Thank you for talking with me today. Tell me, where are you from and how did you get into photography?
I’m a photographer and filmmaker based in Prague. I’m originally from Turkey but for over 10 years I’ve been living in Czech Republic.
I have a background in theater and filmmaking. First as an actor, then as a director. After I started making my own short films, I realized that I needed to improve my cinematography. What’s the best way to do that? Start shooting photos and learn photography. So, I did it. However, the deeper I dived into photography, the stronger it became as a passion on its own.
What drew you to street photography specifically?
I forced myself to shoot photos even on the laziest days – take and share at least one photo every day. I started taking my camera with me and visiting a different part of Prague every day. Sometimes I would wait until 3am and visit small bars, just to catch that mood.
I started doing the same in my travels. Business or leisure, I always had my camera with me and shot in many cities around the world. As a result, street photography became an important part of my life.
There’s also a meditative aspect to it. I enjoy taking my camera, discovering new streets and places, then stop at a random bar for a drink and continue. It disconnects me from daily issues.
Once I read your about page, I was like “Of course, he’s a filmmaker.” Your images certainly have a cinematic feel to them. How do you think filmmaking affects your street photography?
At the core, they both come down to storytelling. I see myself as a storyteller or a “raconteur”, and I associate all the photos I took with a story. I try to reflect that in the titles of the photos.
What aspects of photography do you enjoy that differ from filmmaking?
Filmmaking is more explicit; it has a beginning and an end. Any image or frame you take from a movie has a context; it has a set of images before it and a set of images after.
In photography there’s no before or after. The photo is all you have. The context is created in the viewer’s imagination. This brings a difficulty – photographer must capture and pass the context. But it also brings an advantage – everyone can imagine and connect with that moment differently.
Take my photo “A New Beginning”. All we see is a man looking and walking towards light. We can make a guess from his outfit and bag that he’s not rich. But that’s pretty much all. I have it printed and hung on my wall, and everyone who saw it imagined a different story. All they had in common was one theme – “a beginning”.
What have been the biggest challenges for you in street photography and how have you overcome them?
Once I was into street photography, I started perceiving everything I see in my daily life as a photographic opportunity. Wherever I go, the subway, the streets; so many good photography moments pass by and I feel so sad that my camera is not with me. I feel like I’m missing too many opportunities.
How do I overcome this challenge? I use my phone more. Although I have high-end equipment, many of my photos were shot on my mobile phone.
Where are your favorite places to shoot and why?
What Disneyland is for a kid, some cities are the same for a photographer. Prague, Istanbul and New York City are my top three.
Since I’m interested in storytelling, particular places provide you better opportunities. Cheap, small bars near closing time, train stations, backstreets.
What is your most memorable image or experience in street photography?
Networking. I’ve been shooting consistently for the past five years, and I’ve made lots of connections and friends while shooting or on social media. All thanks to my work.
What has photography taught you?
Each person has a story. You must learn how to reach that story. We all listen; but we just hear what we want and do not understand each other. We all look; but we just think of what’s in our mind and do not really see.
Photography taught me to look and to see.
On another note, my latest short film “Hero” was an official selection in many film festivals, and I traveled to Spain, Poland and Germany with it. The festival committees all admitted that it was the cinematography that caught their attention. That’s something street photography changed in my life.
Editor’s Note: To learn more about Ivak and see more of his work, be sure to visit his Flickr account and his website. Ivak was selected from our Flickr group (Street Photography Magazine), where we regularly choose photographers’ work to be published in our magazine.