Q1: Please state your name and occupation, please. Where do you live?
A: My name is Linda Wisdom and I am a self-employed Apple Mac IT Consultant. I live in sunny London, UK.
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 didn’t know what the TOP Interview was, but I do now. Thanks for clearing that up! Understood. OK, so I think I will go with this photo that I took in London in 2011….
Q3: Any particular reason for taking that picture, Linda?
A: Yes, this picture is when I fell in love with rain! Sounds a strange thing to say, but before I took up street photography I used to HATE the rain! I would just moan and complain how it always only rained when I was just about to go out and sometimes just stay indoors waiting for it to stop. Now I will actually check the weather forecast hoping that it rains at a certain time of day/night if I want to go out and get some moody rain/umbrella shots. This particular shot was a result of my first planned rainy night walks. I was using an older Sigma DSLR camera with a 50mm fixed lens which wasn’t particularly great in low light but anyway and headed up to central London all inspired after looking at some B&W rainy images online. I wasn’t getting any shots I was really super happy with, so after a couple of hours of me and the poor camera getting drenched I decided it was time to go home. On my walk towards the subway, I noticed on this particular street that when the traffic stopped and the pedestrians crossed I loved how the beams of light were dancing between their legs and thought this looked quite cool. This chap in the beige mac caught my eye because he was the only one wearing a lighter colored coat so I snapped him. It wasn’t until I got home and looked properly on my computer monitor that I noticed that I timed the image just right, as I got him just when he looked up and a beam of light is beaming through his legs only. My 2 hours walking in the cold and rain for this one shot was worth it!
Q4: Is this you style of street photography then? Do you think you have a style? If so, what is it?
A. People say I have a style. I know I have themes I love like the aforementioned rain/umbrellas moody shots, and also geometry and lines, light and shadow play, juxtaposition images. So if this is my style then yes I do I guess.
Q5. Tell me what is street photography? Have you got a definition? Let’s hear it!
A: I haven’t got a definitive definition! As I think street photography is a very broad genre, if you look at the different styles out there. However, street photography in my opinion is a style that gets the most interesting results when shot candidly or in the moment. Any posed or stage stuff doesn’t really do anything for me personally.
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:. My first real interest began towards the end of 2009. A friend of mine loaned me a spare Sigma camera and a couple of lenses a few months previous and I just went out as a newbie shooting everything that caught my eye (as you do). Anyway, cut a long story short, I found that as I was a ‘people watcher’ anyway I loved to notice quirky people and started with street portraits. Over the years my ‘style’ has developed to what it is now.
Mentor wise, the very first person who came up when I ‘Googled’ street photography in the beginning was Cartier-Bresson and so I guess you could say he was my first inspiration. Since then, many photographers have inspired me in different ways; Saul Leiter, Vivian Maier, Ernst Haas, Josef Koudelka, Elliot Erwitt, John Free to name but a few.
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: Yes all that talk about which is the ‘best’ equipment kind of bores me. Over time, trial and error I have figured out what personally suits me and this is what people need to do. Less yapping and more snapping is what I say! Stick a person with a good eye behind any camera (once they figure out how to use it) and they are more guaranteed to get some interesting pictures. My cameras have gotten smaller and smaller. I started out with a huge Sigma DSLR….but this was proving too slow now I experienced I had to be fairly quick to get SP shots I wanted, so I got a Canon 60D which was faster but just too big. People would stop me in the street and ask me if I was a photojournalist/professional. So I sold that. I then got a Canon Powershot G11 which was great for the flip screen but had a slow focus…. So I sold that! I purchased some cheap film cameras as I love the quality of film and wanted to try something different from digital. In the end, I basically decided I needed to make a list of what I wanted my ultimate SP camera to do and then do some extensive research on what was available on the market that suited and was within my budget. So as a result of this my current preferred gear are my trusty Panasonic DMC G3 and my fairly new Sony RX100. Its tiny, silent and deadly!
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: Well, at the start of my photography adventure I started out photographing everything that moved (or didn’t) if it seemed interesting at the time including landscape, architecture, seascapes, maybe a cat or two as they have personality… never a parrot in the zoo. However if there was ever a rare moment in a street scene that involved a parrot that escaped from a zoo then of course I would photograph it.
Q9: Do you know what is the difference between photography and plain picture taking? If so, tell me what it is.
A: Well, it probably depends on how seriously you take photography I guess or if you do it for a living and need to pay your mortgage. I’m no expert myself! I just do what I do because I enjoy it and I’m now addicted. At the other end of the scale I suppose you have the happy snappers who couldn’t care less whether their flash is still on even though it’s a bright sunny day…or just don’t know how to switch it off. But we won’t go there…
Q10: Why do you think that all the best street photos are shot in black & white? How do you explain that?
A: I would say the majority of best street photos are in B&W, as there are some amazing colour street photos but yes very rare. I mentioned Saul Leiter being one of my inspirations and he shoots in colour but then he has a painter background so he knows how to use colours in his photography. But generally, unless intentional colour elements are a key factor in a photo, it can distract your eyes from the key subject(s) you want the viewer to focus on. B&W allows you to focus on these key elements and your intended composition.
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: I don’t think street photography is taken as seriously as other types of photography in terms of commercial sales. I feel its still in that niche market. It is accessible to anybody to do, and I have noticed over the years that I have been doing it, and from running a SP London group myself I have noticed an influx in people interested in wanting to get into this genre. Its hard to say what will happen and what good will come of it.
Q12: Are there any value in street photography you think, besides your own enjoyment?
A: The documentary factor is kind of interesting. Just as seeing street photos from early 19th century intrigues me and my generation now. It’s kind of exciting to fathom how in a few decades time say, how our photos of today will look to a new generation of street photographers.
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 wish I had a crystal ball. I am keeping an open mind. But I’m pleasantly surprised by the adventures that street photography has taken me in terms of travelling more, projects I am being involved in and also by the new friends I am meeting along the way. It would be cool to do my own solo exhibitions, publish a book. These are some of the things I am working on.
Q14: One last question: What is the most important thing with a photograph? With any photograph?
A: Craft, content, composition. That’s three things I know but they all being with C and that’s cool.
Q15: Is it true then that street photography was invented in Europe?
A:.If Wikipedia says so, then it must be true.
Thank you very much, Linda. Much obliged. Will you see yourself out?
Thanks Knut. Bye!
© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved.
First published May 12, 2013