How did you become interested in street photography?
I’ve always been attracted by pictures representing humans (reportage, documentary, social photography…) and humanist photographers (Doisneau, Ronis…) were my reference.
My interest to street photography grew in 2012. In September, I did a “street photo” workshop, thanks to the photo club of which I was a member. That was my first step. I was very shy and not sure while shooting, but I found it to be a lot of fun so I decided to continue in this way and to prove to myself that I was able to do something in this kind of photography.
Where do you live? Do you shoot mostly in your city? Where are your favorite places to shoot?
I live in Carcassonne, a little town in the south of France. Maybe you have heard of it because it has a medieval castle that is quite famous.
I don’t shoot street photographs a lot in my own town (I do other stuff there), it is not as easy to me as in others cities. Because it’s like a big village, everyone knows each other and people are less used to the camera than in big cities, so the reactions can be more negative.
Except in the castle, full of tourists (in summer especially). They are my number one subjects and I go often photograph them.
Otherwise, I travel sometimes and I make my street shots more in these moments. I go in Paris and Marseille a few times in a year and I like shooting in these big cities. I shot in other french cities like Nice, Bordeaux, Lyon…and also abroad, like Lisbonne, Porto, Berlin, Stockholm, Oslo, Rome…and also Ouagadougou. I’m more at ease in big cities far away from my home to shoot people in a candid way.
For the moment, the place I prefer to shoot is Paris, every 2-3 meters I see a subject or scene to be photographed.
Who has been the biggest influence on your street photography?
Of course the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson was and continues to be a big influence. when I started wanting to work more in color, I looked with great interest at the works of Saul Leiter, Joel Meyerowitz, Alex Webb or Harry Gruyaert and so on.
This shot is perfect:
Tell me a little about it. Is this 100% candid?
Interesting choice of pic!
I did it in summer 2012, before actually practicing street photography, I was resting on a bench, I saw these tourists arrive in front of me to take pictures of the church on my back. In a second, without thinking I saw an interesting scene, I shot and I sat down on the bench. When I came back home, I was satisfied with the result, a nice composition and a funny scene. Maybe it was the pic that made me decide to make this kind of photography, unconsciously.
It’s interesting too because of course it’s 100 % candid, unposed, with unknown people but as you said it can be so “perfect” in the timing and the composition that a lot of people ask if it’s staged, if they were my models…
You are a master of composition. Any tips on this subject for any newbies out there?
Well, I’m not a master of composition, far from it! Making street photography can be seen as an easy thing… you walk, you oberve, you shoot. But it’s not easy to make a good picture, you have to think about your composition, your frame, the light… in fraction of a second, the good timing, because the scene disappears immediately.
I don’t always compose: sometimes I don’t have time (or take the time), I see an interesting character or a scene that is created and I take the picture without thinking about my composition, just focusing on the character(s). On the other hand, sometimes I see first a frame, a background and I wait for people to come into my frame and compose a scene that can be interesting. In that case, you must be quite patient, or lucky, or both.
It’s easy to have one character, maybe two, who interact and “create” a story, it’s not as easy to have a complete and more complex scene with many people. You have to be lucky and most of all you have to observe well. Street photographers walk a lot and look around. Sometimes you just look without pressing the shutter button, just look until the moment you have seen something interesting.
What has street photography taught you?
At first, concentrating on the streets and trying to improve my (street) photography allowed me to “make” photos, while before I just took pictures – there is a big difference.
Street photography improves also your sense of observation. Your patience too. And these are qualities that can be used outside of photography.
To get close to the people, in the heart of the action, where it happens (I use a 23mm digital lens) also helped to reduce my shyness. When you face unknown people, shoot them, and sometimes have to argue with them if they notice you and disagree with the fact you shot them, you don’t have the choice, you must take responsibility for what you do and be able to explain it.
But most of all, street photography is fun. You go out on the street, bringing your camera, you don’t know what’s going to happen, if you’re going to happen on an interesting scene, that’s a surprise. The street is like a stage of theater, with a natural setting and involuntary actors that are passers-by and who play for you a scene… Just observe what they do and shoot at the right time.
See more of Yannis’ wonderful images by clicking here.