breaks from hard work using the same type of film – after we developed the film we met to see the results of the images of the same place – small places. It is always amazing to see the results of shooting in the same place. It’s different from each person.

RuiPalha0080

Profession/Job: Retired data processing and technology adviser

Websites:
http://www.ruipalha.com/
http://1x.com/member/ruipalha
http://www.fineart-portugal.com/author/1405
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruipalha/
Book: “Street Photography”

RuiPalha0067

What was your first camera? I remember very well… a small Minolta 16mm. The negative was small and very thin. I was 13 years old and I loved that camera. I learned a lot using it. I wrote down every shot, time, hour, sunny or not, the exposure and afterwards I developed and saw the errors I made- lots of errors. We only learn from errors. I make them still. It’s awful. You spend a whole day in the streets. You think you can’t fail and when you put up the photos in the computer they all look terrible. You can’t fix every shot or moment that was important for you. As a result, very often I would delete the whole card because all I wanted was that moment, which I didn’t get. Fortunately we are not perfect. Otherwise life would be too boring.

RuiPalha0065

Favorite Street Camera & Lens: I don’t have a favorite street camera. I use several cameras in the streets depending on what I pretend to do each day. Lately I have been using a Sony RX1, I am testing it. Sometimes I use a Nikon D800 with a 20mm or a 35mm, other times I use a Fuji X100 (with a 35mm) or a Fuji XPRO1 with a 27mm or a Leica DLUX 5.

I want to say, any camera is fine. I test cameras a lot. What matters is to use very good lenses. The most important thing is your eye. Because, in the end, all gear have the same qualities. And most people, me in particular, don’t use the digital camera’s full abilities. To be honest, I don’t know 90% of the menu on my Nikon D800. I tend to use the camera the same way every day.

I have a big passion for rain: My favorite weather for photography. Every one goes home but I go to the streets. I’ve lost many cameras in the rain. I think there is always special lighting on raining days. It provides me reflections and refractions on every surface. Some people call me the “rain photographer”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Back-up Street Camera & Lens: When I use the D800 usually I take with me a Fuji camera (X100 or XPRO1) or a Leica DLUX5 or the Sony RX-1. If I don’t use the D800 I don’t have a backup camera. I take just one with me… the Fuji XPRO1 or the Sony RX-1

Favorite photography gadget: I don’t have any gadget.
Favorite street food: Black coffee and water.

RuiPalha0079

Do you listen to music while shooting? Never. In street photography concentration is fundamental. It is necessary to “see” every moment and to “listen” for every street sound. Sometimes listening the sound allows us to anticipate a moment. This is fundamental.

Favorite music when shooting and/or editing photos: When editing… always jazz.

Favorite photo software: FastStone Viewer and Paint Shop Pro with b/w Styler as a plugin.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

3 Favorite Master Photographers: Henry Cartier-Bresson, Garry Winogrand and James Nachtway

3 Favorite Contemporary Photographers: James Nachtway and Sebastião Salgado…

As well as Henry Cartier-Bresson and Garry Winogrand , they will be my favorite eternal contemporaries…They never die…

Which 3 photographers’ prints do you own? None, unfortunately.

RuiPalha0081

Color or Black and White? Black & white… always.

Shoot Film or Digital ? I love film, I belong to the “old school”. I used film for many years and of course, I had my own darkroom. Now I only use digital. It’s cheaper, faster and as I don’t have darkroom anymore… I think whether digital or analogue, it is mandatory to develop the films ourselves. I don’t like to send them to the commercial labs. To be honest I never liked the darkroom work, I always prefer to be in the streets “pressing the shutter” …

Also, I only work with jpeg and never use raw. As mentioned earlier, I can fail with lighting measurements. When I fail, the photo is basically garbage. I don’t like raw because I don’t like to post process. I have thousands of photos. Had I shot them in raw, I would have no room in my small house to store it. I prefer to work the lighting in-camera. I then convert to grey scale and the photos turn out pretty nice if I shot it right.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Do you remember the first sensation you had when you took photographs and then saw them after you printed them? Yes- it’s fantastic- I remember that time. I use to spend many hours in dark room developing and print my own film. I never liked the work but when I saw the image appearing in the tray was simply magical, developing and printing, It’s hard work but fascinating too. I haven’t developed my films for many years now. I prefer to walk in streets and capture the moment.

