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Posts tagged ‘Photographer’

# 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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FAN HO, Hong Kong Master Street Photographer #1

On the stage of life

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

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

Construction

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

Triangular

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

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

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Here is my interview with FAN HO:

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

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

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

Her Study

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

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

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

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

Hongkong Slum

Favorite street food: None

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

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

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

Hand in Hand

3 Favorite Master Photographers: Henri Cartier-Bresson

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

Color or Black and White? I love both.

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

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

Journey to uncertainty

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

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

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

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

The Search

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back alley

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

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

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

As evening hurries by[1]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Childhood

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

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

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

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

Inferno

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# 14 FRANK JACKSON, Los Angeles Street Photographer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is my interview with FRANK JACKSON:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What inspires your photography? The light.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Cup”

“Waiting”

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

This is Frank’s self portrait.

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