I think I was born as a photographer, but without a camera.
Q1: Please state you name and occupation, please. Where do you live?
A: My name is Mario Steigerwald and I´ve been living in Munich for 15 years now. My profession is photographer, but the description „visuel artist“ sounds better to me, because I also do installations and mobiles.
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: it is, although it´s tough for a photographer to refer to only “one” single photograph.
Q3: Any particular reason for taking that picture, Mario?
A: The reason is: As I saw this motive, it was very touching for me. Suddenly this couple reminded me of old times and I felt like home, you know. This photograph is for my memories. To watch people “come and go” is like a part of my life since I went 1974 from Montevideo to the Swiss.
Q4: Is this you style of street photography then? Do you think you have a style? If so, what is it?
A: Yes I think so, one Eye is wide open and is looking through the “Seeker” the other one is closed and looks into my soul. My pictures are a part of me, my diary, they show “mes état d’âme”, my wishes, my fears, my feelings. Every picture got two people involved: the one who shoots the picture and the one who looks at it. The dream, or better say, the goal of every photographer is that the people who look at it not just see the picture, they should also see the presence of the photographer. That´s important for me.
Q5. Tell me what is street photography? Have you got a definition? Let’s hear it!
A:. No, I think there is none. „The Decisive Moment“, like Cartier-Bresson calls it, would be the right description for me. The moment in which every element fits to the other. This is the moment which every photographer has to notice and freeze it.
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 I was born as a photographer, but without a camera. In the early eighties I studied photographic art at the Ecole Superieur Artistique „le 75“ in Brussels. This was the start, at first I worked several years as a advertising photographer til I had to make a dessicion: stay in the „studio“ or go into the „streets“.
As I went back to Munich I decided to go into the streets.
Mentors?…No, I would say more role models like Henry Cartier-Bresson, Depardon, Robert Capa. Bruce Davidson, Martine Frank and Robert Doisneau.
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 only got a Leica D-Lux 6. I´m from the “analogic world” and for me it was not easy to switch into the digital world. I also stopped making pictures some years until the put the Leica D-Lux 4 on the market – before that I just couldn´t freeze the moments in a digital way – but since then we both are inseperable. “the little one” is my companion 24 hours a day.
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: I wouldn´t call me a street photographer. Most of the people see me this way, but I would say I´m more like a “Feelingsphotograher”. I don´t photograph every thing I see, but I feel everything I photograph. Unfortunately I can´t photograph landscapes and stuff like that, what you photograph has to be feelen. But in general you shouldn´t categorize photographer.
Q9: Do you know what is the difference between photography and plain picture taking? If so, tell me what it is.
A: It is a way to feel, you also can say to living. To freeze a moment in which the time stands still is the big art. She gives you a situation which never will happen again in this way. To photograph is not just to pull the trigger.
Q10: Why do you think that all the best street photos are shot in black & white? How do you explain that?
A: I would´t agree, there are also really good coulerd street-art pictures. But I think that only black & white got the power to let the human being in the front. The human being is then the main actor and not the colors. But that´s only my opinion.
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: For me is street photography the “primary school” of how you see. Instead of a raw picture of the reality, street photography allows us a new cognition of everything. A lot of motives which we don´t see become visible. We take part of the sensitivity and transitoriness of the people. Due to that we freeze them in a certain moment, every picture shows the inexorably flow of the time.
Q12: Are there any value in street photography you think, besides your own enjoyment?
A: Yes, only one: The humanity of the moment, because photography is a language everybody understands in the whole world.
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: The most difficult part of photography, or for the photographer is to stay simpel and remindable. My personal goal: to freeze emotions. To see them more intensiv as most of the people has become part of my life. I wanna stay like a child which sees this big planet the first time.
Q14: One last question: What is the most important thing with a photograph? With any photograph?
A: That photography stays as a language everybody could understand.
Q15: Is it true then that street photography was invented in Europe?
A:. Can not say exactly, in any case, one can say that the Europeans have contributed a large share, and make it Today
Thank you very much, Mario Steigerwald. Much obliged. Will you see yourself out?
© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved.
First published June 11, 2013.