RuiPalha00022

How has digital changed your way of seeing compare to film? It’s curious, because in the beginning I was very disappointed in digital. In film you must be disciplined. 36 fotos take 2-3 days to shoot. Now 36 take ½ hour to 1 hour. But when this sensation goes away, you become disciplined again. I am more worried about controlling the light than to press the button. I can see with digital, how some people can make 100 clicks in one second. It doesn’t cost more to click more. But you lose sight of the composition and content.

I use film philosophy to guide my photography. Now I take around 60-100 photos per day. Of course there are exceptions. For instance, one time I was surprised by a street performance by a group of rappers. In 1 hour I took 150 photos. I shot for them and for me. I sent them the photos afterwards. When you photograph the streets, you are photographing for yourself as well as for your subject. Often I come back to the same place with copies of photos to give to the people I took pictures of. You’ll be surprised it’s like a door opener.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Is there a special time of the day you like to shoot or is any time good? When I can choose the time, I always prefer early morning and the end of the day.
But, since I can’t choose all the time, I have to shoot under any conditions.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

How do you define street photography? I think there isn’t a “formal” definition for Street Photography. I agree completely with Eric Kim when he says:

“There is not one definition which defines street photography. Depending on who you ask or where you find your information, you will come upon conflicting responses. Some street photographers will say that it is about capturing the emotion and expressions of people, while others may put a higher emphasis on the urban environment. However I believe that the most effective street photographs are the ones that synthesize both the human element as well as the urban environment. To capture a moment in which a person is interacting with the environment or in which the environment is interacting with the person is a true mark of a skilled street photographer.

RuiPalha00014

But when it comes down to it, it is basically taking photos on the streets. So instead of chasing sunsets and exotic creatures, you look for ordinary places and ordinary people and creatively compose them in a clever way. Anybody can take a good picture of a sunset. Although there are many technical details, which go into capturing a perfect sunset, anybody can simply point their camera and capture a sunset, which is inspiring. But when it comes to street photography, you must constantly be looking for contrasting elements in the environment, which make a photograph interesting.

Simply put, the main focus of street photography is taking the everyday and the mundane and making it into something unique and beautiful.”

It’s the way I “see” it…

RuiPalha00018

Henri Cartier-Bresson said photography is like “…putting one’s head, one’s eye and one’s heart on the same axis”.

We have to be able to anticipate, to understand, to “see”, to “feel” a street scene in a fraction of time and we must capture that moment in a meaningful frame. The composition is also fundamental. Not only is it about the capture of the moment. It’s also the perfect combination of having your head, eye, heart…and your finger in the same axis. I think this “axis”, this characteristic, is indispensable to be a street photographer and not an ordinary “street shooter”.

Here is a very special Robert Capa quote that I try to follow in my photography work: “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.”

RuiPalha00012

Why did you choose Street Photography and not another form of photography or stamp collecting? Street is Life. Street is always different every day. It is always surprising. I never know what I will find and that attracts me. I love to walk; I love people; I love life. I need the street & people to live.

RuiPalha0074

What motivates you to photograph the streets? First of all I like People: real People. Second, I am always looking for THE moment, I never captured and, probably, I will never find. Third, I like low light conditions – rainy days and problematic places.

Usually I walk on foot about 10, 15 to 20 kms a day… walking, talking with strangers, photographing what I can and what I feel. Sometimes it’s easy, other times not.

