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Posts tagged ‘London Street Photography’

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s my interview with KATE KIRKWOOD:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is Kate’s self portrait.

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# 10 RICHARD BRAM, New York Street Photographer

Leica Liker is honored to have Richard Bram, a New York Street Photographer as our #10 guest. Also Leica Liker’s third published photographer!

If you don’t already know, Richard is one of the first members of in-Public, the first non-commercial street photography collective established in 2000. And as such, he and his group have helped educate and bring recognition to a photographic art form that is currently enjoying a growing popularity and renaissance. They have forged a path for all of us who want to learn and improve our own vision by establishing high standards with their own work as well as pro-offering the works of masters.

Richard’s work quintessentially defines the ‘decisive moment’, with a dry sense of irony and sarcasm. While many street photographers can capture a funny juxtaposed moment garnering a quick belly laugh, Richard’s images draws you in for a long sustained chuckle that is often thought provoking.

You can’t just scan through Richard’s images. You have to look at them, study them. Like a fine wine, you have to air it, swish it around and then drink it in order to experience its full breath. The juxtapositions are a mixture of simple and complex all at once.

I think the simplest one is the man at the bank deposit and automat (see below). At first glance, a balanced photograph of an interesting conservatively dressed man standing in front of the automat. Nothing out of the ordinary, right? Upon closer look, two signs read “Money In” and “Money Out”. Think about it. We don’t see his face- he’s anonymous. But we know he is older by the way he is dressed, like the typical high-rise office worker- a kind of uniform complete with umbrella and valise. It looks routine: Like he’s been doing this all his life. He makes money every day in his job, deposits it and then withdraws it. Not too different than the automat machines themselves. Like a hamster, going through his motions. It’s his cycle of life. I can continue to ruminate and extrapolate, but you get my point.

Every photograph Richard makes appear simple yet they tell you a deeper story about who we are as humans and how we live in our society. It takes a great deal of life experience to recognize what he terms as the “odd moments” of life. And Richard has had his share of life’s ups and downs: from struggling to survive, to being a successful commercial photographer. You can tell he’s been through it all with gravitas. The result? Those “odd moments” give us an endearing look into ourselves and sets a very high bar of what the ‘decisive moment’ can be.

Here’s my interview with RICHARD BRAM:

Nickname: Photobram on the web, none in real life.
Currently living in:  The Financial District of New York City
Motto: “ALWAYS have a camera.” This is not a motto: it’s a Commandment.


Street Photographer since: the mid-1980’s
Profession/Job: Independent Photographer, bookkeeper, secretary, accountant, receptionist, mail-clerk, errand boy, darkroom tech, janitor, and cat-box cleaner.
Websites: richardbram.com, in-Public.com/richardbram
Organizations or Groups: In-Public.com since 2001.


How did you decide you wanted to be a photographer after studying business management and working in US corporations? How were you able to make the transition? Growing up, I was a standard hobby photographer. I realized I wasn’t cut out for the business world: I was on dole for a while, then I got a job as a salesman in children’s wear and moved to Kentucky. When this came to an end when I was 32 years old, I simply lost my head. Armed with ignorance and courage I declared myself to be a photographer. While I had talent, I didn’t know much about photography and certainly didn’t have the craft. I made lots of basic mistakes and pretty much starved for 2-3 years. There were times when I had to decide between eating and buying photo paper and had to buy the paper so I could eat next week.

A few lucky breaks came my way; the biggest was to become one of the photographers of the Kentucky Derby Festival.  There were 70 events associated with it and every corporation in the region was involved. After the Festival, they knew me when I called to solicit work. Most of them had regular photographers but they called me when the others were busy. Within a couple of years I had a regular clientele. When you’re no. 2 for enough people you’re always busy and eventually I became no. 1 for many of them. After several years of shooting countless events and headshots, you lose the spontaneity you once had when you started. I started to see uncomfortable moments that occurred around the events I was being paid to shoot.  Those moments were far more interesting and the oddity of those situations had a much longer life span than the commercial work.

You’ll never make money as a street photographer, but what’s is important to me is what I do for myself. A few months ago I saw Bruce Gilden shooting portraits for a commercial job. We all have to eat.

Favorite Street Camera & Lens: Whatever I have with me; usually but not exclusively, a Leica M9 with a 35mm f2 lens. Occasionally I use a 24mm f2.8 as well, and once in a great while a 50mm f2.

Back-up Street Camera & Lens: When I feel like shooting black & white, it will be a Leica M6 or my old brassy M3 with a very old 35mm f2 lens with a yellow contrast filter on it.

