I can’t go out without a smile on my face knowing I might get a good shot whatever the conditions.
Q1: Please state your name and occupation, please. Where do you live?
A: My name is Elisabeth Maurice and I live in a very quiet part of Paris close to Père-Lachaise cemetery. My job deals with marketing, softwares and analytics/statistics. …
Q2: Welcome to The One Photo Interview, by the way. It is the TOP Interview. Do you know what that means? It means that you will only have the opportunity to show one single photograph and you will refer to that for the rest of this interview, right? Would that be ok with you?
A:.I know what that means !!! It took me days (even more weeks) to decide which photo I was to present J.
Q3: Any particular reason for taking that picture, Elisabeth?
A: Many many reasons in fact. First I wished to take a picture I took during the SP Toolbox workshop in Berlin for it has been a wonderful experience for me and I thought it might reflects in the shots I took. Then, why this shot and not another? Because it made me laugh loud. I remember the scene and me taking it. I don’t even know if the man was the groom. But it tells a funny story just like in my beloved Italian classic movies. It could have been a scene of I Mostri by Dino Risi. I like it because it is a very simple even if it has many defects. I wish I could have seized the whole car window for instance but then I would have missed the gesture. I guess it’s all about Street Photography capturing a special moment that talks. If you think too much a second later it can be gone. And finally, it reminds me I have a lot to learn to improve myself.
Q4: Is this you style of street photography then? Do you think you have a style? If so, what is it?
A: Funny for I reread my previous answer to this question and though I’ve been taking a lot of shots since and reading many photography books my answer to it is the same. I still don’t think I have a style of photography at all! This shot sure is the kind of shots I love to take. Those capturing an instant of life, be it happy or sad, are definitely those I prefer and wish to make. I don’t think this defines a style. I still wish I could deal better with light or architecture, background, organization of the shot so that it would be more aesthetic. But just like I just told I still don’t have the time for it. The instant that captivates me always prevails whatever happens around….
Q5. Tell me what is street photography? Have you got a definition? Let’s hear it!
A:. To me it’s a little bit like photographing the theater of life surrounding. The photographs I appreciate the most are those telling a story. It really has something to do with theater. There are peoples as actors and the surrounding as the stage and I am the spectator. All this mixed should tell or represent a story.
Q6: Give me some basics. How long have you had an interest in street photography? Do you have any mentors that you have learned from?
A: I think it happened quite recently, a little bit more than 3 years ago now. A change in life gave me the chance to have more time to really watch and care about what was going on around me. I always had a deep interest in life surrounding me but I kept running all the time, just like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. Now I stopped running and take time, look for moments that would offer me a scene that touches me.
I do have mentors for sure! The very classic ones, Willy Ronis, HCB, William Klein, Paul Strand or Robert Frank and so on and Knut Skjaerven. I can add that photography in movies influences me a lot. That would be the factor of past experience 😉 .
Q7: Let’s talk about equipment. Some have an almost religious addiction to it. Long lenses, short lenses, rangefinders, non rangefinders, compacts. Leicas, Canons, Nikons, analog or digital. What is your opinion of this? What is your preferred gear? Don’t be boring when you answer this, please.
A: I’m still no expert on this subject. I’m still using a Sony NEX-5N and like it a lot. I always have it with me. I find it very handy, it’s light and apart from low light conditions it takes pretty good photos. I even learned recently thanks to a friend that I was able to put some classic Nikon objectives on it thanks to an adaptor so the light can be improved.
I’m thinking of using my old Minolta XG1 again but didn’t have the opportunity yet and I guess I’m a bit scared I wouldn’t be able to use anymore now.
Q8: Are there any particular reason why you call yourself a street photographer? Many people picture landscapes, seascapes, birds caved in. Do you take such pictures as well? What I mean to ask is, do you in fact do much parrot shooting in the zoo? Or similar non street themes. Do you?
A: Maybe because I love to take life, people around me. I love to watch and catch their attitudes, gestures. It has become an addiction. I can’t go out without a smile on my face knowing I might get a good shot whatever the conditions. I even take shots through the window when drived. I also take landscapes. I like to do long exposure shots when I have the opportunity.
Q9: Do you know what is the difference between photography and plain picture taking? If so, tell me what it is.
A: Photography is definitely not solely a reproduction tool but requires and generates creativity, imagination, emotion and work, work, work … that’s what art is all about!
Q10: Why do you think that all the best street photos are shot in black & white? How do you explain that?
A : I don’t think that B&W are better than color ones. But now I know for sure color is a lot more difficult. It is rare, in cities, that the colors surrounding us are beautiful. but it can seldom be wonderful. You can play with the color contrasts just like painters do. On the other side B&W takes a shot apart from reality. It also often strengthen the shots by underlining the lines and forms and also simplifies the message that too many colors might disturb.
Q11: Do you think that street photography is a serious type of photography? Can anything good come of it? How do you see this?
A: Of course, it’s a very serious type of photography. I consider it as an artistic testimony of people’s life, ways, attitudes and moments. It tells stories. It’s a very complete art and it gets better with time just like good wine J!
Q12: Are there any value in street photography you think, besides your own enjoyment?
A: Many of the things I answered to your previous questions contributed to answer that question already. The artistic value, the story telling, the light you can catch in the eye of a person watching a shot. The fact that street photography is a testimony of people’s ways, habits, attitudes in a particular time and place. I guess we all find it wonderful to watch old photographs.
Q13: Your vision? What is your vision for European street photography? What is the vision for your own photography? I am not going to ask how you see the future, but tell me anyway.
A: I see a lot of loneliness in the Europeans shots I watch. This sadly reflects our society. It seems there are more shots confronting single people and their environment (buildings, architecture more globally) and less people interactions or scenes of life captured. And my vision for my own photography is more on the second sort. Capture simple scenes and shared instants of life.
Q14: One last question: What is the most important thing with a photograph? With any photograph?
A: I still think that “Every picture tells a story” like the song says, be it about the subjects or the photographer.
Q15: Is it true then that street photography was invented in Europe?
A: I read more about photography history and think more strongly it was.
Thank you very much, Elisabeth. Much obliged. Will you see yourself out?
© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved.
This interview was first published July 17, 2013