Many times I repeat the route. It is always different in-spite of being the same…the people always change as well as situations, lighting, sounds … It is and it will always be a challenge to try to make something different when exploring the same places. It’s fundamental to be innovative in the same spots. The “glance” the “way to see” must be creative every day. It’s a challenge, not only for me, but for everybody who also shoot at “my” favorite places… I am always hoping that someone can see something I never saw in my usual spots. Creativity is so important, isn’t it?

My type of photography is a little bit solitary. But I always feel accompanied by the world that surrounds me.

RuiPalha00001

Is Street Photography an obsession? Completely. It’s a way of life… my way…

Are you a lone shooter or do you like shooting with friends or a group? For me street photography is a solitary task. I can’t do it in groups. I always do it alone.

I am often invited to be with more people. When we talk, they are surprised to find out I don’t have my camera. I tell them I have to concentrate and not talk when I photograph. So when I am with them I am also equally as concentrated to talk to them.

RuiPalha0075

I also like to walk into dangerous places. If I go with other people I can’t predict how others will react in situations. I had experiences with foreigners who want to walk with me and things became complicated. I recall one interesting visit from a guy who lives in England. He came to Lisbon to meet me. He asked if I liked dangerous places and if I could take him there. So I took him there .. to a “not very dangerous place”… He was scared and shaking all the time…

RuiPalha00008

Are you an invisible photographer or visible? Many times you must be invisible. Be part of the scenery…this will allow you to be more aware of what’s going on. It allows you to recognize any kind of problematic situations. Hopefully none. But you never know. Other times you have to establish a fantastic connection with “street People”, talking with them, hearing them, respecting them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I just want to say, we are here to learn and you have to share what you learn – it is the way. It is the only way to grow up. If people are too confident then they never grow as a person. It happens with everyone everywhere. In my data processing days I talked IBM, UNIVAC (Unisys), ICL languages. In order for others to learn this new language from me, I had to write down my experiences. I had to in order to share. People who left my company would leave no instructions. So it was difficult to correct errors. Just like in life- you have to share, analyze the experience. Compare notes. And you have to love people. I can’t accept those who don’t like people on the streets. It’s impossible! You can’t be a street photographer for more than one or 2 hours max. I know some of these people. I call them street shooters. They shoot everything that moves- they don’t think about the emotions.

Favorite street photography city: Lisbon and Paris.

RuiPalha00040

What inspires your photography? The work of photographers I admire and the People.

Is there a philosophy, concept or aesthetic behind your compositions that you apply to your photos? Of course! Everybody reflects his own personality in the Art they can produce. Photography is a reflection of our souls, of our way of being in this world and our own individual aesthetic sense.

RuiPalha00041

Can you describe your style? Your aesthetic? I don’t know if I can describe it. I think others can describe better than me. Only thing I can say, I’m always searching for the special moment. I don’t like to shoot just to shoot. Sometimes in my sleep, I dream about a special framing of a place where I go many times. I see a composition I never saw before. Then I go to the spot of my dream the following day. It turns out weird and surreal.

Lisbon is a very beautiful and small town with a special light. It’s challenging to see something new when you walk the same places all the time. I repeat the same route day after day. But it always looks different.

I do think when it comes down to it, photography is a challenge to yourself. It is self portraiture.

RuiPalha00026

What do you look for in a good photograph by others? As in any piece of Art: emotion. I don’t have to explain why I like some photograph. For me it is enough to be emotionally affected, to feel all my senses revving up… and chills in the body.

RuiPalha00049

Can you describe the entire process of photographing these photos, from preparation to when you pressed the shutter button? For me, this is a very emotional photograph (below). I do not know the old man. He is a very poor man who collects pieces of paper to sell afterwards. He is rather famous in this particular area, because everyone would say he is a bad man. At first I was a afraid to photograph him, but I could not resist. Then I saw how the dog loved him and vice versa. I took 3 shots even though I thought maybe it would be my last photograph. At the time I was thankful he didn’t see me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This area is called Cacilhas where the river is in the middle. I went back with a print for him and discovered he had died. I found the family and gave them photograph. They cried. This kind of situation happened to me many times, especially when I photograph old people.