Why do you use a Leica and nothing else?  When I began, I used a Nikon F2. It was solid and rugged with a very loud and distinct shutter clack. I was doing a lot of work with the Orchestra and a friend told me I needed to get a Leica because it’s quiet. In early 1988 I found a used Leica M3 and still use it (see above). It’s light, comfortable, reliable, small, inconspicuous and nearly silent.

I do now use a Nikon D700 for my professional work, but several other cameras for personal shooting, depending on my mood. I’ll go out with a Rolleiflex TLR, Olympus XA, Canon G12, Zeiss Super Ikonta 6×4.5 from 1936 or old Russian Horizont panoramic. It just depends on my whim.

Favorite photography gadget: “Gadgets? We don’t need no filthy gadgets!” Sometimes I do carry a hand-held Sekonic L-308 Flashmate light meter. Keep it simple.

Favorite street food: In New York, street dogs. They’re on nearly every corner.

Do you listen to music while shooting? Never. If you’re groovin’ to your tunes, you are not paying attention to the street. You will miss aural clues to a potential picture. All your senses need to be wide open, not stopped up, all antennas to full gain. Keep the music for when you’re done shooting; you’ll enjoy both all the more.

Favorite music when shooting and/or editing Photos:  OK, when editing, I’ll listen to all sorts of music from pre-1960’s jazz to serious chamber music to Tom Waits. (I’m just not a hip-hop guy – too old for it, I guess.)

Favorite photo software: Photoshop CS4, Lightroom 4 and VueScan to run the Nikon film scanner. (Curses upon the complacent Nikon for not updating their software!)  Lightroom handles the general work and first level of processing and sorting, then Photoshop does the fine work when I need to get into it. I use the corrections sparingly. I am pretty much a straight photographer, using the software much in the same way that I work in the darkroom, adjusting general light levels and a bit of burning and dodging but not deeply altering or shifting the image.

3 Favorite Master Photographers: What? Only three? OK, if I have to, let’s try this: In chronological order, André Kertész, who discovered a new world; Henri Cartier-Bresson, for whom that world was named; and Garry Winogrand, who left the world behind and went to the Moon.

3 Favorite Contemporary Photographers: What? Only three? Now this is an impossible question – there are so many whose work I admire.  But let’s try these, in no particular order: Richard Kalvar, a wry and sharp Magnum photographer living in Paris. Many of his pictures are funny in some ways, but there is something very serious in them as well. Christobal Hara: he has the same surreal quality of early Koudelka, only he works in color and in Spain, which becomes an even more strange place through his lens. Third is a ‘collective’ photographer: my colleagues at iN-PUBLiC.com. We all compete with each other in a respectful way, keeping ourselves sharp, critiquing and improving our own and each other’s work.

Which 3 photographers’ prints do you own? What? Only three? Among others, J. H. Lartigue, Grand Prix de I`A.C.F., 1912, Luis Gonzales Palma, Nascimiento, 2004, and for my birthday last May, Orville Robertson gave me the beautiful gift of Whitney Museum, 2002.

Color or Black & White? Yes. I refuse to be pinned down and I like both – it’s like drawing and painting. I have always shot color in my commercial work since the very beginning. Originally it was black & white that was new. But shooting color intensively in my personal work is relatively new for me, and in many ways I am still coming to grips with it. There are a lot more variables to deal with in color, and a lot more ways in which a photograph will not work. Then again, the photograph can be about color itself, or even a particular color which is fun and challenging. This leads to the next question,

Shoot Film or Digital? Yes.I shoot all my color digitally now. I’ve always printed my own work and one of the frustrations I had was not being able to print my own color. Now that inkjet printers have improved to such high levels, I can sit at my desk in the light and make big beautiful color prints to the same standard that I make my black and white prints in the darkroom. I still shoot all of my black & white on film as I prefer the way it records monochrome tones versus converting an image from a color original.

If Film, what type of negative? By this time, 95% of my work is on Kodak TMax 400. I’ve used TMax films since they were introduced in 1988. I’ve occasionally used the 100 and 3200 too, but always come back to 400. Of course, I’ve shot Tri-X, Agfa, Ilford, and Neopan too but I pretty much stick with TMax. I know what it will do, how it reacts to all sorts of light and just as importantly what it won’t do. For me it is all about eliminating as many variables as possible.

