Posts Tagged in-Public

Seconds2Real: Guido Steenkamp

“The most exciting aspect of Street Photography for me is that there is nothing you have to prepare and almost nothing you could plan. All you have to do is to step out on the street and have your camera ready.” Guido Steenkamp
Guido-Steenkamp-Berlin-2011_1

This is part of an interview series with members of Seconds2Real street photography collective, in celebration of their forthcoming exhibition in Berlin in October.

How did you begin doing street photography, and why do you love it?

I started Street Photography in 2006. I wouldn’t say I consciously decided to focus on Street Photography, it’s more that I stumbled into it by accident. I like walking in the streets and I like to watch people. At some point I started to capture the moments when I noticed something unusual or funny – just small details of daily lives.

The most exciting aspect of Street Photography for me is that there is nothing you have to prepare and almost nothing you could plan. All you have to do is to step out on the street and have your camera ready. It needs a lot of patience, experience and mostly luck to get a decent shot. But when this happens, it’s fantastic – nothing beats that.

Guido-Steenkamp-Berlin-2009

And how do you pay the bills?

I am fortunate enough not to have to earn my money by working as a photographer. I work as a head of a consulting department at a Berlin based software company. That’s not the most fun job in the world but at least I am free to photograph whatever I want to in my spare time.

Which photographers inspire you?

I admire the works of Alex Webb and Trent Parke, I own every single photo book they ever published. There are also some less known (Street) Photographers that I found to be very inspiring, Lukas Vasilikos and Jack Simon just to name two. (ST84Photo notes – Jack Simon was recently announced as one of the winners of the Street Photography Now Project, a year long project run by The Photographers’ Gallery)

Guido-Steenkamp-London-2010

Editing/selecting which images to show is crucial for a street photographer. Has being in a collective helped you with this process?

Indeed, editing and selecting images is the hardest part. As you may know the Seconds2Real members live in different cities, some in Germany, some in Austria. It happens only once or twice a year that we meet in person. Most of the editing is done via the internet. We use a forum for discussions, Dropbox to manage and edit our picture pool and Skype whenever something needs to be clarified short-term.

We all know that Flickr is certainly not the best place if one is looking for serious comments. That’s why I show my work to other Seconds2Real photographers whenever possible. Of course honest criticism is hard to take, particularly when it comes from friends, but it’s always very much appreciated.

Guido-Steenkamp-Berlin-2011_2

In the UK, street photography has become very popular over the last year (the Street Photography Now book published, Format Festival dedicated to street photography, the London Street Photography Festival, your work on show at Look11, and lots of popular workshops). Have you felt that street photography has also been more popular recently in your own country? And do think that street photography will continue to be popular in this way?

That’s true. The recent one and a half years have been truly awesome for the Street Photography community in the UK. From my perspective all of this started when in-Public published their book ’10’ in 2010, followed by ‘Street Photography Now’ and the different festivals this year.

Unfortunately Street Photography in Germany is not as popular as in the UK. There are virtually no contemporary Street Photography exhibitions in Germany. Besides the very strict publication laws we have, I do believe the main problem is that there have never been such strong Street Photography advocates in Germany like you have in the UK with supporters like Nick Turpin and Matt Stuart. Hopefully this will change soon, at least we are doing our best to improve the situation. In the recents six months we already did Street Photography workshops in Hamburg and Berlin and we are working on two group exhibitions in Berlin and Vienna.

Guido-Steenkamp-NYC-2008.

Any tips or “words of wisdom” for other street photographers?

I don’t think I am the right person to give advice on this, but I am happy to summarize what worked for me:

* A good way to start Street Photography is to attend public events or to visit touristic spots. Photographers are expected at these types of events or places and no one will bother you when taking pictures.

* Learn to use hyperfocal focusing. A lens with a depth of field scale marked on it will help (like most Rangefinder lenses have).

* Learn to get close to the subject. Don’t make yourself think that a picture of someone’s back will look good – this is usually not the case.

* Find places with lots of people, know the times when they are present and the light is good.

* Make sure to read “Ways of working” at 2POINT8

* Learn to accept that getting a decent Street Shot is just a happy accident. As you get better you have more happy accidents.

Guido-Steenkamp-Berlin-2009_1

What would be your ideal gear for doing street photography with?

Ah, the Inevitable gear question. I guess I am now supposed to say “It’s the photographer, not the camera!”? This of course is true, but I am quite gear head too. Now then, I did about 95% of my work with a Leica M6, loaded with Tri-X and using Summicron 35mm or 50mm lenses. I must admit though that I found myself using digital more and more recently.