As for the composition, I can tell you the area in itself is not beautiful. It’s difficult to shoot as here is only the wall. At the time I instinctively knew how to frame it and shoot it. I have never thought about it until you asked me. Now that we are talking about it, the man on the right made the composition although the emotion speaks for itself. Up until now, something made me push the button.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

How do you go about shooting a street photograph? I have my favorite spots, as everybody has, I am sure. The composition is very important as well as to get “THE” moment framed in a composition that attracts me.

I try to present myself the little scenes of the streets in which the people and the typically southern urban environment built by the people, form a perfect unity. Cobbles, walls made of stone, graffiti, children playing carelessly, old people reading newspapers or playing cards, etc.. In my photographs I present all people as unique and the most important part of my photographs. I try to gain an insight into their feelings, and thoughts with the help of their gestures, motions…

RuiPalha0063

How do you choose your shots when you edit? What tells you that the shot is good? First the image must attract me provided it has achieved the following aspects: It has to be emotional, the lighting has to be just right, the composition is perfect and there is a story behind it. I usually shoot during the day. While at night, I look over the photographs. I give a quick look and try to choose one or two that I like more over the others. To be honest I have some thousands of photos I have never seen.

RuiPalha00007

Best 3 tips for shooting the streets:

Always be alone.

Always be concentrated.

Always try to anticipate the moment.

RuiPalha0077

Best single advice on how to improve your work: Always carry the camera and use it. Always be very critical with yourself.

Best single advice on how to edit your work: Less is more…

Best single advice for someone who wants to get into street photography: Choose a project and never forget: Love and respect People.

RuiPalha00050

What’s the best moment in your street photography career? The most important is the friendship and respect I feel everyday from the occasional “street models”. Usually I try to give the photographs I made before to the people I photograph.

Besides this I think it was very important here in Portugal that my first and only book “Street Photography” book was the winner of the award of Authors 2011, sponsored by the Portuguese Society of Authors in audio-visual category, for the “Best Work of Photography”.

What’s the worst moment in your street photography career? When I arrive home and I don’t like any photograph made during the day.

RuiPalha00028

What projects are you working on? I have always a sociological interest on my street “work”. I am involved in some social projects in problematic neighborhoods of Lisbon. I always look for real People and I learn a lot everyday with the anonymous people in the streets.

Where do you want to be in 5 years with regard to street photography? In this world, doing exactly the same I am doing now, so help me my legs…

Are there exhibitions planned in the future? Maybe, if my sons and my girlfriend will oblige me…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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

This is Rui’s self portrait.

SELF00002

Advertisements

# 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

# 14 FRANK JACKSON, Los Angeles Street Photographer

Leica Liker is honored to have Frank Jackson, a Los Angeles Street Photographer as our #14 guest. Also Leica Liker’s fourth published photographer!

Many of you might know of Frank Jackson already but to those who don’t, he lives and breathes by light. His work first caught my eye when I was roaming the internet for black and white photographs. Then a photographer friend of mine told me about a black and white workshop that was being taught through Samy’s Camera education academy here in Los Angeles. I took the class and walked out of it having learnt not to be afraid of light but rather to embrace it. I always found photography somewhat intimidating because everything seemed so technical. Frank made it user friendly by showing how even a home lamp can be used to make amazing photographs. It’s all about how you view light. Maybe because he taught himself everything. Whatever it is, he had the “midas” teaching touch. He was a total inspiration. I couldn’t stop thinking about all the great photos I could make. You can read my review of the class I took last year here.