Is there a special time of the day you like to shoot or is any time good? As I said, I always have a camera and there are always photographs. However at certain times of day the light might bounce around the narrow grid of Manhattan or along Oxford or Regent Streets in London, and that’s always fun too. Generally, though I do avoid the very middle of the day. It is just a bit too harsh for me. However, bad weather can make great photographs.

How do you define street photography? Well, it has to be an un-posed moment, not set up, something that happens spontaneously that gives you the urge to throw a rectangle around it. Usually it has people in it and usually outside but neither is a necessity. It’s hard to define. I know it when I see it, but don’t know what I see.

Nick Turpin said it really well:  A good street photo shows something that people wouldn’t have seen even if they had been there.

Why did you choose Street Photography and not another form of photography or stamp collecting? In my case one could say that Street Photography chose me. I began in public relations and event work. I began paying attention to the interesting or uncomfortable little moments that would take place while I was shooting an event for a corporate sponsor. I would take these photos as well, though not show them to the client. From this grew my interest in the un-posed, un-scripted moments that are the heart of good Street Photography. And what do you have against stamps?

What motivates you to photograph the streets? The challenge and delight of seeing something strange appear in real life, in real time and throwing a rectangle around it. You don’t have to set things up: there is enough ambient weirdness in reality.

Is Street Photography an obsession? Yes. I think it has to be to a certain point, because the hit rate of success to failure is so low. If you’re not obsessed, you’ll move on to something much more controllable with a greater chance of success, say, poker maybe.

Are you a lone shooter or do you like shooting with friends or a group? Alone. I can’t shoot in a pack or a group and get anything worthwhile. Again, it’s the concentration thing. If I’m wandering around with other people, I’m not paying full attention to what’s happening around me. That said, In London I’d occasionally go out with David Gibson, Matt Stuart and Nick Turpin and shoot Oxford Street on a nice afternoon, but we would separate and work different areas, mostly keeping away from each other until the light went. We would meet up afterwards, adjourn to a pub and compare notes over a pint or a meal.

Are you an invisible or visible photographer? When I’m out, I try not to wear bright colored clothing or funny hats. I’m just another middle-aged guy out there. When you’re travelling you’re obviously not from there and people will look at you knowing that. You can be obvious but when you sit down they start to ignore you.  Your subjects are people – you have to be a human being. I am not putting up a situation about someone that they are not doing to themselves. I am not putting a caption that would be particularly nasty. Any caption would be a raw description.

Favorite street photography city: Split answer: London and New York, because I live in both places. Big cities make shooting easier because there are more people, but anywhere is good if you’ve got a camera and it’s ready. My friend and In-Public colleague Blake Andrews gets great photographs in the suburbs of Eugene, Oregon. There are pictures everywhere if your eyes are open.

What inspires your photography? Other great photographers, visits to art museums to look at old masters, a shaft of reflected light on the street that makes someone glow as they walk through it.

Is there a philosophy, concept or aesthetic behind your compositions that you apply to your photos? If there is any philosophy or concept, it’s unconscious most of the time. It has become internalized because I’ve been doing it for a long time. I think my sense of composition comes from college studies of classical art and art history. I still spend a lot of time in museums looking at masters and major paintings. Those guys know everything there is to know about light, composition, and story telling. I would stare at them for a long while to understand where the light comes from. I don’t paint; I take pictures pulled out of reality. Henri Cartier-Bresson and André Kertész were both steeped in the arts.

As for composition, I have to be conscious of it in choosing a picture which means you are torn between composition and strong action. It doesn’t have to be formal: For example, a fraction of an arm on one side should be balanced with something in the frame. When you look at Winogrand doing photographic compositions, at first they seem random but there is a balance and formality. Look at Joel Sternfeld’s slow motion street photography. There’s still strong composition even though it may not seem like it because it is spontaneous, from real life.

You love music and collaborate with musicians and composers. Do you bring any of that into your street photography? Music is about rhythm and connecting with your senses. Indirectly, music is good for your brain and keeps your ears open, your brain stimulated and helps keep you awake and alert. An appreciation of all the arts is good as long as it doesn’t deafen you. The stuff that is intellectually challenging will stimulate more. I have no scientific facts to back it up, but it’s something I believe in.

I listen to everything. I grew up with 60’s and 70’s rock and roll, checked out of 80’s glam rock and love classical music, opera and ballet. When I met Peter Sheppard Skaerved, a world-renowned violinist, in England, we began working together with his vast circle of musicians and composers. I still do classical music work and have gone to many countries with him shooting. It’s all done with the Leica because it’s quiet.

