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Posts tagged ‘Henri Cartier Bresson’

#18 RUI PALHA, Lisbon (Portugal) Street Photographer

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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Best 3 tips for shooting the streets:

Always be alone.

Always be concentrated.

Always try to anticipate the moment.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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#17 PAVEL KOSENKO, Moscow (Russia) Street Photographer

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

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

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

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

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

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Here is my interview with PAVEL KOSENKO:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(Square images = Instagram)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can check out Pavel’s book here.

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

This is Pavel’s self portrait.

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# 15 PETER KOOL, Stekene (Belgium) Street Photographer

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Could you please describe the process – what was going on in your mind when you first started to think to take the following 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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