“Sometimes I happen to pictures and sometimes pictures happen to me. We sort of flow between each other like people who dance together for a long time.” – Frank Jackson

When you look at Frank’s  images, they exude a kind of moodiness, that only an eye for light and a feel for story telling can bring together. For instance, the image below taken on the ferry passing Lady Liberty in New York. On the surface, a simple photo of people thinking while taking the ferry. But the mood and atmosphere bring out a story – one of a rather somber reflection on what it means to be free by all those in the photograph and by us the viewer. That freedom is actually a fleeting thing. Not one to be taken for granted.  I could go deeper and talk about the African Americans and the struggle they had to be “free at last”. Or the woman and all the women who still fight for “equality”.  Despite much progress, this image tell us much has yet to be done.

We’ve seen in our series of inspirational interviews with many photographers who have all captured decisive moments. Frank’s images however, are framed to tell a good story. A street portrait of a person not only tell of what a life has experienced, or a thought at the moment, but also what the person is thinking of into the future. Some of Frank’s street scenes capture not so much contrasts, the  humor of the moment, or the juxtaposition of life and environment but in my humble opinion, a whole depth of society much in the tradition of some of the masters of street photography.

Frank’s photographs offer a completeness to an experience of both the tangible (story) and the intangible (feeling, mood).

Here is my interview with FRANK JACKSON:

Nickname: To my immediate family I’m known as Jack because I’m the 3rd Frank Jackson in the family.
Currently living in:  Los Angeles
Motto: It’s funny, in my life not to have one is a good thing…Do what you say you’re going to do. Don’t tell everyone what you’re going do. Just do it. Then there’s no excuse if it doesn’t get done.

Street/Photographer since:  I’m a photographer and I shoot the streets. I’ve been shooting a long time.
Profession/Job: Professional photographer.
Websites: http://www.fotographz.comhttp://fotographzfrankjackson.tumblr.com

Organizations or Groups: None. Every time I’ve been in one, if there is great harmony going on then eventually someone comes in for whatever reason and knock the balance off the group. Somehow, it always happens that way. There are people in the world who can always pull a photograph out of nowhere and some people in a group get pissed at it. The highest compliment I can pay someone is: I envy you.

I don’t get caught up in competition. You see it you snap it and have to have the expertise to get the shot. I tend not to belong to a group now. There’s nothing wrong with it. I believe in forward thinking organizations, showing love for photography and keeping illusion out of it.

After college, you worked at IBM. How did you decide you wanted to be a photographer after working there? How were you able to make the transition? I fell in love with photography first. When you get a camera, the first thing you do is to shoot what see out there. So when I got my first camera, a Asahi Pentax with 50mm Takamara lens and a zoom lens, I knew for sure photography would be part of my life forever. My 2nd camera was an Olympus OM1, with a 50mm lens that I bought. I used it for my first photographic job out of college. Then a used Hasselblad, with 80 mm lens landed in my lap and it wasn’t hot, so I got to keep it. It had a waist level finder and worked like a rangefinder. It was beautiful.

Actually, working at IBM repairing their equipment, helped finance my love for photography and all the gear.  I made so much money and bought everything. I was a total gear head.

If you keep shooting enough, eventually someone sees your work and they hire you. That’s what happened to me while I was still working at IBM. Naturally, I became a corporate photographer.

How did you decide to teach? I hate the word teach. When a schoolteacher must impart knowledge, it’s to have people pass tests. When you help someone learn something you feel they know it when they prove they learned it I like to keep it simple and find out why people are there in my workshops or private lessons. And if they take a class from me it’s because they are there to become better at what they do.  I want you to learn one thing: to open the door to learn other things. Forget about why I do it. Just do it.

Favorite Street Camera & Lens:  Rangefinder first- get a good one and learn to look through that view finder window. You can see outside and inside the lines. Afterwards you start to see like that. Leica makes the simplest and the best. But if you have a cheap plastic camera, and get the shot you want, more power to you. My first 35mm range finder was the Leica M5. What a great camera.