How do you go about shooting a street photograph? I walk out my door with a camera and open my eyes and mind to the world around me.

How do you compose a shot?  If I have time I will throw my eye to the edges of the frame and move around a bit – it’s spontaneous, very fast. Afterwards when you review the images, you analyze what didn’t work or what you missed or cut off. You have to analyze your mistakes. I’m always clipping this and that.  You have to make a conscious effort not to when you’re out shooting.

What do you look for in a good photograph by others? That it show me something that I haven’t seen before; that it have more than one thing happening in it; that it have more than one layer of meaning; that it asks me a question. I am dead tired of endless telephoto shots of faces looking into the lens. Yawn.

How do you choose your shots when you edit? What tells you that the shot is good? I sit back and look at my contact sheets, or the take in Lightroom. I ask myself: is it special? Does it draw me in to want to know more? Is there a visual joke? (though I am not doing many of these now) I take a red pencil and circle ones that have promise. Sometimes I ask myself why I took the picture. Very often there’s nothing worth looking at but not taking it is always much worse. Because you don’t take it, you’ll regret it way more than taking it and missing it. And if its’ worth taking once it’s worth taking twice.  If you’re lucky, you can get 2 or 3 frames.

Best 3 tips for shooting the streets: Get outside, push the shutter button often, and as was said about Lee Friedlander, be “like a one-eyed cat.”

Best single advice on how to improve your work: Go to the library and go to the 779 section. It’s where the photography books are. Look through them, as many as you possibly can even if it takes weeks. Decide which ones you like and think about why you like them. If the photographer talks about her or his own photos, pay attention. Look at work that you don’t like too, and try and figure out not only why you don’t like it, but why other people do. It may still not be to your taste, but you’ll be thinking about photographs and what makes them work. Take a lot of photographs and throw most of them away.

Best single advice on how to edit your work. Editing is one of the hardest tasks of all, in many ways more difficult than taking the pictures in the first place. Becoming a fierce editor of your own work is tough: You must not be easily satisfied, and generic ‘attaboys’ and ‘great captures’ will not really be useful. Find some one or two people whose own work and taste you respect and let them look at them too. They will not be emotionally involved with any particular picture and will therefore give you a more measured analysis. They should also be good enough friends to tell you when a picture that you love is crap.

There are very few ambiguous photos. They either work or don’t. There are no maybes.

Don’t keep bad work; it will come back to haunt you. I rarely show anyone ‘B’ pictures. I only show ‘A’ pictures.

Oops – that was three ‘Best single advice.’

Best single advice for someone who wants to get into street photography: Don’t. But if you just can’t help it, don’t be easily satisfied: most of your photographs aren’t going to work. That’s the way it is – street photography is a heartbreak.

What’s the best moment in your street photography career? I haven’t had it yet.

What’s the worst moment in your street photography career? Every time I go through a contact sheet or a digital take and realize that there’s nothing there.

How has belonging to a collective helped your photography? Why would you belong to one? Huge- it’s been crucial to furthering my photography. The recognition is very helpful. iN-PUBLiC was the first Street Photography collective out there. It became the basis from which everything grew. You meet like-minded people whom you trust to get feed back. You want to emulate someone who is the very best. For me, negative feedback is more important than getting kudos. It’s a killer to edit your own work, actually impossible. We have a private message board where we can get feedback from each other, people we admire and respect.

What projects are you working on? Sorting lots of pictures into themes for potential book projects, and throwing away bad photographs. I’ve begun to sort through my archive, and taking a fresh look at early pictures. For a Street Reverb Magazine article last year http://tiny.cc/6m1dhw , I found and used some photographs that I’d taken in 1986 that had never been off a contact sheet, unseen since I took them.

Where do you want to be in 5 years with regard to street photography? More organized, with a book or two in publication; that and still alive.

Are there exhibitions planned in the future? As I write this, here in New York one of my pictures is at the Museum of the City of New York as part of the “London Street Photography 1850-2010” exhibition; there are 5 photos in the International Center of Photography’s “Occupy!” show on Governor’s Island until 30 September, and from 7 September 2012, I will be participating in an exhibition in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the University of Louisville’s Photographic Archives. For my part, I will be showing three pictures in response to Garry Winogrand photographs in their permanent collection.

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

Richard has a book out. You can buy it here: Street Photography by Richard Bram.

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

Richard decided to change the format (one time exception by Leica Liker only because he’s a Leica man :-)). This is a photo of him by John Maloof.

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