Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m an amateur photographer, 42 years old who lives in Sopelana, a little village near to Bilbao, in the Basque country. My job is video postproduction and camera recorder. My love of photography came through my father mainly, he was always taking photos with his Yashica. I became more interested in photography in high school. Here I made a black and white laboratory where I started to experiment. Since then, I visited exhibits and books of the great photographers like Robert Capa, Cartier-Bresson, Doiisneau, etc. Ultimately, when I saw the great masters of photography I knew this would be the style I would use in my photos.
The last two years I have been more active in my photography and I must confess that making digital photos has given me more freedom. Now I have the lab at the computer and I can check the results in a more comfortable way.
How would you describe your style of street photography?
I think is a classic or documentary style of photography. I prefer black and white photos in general. I like to document everyday situations where the main character is the person and his environment.
I like my photos to be understood at first sight but I add certain plasticity in the composition, textures and shadows. I want the photo to be a composed naturally. Overall, I want each photo to have a soul and purpose.
You are so good at capturing life as it happens…little moments of time that will never be seen again. What do you look for when you’re shooting?
When I take an urban photo I start everywhere, thoughtful of everything that happens around me always prepared to shoot. I draw attention to the gaze of the people, their situation on the environment and everything that surrounds them. I like to capture everyday moments that happen in a millisecond to preserve them forever.
Do you go out with a purpose, for example people in shop windows, or do you take what comes your way?
When I go out to take photos, I go out always with the purpose to take the best photo of my life. I always have in mind my favorite photos and… yes… I’m predisposed to things happening around me. For example, I really like to capture a gaze through a shop window, someone walking in front of a big poster, a look, clothing, the place in which this precise moment is happening in.
Where do you typically shoot on the street?
Normally I make my photos in Bilbao, the city where I work. Today it is known for the Guggenheim museum. It has changed a lot in the last decade. In the past it was a grey and industrial city, but today it is mainly service industries. However, it still holds onto its industrial and working spirit, which I hope it never loses.
If someone were to visit your city where would you tell them are your favorite street photography locations and why?
My favorite area is the old part where the most genuine part of Bilbao lays. It is a pedestrian area and there are lot of shops, which makes it easy to walk. People here are normally shy about being photographed, which makes a real challenge to shoot on the street.
What other types of photography do you enjoy?
Certainly street photography is my favorite. Especially black and white candid portraits, even if they are of my family or people I know.
I love travel photography. I enjoy photographing people from other places and their mannerisms. Sometimes to disconnect I usually go to near beaches to make landscape photos with tripod and ND filters. I do this to relax.
Although I enjoy many photographic styles, my favorite is the natural one, without tricks, it has to be genuine.
Where do you get your inspiration and what drives you each day?
I enjoy seeing and admiring photos of other people whether they are famous or not. Normally my photos are taken during a work break or after work. For me is a way of disconnecting from the everyday routine. I just let myself go, making what I like the most…street photographs.
What do you do when you get the feeling that there’s nothing new to shoot?
I never think that. Each day is different and there’s always new things to photograph, even on the same street or in the city where I always shoot. We have to be always aware to our surroundings with the camera prepared to shoot. Sometimes I wish I could have more opportunities to take photos, but there’s the challenge.
Who is your biggest influence in terms of your photography?
The street and the people and their environment. Lately, I’m studying lots of photos by Vivian Maier…I really love them. I also really like Rui Palha because he has an exquisite and careful way of composing. Also the classics as I said before… Bresson, Capa, etc. and a lot of unknown photographers I see in Flickr. Every photo I see is going to have influence on me.
What is the creative process you go through to create your work and what tools do you use (camera, post-processing application(s), film (if you use it)?
I never wear my camera hanging on my neck. Instead I always have it in my hand and turned on. Normally I use a Fuji X100. I’ve had for a year and love it. The image quality is very good and it has an equivalent to 35mm filed of view which I love. The flaw of this camera is that its autofocus is slow, although it’s a bit faster since they updated the firmware.
I have as well a 5D MkII but I don’t use it much. I usually use a 50mm lens. I like prime lenses because it makes me concentrate on only one focal length when I compose and photograph. I always take the photos in RAW and post process in Adobe Lightroom. I rarely use Photoshop. I don’t put a lot of importance on the camera, it only has to work well in low light and shoot in RAW. And of course I have to like it.
What advice or tips can you give to someone who is new to street photography?
Practice, practice and practice. To be influenced by other photographers is a good thing but, you have to find your personal style. That’s, maybe, the hardest thing. When you go out to the street to take photos say to yourself “Today I’m going to make the best photo in the world.” But I think I’m the one who needs advice rather than giving it.
Are you working on any personal projects or publications?
I about creating a new series of documentary photos about the history and culture of my country. I plan to do this from the perspective of a local, not as a mere documentarian. I love this type of photography, to a work to create slowly over time.
This photo was made in the Fátima sanctuary in Portugal. The scene takes place in the stairs to the sanctuary, where it’s said that the Virgin appeared to two girls and a boy. It was taken at dusk in beautiful light. A group of nuns were in a circle and caught my attention. On the stairs a couple of nuns were seated apart from the main group. I don’t know why the scene caught my eye.
I remember this well. I was in the old part of Bilbao and when I saw him approach. I used gestures to ask his permission and, the guy thought I was a tourist. He told me he was the prototype of basque man, he posed very proud and I only shot two frames. A very nice guy. I think that this is prototype of basque man.
I took this one in the center of Bilbao. I’ve always liked the reactions of the people I photograph. If they look at the camera, better for me. The visual contact in this kind of photo looks very genuine to me. It is a mix of surprise and astonishment that last a millisecond. For me this moment is magic. She caught my eye in that small window. She was putting rings in the window and wearing such classic clothes I stood in front of her and waited for her to look at me. Finally she looked and I took the shot. We smiled each other and I continued my walk. It’s something I always do when I take a picture… smile!!!!!
I made this one in Lisboa, Portugual in early evening. When I saw the tram I noticed the boy with a stripped shirt. He had a look and pose that caught my eye. I got as close to the rails as much as I could and took the photo. To me Lisboa is a wonderful place to make street photographs.
This little tunnel is beside my office. It’s not used very much so the first thing I did was to compose the frame and wait for someone to pass by. This is what I call a “thought” photo.
This girl was watching her friends playing nearby and she had a look that caught my attention. She was standing very naturally in the facade of a building in the old part of Vitoria-Gasteiz, the capital city of the Basque region of Spain. I was able to make only two photographs before she quickly went inside of the house. I think it’s a very natural, simple but effective photo.
All of the photos above can be found in Jon’s Flickr Photostream.