Now I own a Nikon D800 and Leica M6 (one of a kind- custom rebuilt for me, basically M6, with old style M3 dials) with 50mm lens and my logo on the leather.  Like I said earlier, I was once a gear head. But I gave that up. I am no longer a camera collector.

I want to say, people generally equate pictures with the camera used and not the person. I don’t want to know what camera shot the photo. Some of the best images in world were taken with many non-legendary cameras. Marketing lionized the cameras afterwards. It’s the boutique syndrome. For instance, Rolex makes the best watches. You can say that about Leica or Nikon, etc. They all have their niche. The bottom line: the best camera is only as good as the people who make them ready for use. Like buying a custom made gun. If you can’t shoot with it then you’re not going to eat. Simple as that.

BTW, my cameras don’t look beat up. They always look new when I use them. It’s all about taking care of them, treating them with respect.

Back-up Street Camera & Lens: Panasonic GX1 4/3rds with prime 20mm f1.7 equivalent to 40mm in full frame. Gives film quality files that are amazing to see. People can’t dispute that it wasn’t a film camera.  My Sony Nex7 is another choice, but you can only shoot one at a time.

What was your first Leica and why? I got my first Leica before I moved to Los Angeles and took on the IBM job. I saw the Leica M5, the first rangefinder when I sent my Hasselblad in for repair. I looked at it and it was nice. So I asked how much for the Hasselblad. The camera guy said $100 + Hasselblad. Well it didn’t help to have a body. I also needed a lens. I put money down on the 90mm Summicron. What’s cool about the M5 is that you look through a window with a focusing patch. I got a normal lens 1-2 years later.

Which Leica do you love and recommend? I would love to own a Leica MP. It’s really the M6 with a changed plate. I love the look of it.
Favorite photography gadget:  I use LED lights from the video department for still work. You can dim and have daylight balance.
Favorite street food: Asian teriyaki, chicken yakitori, Vietnamese or Chinese stir-fry chicken – doesn’t weigh you down.

Do you listen to music while shooting? NO music. I pay attention. I don’t know how anyone can do that on the street. I need my ears to help me see.
Favorite music when shooting and/or editing Photos:  I listen to jazz especially ‘round midnight’ vibe. I edit or process my best work between 11:30pm to 4-5:00am in the darkroom-digital for film. Nothing to distract you.
Favorite photo software: Lightroom 4 and Nik Silver Efex Pro and Photoshop

3 Favorite Master Photographers: Andre Kertész, Jan Saudek, and Brassai.

Kertész: Because some one told me that my work is similar to his. He kept it simple and didn’t care what people said. Don’t care what people say – they may not like it but doesn’t mean it’s not good. You can critique the quality of presentation and the correct category But that’s really it.

Brassai: Because that was pure. He was partying with people with a pocket Kodak pocket camera using 120mm film. He got the café scenes. Amazing work- he shot color and I was lucky enough to see an exhibition in Montpellier.

3 Favorite Contemporary Photographers: Albert Watson, Gordon Parks (did a photo of him and spent two afternoons with him), Howard Bingham (he was able to get Mohammed Ali to feel comfortable- he is not pretentious). I got to shoot Ali- They did a beautiful exhibit of him with a Hasselblad. I have it on film. I have to get it scanned. It’s of Ali walking in front of Binghams’ exhibit. I got to sit with him after he got Parkinsons and he was still the joker.

Which 3 photographers’ prints do you own? I only own a Melvin Sokolsky  – 8 x 11 color print. I want to float him in mid-air.
Color or Black & White?  Both. Cameras don’t know the difference. B & W taught me to be very good with color. B & W is about feeling more than you see it. If you do color right, you’ll see it and feel it.

Shoot Film or Digital?  Both.
If Film, what type of negative?  Tmax 400 exposed it at 200 and I process it myself. Other is B & W is Ilford SP2 exposed at 200 and print conventionally at lab.

Is there a special time of the day you like to shoot or is any time good? Light happens all the time. But I like anytime before 11:00am or after 2:30pm so you have to be ready. For overhead light like noon, you have to get exposure dead on.