With analog the choice of camera is very easy, get a Leica and you are done. With digital it’s way more complicated. Either the camera sucks because of poor battery life, like the Leica M9 I owned for some months, or it’s unusable because it’s too big/too loud to be used on the streets.

My current digital gear consists of a Nikon D700 I use at bigger events and a Nikon D7000 that serves as my carry-with-me-always camera, both with 35mm/35mm equivalent lenses. The Nikons are decent cameras but they are not ideal for Street Photography. For me it still feels wrong using a DSLR on the streets. Camera-wise I certainly enjoy Street Photography the most when using my 25-years old Leica.

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LDN Street Photography Festival Print Auction

The London Street Photography Festival was a massive success in its first year, this summer. With a range of work that included images by members of in-Public, Mimi Mollica, George Georgiou, Vivian Maier, and many others, it was a real delight to walk around Camden and take in the inspiration.

To help pay the costs of organising this festival, the Festival Team have organised an auction of prints featured in the festival. A great opportunity to see some of this work again, and to take some of it home with you.

From the London Street Photography Festival Team:

FESTIVAL FUNDRAISING AUCTION
Please join us for the final event of LSPF 2011…

Festival Fundraising Auction
24 August 2011, German Gymnasium

Help us raise funds to ensure the festival is here next year. Enjoy a night of entertainment and fun and have the opportunity to bid on prints from the festival, photographic experiences and much more! Tickets: £20 (includes food, drinks and raffle ticket)

You can find more information about this auction here.

If you want to buy tickets straight away, you can do so here.

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Format Festival

I’ve been back in Derby since Friday, for the closing ceremony of Format Festival. I was there for the opening week also, and spoke at Conference (which you can listen to, if you must, here ).

Opening week was, quite simply, amazing. I have to hand it to the guys at Format, they really put together an excellent festival – the theme is Street Photography, with the caption “Right Here, Right Now”, and the events included a week-long Magnum workshop taught by Bruce Gilden, Richard Kalvar, and Chris Steele-Perkins. Those guys also gave talks during the first couple of days, as did Format Patron for this year, Joel Meyerowitz, while Brian Griffin who is the Annual Patron of Format also did a lighting workshop.

Surrounding this, Format also organised some heavy-duty portfolio reviews with a wide range of people working in photography, a launch party and post-Conference dinner, and other assorted events. So, there was hardly time to breath. Yet, the whole Format crew handled it like it was a simple operation – very professional, very accommodating, and very relaxed. And Quad’s coffee area quickly became the hub for informal meetings, dinner arrangements, spontaneous portfolio reviews and much more.

And it was this atmosphere that has been the biggest talking point for Format this year. While I am a devotee to the kind of work on display, many who attended the festival pursued forms of photography that fell outside the remit of this year’s festival. Yet everyone had a good time, was made to feel welcome, and enjoyed the communal atmosphere of the festival. I’m used to hearing people speak about festival and say, “there were a few works I liked, yeah” but with Format, the overwhelming response was “it was a great event”. Format was, in that sense, a true festival; a happening and gathering of minds, people sharing their passion and vibing off each other’s enthusiasm. Other photography festivals will have their work cut out to replicate the inscrutable and high quality of atmosphere that the guys at Format worked so hard to successfully achieve. And I’m eager to return to Derby for the next Festival, to see if they can top this year’s.

I was particularly taken by speaking to Joel Meyerowitz who pulled me to one side during the post-Conference dinner to tell me he had enjoyed my talk, mostly for my evident passion for photography. A strange situation indeed, as the conversation was one I had imagined happening, only with him saying all of my lines, but we both stood there just vibing off each other’s energy for this work and, had it not been so dark, I would have gone out immediately afterwards to shoot (as it turned out, a few of us did go out drinking later and photographed Derby’s night life).

I returned on Friday for a week’s work with a local photographer, but also to catch the final events. Tom Wood gave a highly engaging talk about his work (and big kudos to Format for getting him to speak, as he is fairly reclusive), and yesterday we saw the premieres of films on street photography by in-Public and also by Cheryl Dunn.

While much quieter than the opening few days, the communal vibe of Format has lasted until the end, and we once again began to congregate informally in Quad’s coffee area, catching up and chatting before arranging our dinner plans. In some ways, this suited me better, as it provided more time to have in depth talks and I have learned tons from the generosity of the photographers, curators, and other photography-folk I met and who gave me sage advice about my future plans. Brian Griffin in particular was kind enough to spend one morning giving me a half-hour appraisal of whether it is better to do an MA in photography or work up by assisting photographers. I am at a cross-roads with my own work and need to plan for the future, and being at Format Festival really helped me get the clarity I needed on where to go next with everything.

And it didn’t hurt that the exhibitions on show featured some seriously top quality work. 😉

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