How did you get started with street photography?
I began actively working in street photography in 2018. But years before, when I was a 19-year-old art school dropout trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I started taking an interest in photography. When I had been in art school previously I was studying painting. I eventually went back to college to finish my degree emphasizing in photography. Anyway, living in Memphis the first photographer whose work I really sort of connected with was William Eggleston. What intrigued me the most about his work was the idea that a person could create powerful works of art so close to home, photographing on the streets I walked down every day. Seeing the art world and my hometown connect like this was a revelation for me. The revelation is that street photography can remove the disconnect between the everyday world and the art museum. I’d seen plenty of photojournalism at this point but, what I had seen was shot in faraway places. Seeing it was a sort of permission that someone somewhere was giving me to begin. Though I didn’t actually start shooting street work until many years later.
Where do you live and photograph?
I live in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. When I started street photo, I was mostly working in my own neighborhood. Over time I began to branch out to the other Boros as well as, upstate New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Since my background is squarely grounded in studio photography, I’ve found street photography to be quite different for me. So being new I wanted to start out shooting in an area that felt more comfortable for me. Where I knew the people and places around me. These days I now see street photography as my creative outlet, even as a form of self-guided therapy.
What kind of images do you enjoy making and why?
I enjoy working with available light in the morning or the last two hours of the afternoon. I always want to find a way to combine light and composition to tell stories. And to create a visual vibration across the frame, in order to move the eye around. When light and composition work together the result is can be really wonderful. I’m not interested so much in the personalities of the people in my pictures. I’m more interested in how people fit and work within the space they inhabit.
How would you describe your photographic style?
My work is really dependent on light and space. I’m fascinated by how people move through their environments. I love to explore the function of light, space, and movement and how people can organize themselves in their surroundings. Observing how people fuse with the world they inhabit. If I can meld the two visually, the organic and the inorganic I can get a better idea of what is going on out there. I want to tie in as many stories as possible inside the frame. I like to explore how to motivate the viewer to look across the picture and interpret lots of different moments. As a street photographer who creates spontaneous documentary work, it’s a tremendous thing to pull off. It doesn’t work out that often but, when it does come together it can be powerful.
What has street photography taught you?
Street photography has taught me that I’m not in control, but I can have an influence. My photo background is in studio photography, where the artist has a say over everything that happens in the frame. In street photography, you become immediately aware of your limitations. Though I’m not totally sure if it’s a limitation as much as it is a parameter. You do what you can do and then you leave it at that. If I am out one-day shooting and I get nothing, I’ve learned to just take it as part of the process. Though I might learn that I need to make changes to my way of doing things. Even changing my approach could allow me to have better results. It can take days to get a good picture sometimes, which is really tough. I have to remind myself to work with reality as it is. I find that reality is much smarter and is a much better artist than I am. The best I can do is to become aware of the direction that my environment is moving in and start to work in that same direction. Fighting against the current is a fruitless exercise.
What is your favorite photo you ever shot and why?
My favorite photograph I’ve ever shot can change from day to day. Right now my favorite photograph is from the project Dos Mundos. The picture is Tarifa number 29. My family and I went to the Feria de Tarifa in southern Spain this summer, for the sole purpose of photographing during the carnival which was happening all that week. I’d never actually been to Tarifa before so I was really excited to see what it was about. I’d seen photos from Polly Russyn and, Antonio Ojeda of these sorts of events in other cities before and I wanted to see if I could produce something as interesting.
Tarifa number 29 is a good example of how we as documentary photographers have so little control over the outcome of, what we shoot. For example, I came across a jinete dressed in full regalia sitting still on his horse just sort of waiting. I’m not really sure what he was waiting for exactly. Anyway, I just walked up to him and started making a few photographs. I kind of heard him say something like “that guy is taking my picture” speaking to the woman in front of me. The woman in the foreground turns around to look at me. Then, at that point is when the scene really came together. I actually didn’t even notice that she was there when I started taking pictures. I only found the picture later when I was editing through all the photos from the day.
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