How do you define street photography? Well, most anything shot outside in some kind of city. I guess you can get street landscape of wider shot farther back. It’s the way you look at it. Street photography is about isolation- there may be a lot of things going on but shooting one thing- an accent, or person, is very urban. Should have a street nearby. I mean, really.

Why did you choose Street Photography and not another form of photography or stamp collecting? I will speak of photography in general. Street is just one aspect.Photography picked me and I accepted it. I didn’t fight against it. My learning experience got me to a point where I am comfortable to be able to control every detail or shoot the street with just a camera and what you choose to point it at.

Street photography is the most honest thing you can do. It’s illusion free. I live that life. It’s right there.

What motivates you to photograph the streets? I like watching people. People fascinate me. The wonderful exciting and boring things they do every day never ceases to amaze me. It’s about what people don’t notice.

Is Street Photography an obsession? When I was young I practiced every day- it was  love.  Now it’s like a love, I don’t have to take a picture every day. But I’m ready all the time.

Are you a lone shooter or do you like shooting with friends or a group? If I go out with friends to shoot, then only friends who are interested in photography. It’s like hunting in a group- someone wants to get something you share the goal.  You don’t scare away the prey. No 2 people see the same. Very often you don’t even notice what the other sees.

Are you an invisible or visible photographer? Don’t date anyone crazier than you are. You can apply this to shooting the streets. The clothes you wear shouldn’t stand out or be brighter. I try to look like the people I want to shoot. I am often approached by people speaking in their language because they think I am from there. You need to know where you’re not going and not where you’re going. You should listen to them when they say an area is not safe.

Favorite street photography city: New York or San Francisco in USA;  Amsterdam; Paris Barcelona; Florence; etc..

What inspires your photography? The light.

Is there a philosophy, concept or aesthetic behind your compositions that you apply to your photos? I learned photography by getting consistent exposure. Consistency is everything. I believe in not having anything in a picture that is a highlight that is so blown out that takes your eye away from it. Make sure there are small details. You  should not be able to tell a digital or film shot.

Don’t rely on post processing software where you should have done in-camera. Stop relying on luck and learn what you’re doing. All happy mistakes aren’t happy. I also don’t show everything I shoot. Any print that has HCB’s name on it is because it passed a tough editing process. Something about those images that touches you, which you cannot explain. You just like it.

Another thing. I always allow for spontaneity. Perfection is not perfect. It doesn’t allow for spontaneity. I always travel with my espresso cup and take pictures of it everywhere. The bump of the table by a waiter pushed the cup off center and it made it a better photograph. It’s how it is in life.

Finally, I always try to center myself. I look for balance in a world that spins around me.

How do you compose a shot?  I’ll see something and if it makes me stop, I’ll pull my camera out without considering it and I’ll shoot it. It might be because I like the way the light falls. Most importantly, I decide later if I still like it. I never say I wish I took that picture.

What do you look for in a good photograph by others? It stops me. It goes wow and look at that! I don’t wonder why it’s a great shot. I don’t know who took it. It’s not about them getting lucky. It’s that they knew what they were doing. Definiton of expertise: You’re consistently lucky way too often.

How do you go about shooting a street photograph? I look for the light. It’s more about light quality on the subject than what it is about. Sometimes it’s an odd situation and it happens to be a visual definition of an odd situation. Hopefully you are fast enough to get it.

I love photography and take pictures of everything. The best pictures come from when people forget you have the camera. Stop being obnoxious, they’ll get use to you and pretty soon people go back to being themselves. HCB use to wait in some areas in a city and study how people behave. Then he works it until they behave that certain way. If people are aware of the camera the shots are not the same.

How do you choose your shots when you edit? What tells you that the shot is good? I get the same feeling when I saw it before I took it. I see it gets stronger when I convert it to B & W. I see in B & W first. I learned color in analogue, so I understand temperature, etc.. I know my color.

Photography is telling a story. People tell me I am a very good editor. I learnt to not show too much. It’s about enough and in little bits. I like smaller presentations. Not big books that are grand extravaganzas. With small books you can look at them and hold it in your hand. You look at small e-books faster and more often than large books. The plan is to get it done and make it available for people to see it.

What’s the biggest mistake that all photography students make? How can they correct it? (Frank added this question.) They cut corners- they are usually happy with the pictures they have taken right away. Some don’t take the time to know their camera and they fumble their way. To correct it- take the time to shoot a lot of pictures. For example, my shot of the skateboarder: I shot the same spot and got several types of light.  You need to put in the time.

You want to take pictures that others are not taking. Think outside what others are taking. Shoot what others are not shooting. Go back in time and look at photography examples and not just from peers. Go back and find out the origins of photography. The digital world is here and not going anywhere. It’s the same argument painters had of cameras. Oscar Barnack made a camera with movie film – it was never done before. That was the beginning of the compact 35mm camera. Ever since then, cameras kept getting smaller Kodak came out with the easiest camera in the world- a camera with film already in it. After you shot your pictures, you took it back to the drugstore for processessing. That was the, Instamatic. Then came the Aps camera- with cassette loaded film. Now we have Apps for iPad and iPhones. It’s all because someone was thinking to go where others have not gone before. That’s how you have to approach your photography.

Best 3 tips for shooting the streets: Don’t take too much equipment. Don’t take every lens you own. Take one body and lens; get comfy; dress like everyone else; blend in. Go to a place and sit still and watch.

Best single advice on how to improve your work: If you’re not shooting film, you need to look at analogue print pictures at a gallery or at a photo store or wherever you can see real prints. Then try to understand how they look. Because a lot of work I see in lots of websites look too perfect but their highlights are blown out with no information.  If you expose correctly – there should be detail. God is in the details.

Best single advice on how to edit your work: Photography is about story telling. Editing is how you tell the story. If you can’t figure out what the story is in the photograph(s) then make one up. Doesn’t matter, because it’s all about a story.

I think you can start by looking at a series. You may show 10 of a series but you shot several hundred pictures to get there. The best picture wins. You place 10 images in the monitor at a time. You mark up the one that captures your eye. You build your images by placing them against each other. They either stand on their own or if they work in a series, the image should compliment the one before or the one after it. They all have to fit together. Don’t cancel out a picture until you’re finished with the series. Just in case.

On the other hand, I can’t say any photograph is a bad picture. Technically I can tear anything apart- it depends on your expertise.

Best single advice for someone who wants to get into street photography: Get a camera and go outside and find a place where things are happening all around you. Find a place where there are lots of people. Keep your eyes open. Don’t look at the back of your camera. You’ll miss the picture. And don’t delete or throw your photos away period. Look at them later.

What’s the best moment in your street photography career? Being able to carry a camera and take a picture of something.
What’s the worst moment in your street photography career? When I can’t.

What projects are you working on? I’ve been working on my book projects for 20 years. But with today’s technology, I have complete control of it for the first time. I have a large appreciation in layout design and typography; writing with fountain pens; the shape of type can affect how you see something. You can adjust ink levels on the type. The letters are not pure black and have grey percentage options. For instance, my book THE CUP: The title is 18% grey and 50% black ink. I was able to adjust the space between the letters.  I just love that I can do all this by myself and not have to rely on others. So realizing my books is what I am working on.

Where do you want to be in 5 years with regard to street photography? Where ever my feet are and as long as I am happy. It’s not where you are physically – it’s where you are mentally. Keep yourself balanced and no matter where you are, you will be fine.

Are there exhibitions planned in the future? Don’t talk about things you can’t make happen.

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

Frank has several books out. You can buy them from BLURB.com:

“The Cup”

“Waiting”

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

This is Frank’s self portrait.

%d bloggers like this: