Telling short stories about mankind somehow became an addiction that makes it harder to appreciate other themes.
Q1: Please state your name and occupation, please. Where do you live?
A: My name is Fabian Schreyer. I live in Augsburg/Germany and work as a pr-agent in music business.
Q2: Welcome to The One Photo Interview, by the way. 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: Ready to go!
Q3: Any particular reason for taking that picture, Fabian?
A: Yes. I shot this while my first stay in New York City last year. I was a bit disappointed at the beginning, because it was raining for days, but in retrospect the weather conditions turned out to be perfect. This is just one of the motifs that come to my mind, when I think about the trip and the great situations that the rain evoked. There are many reasons why I chose this particular shot. I like the combination of proximity and distance, which is caused by the look through the window, the symmetry with the two boys being separated by the framing, the juxtaposition with the carnal hand and the traffic light symbol and so on.
Q4: Is this you style of street photography then? Do you think you have a style? If so, what is it?
A: Not necessarily, it’s one facet of my photographic approach. I’d consider style to be the result of someone following the calling of his heart and bringing the essence of his character into photography. It’s better seen by others than by yourself. Personally, I don’t like to be too restrictive here, though I certainly have preferences or motifs that I feel particularly attracted to.
Q5. Tell me what is street photography? Have you got a definition? Let’s hear it!
A: As I said, I’m no fan of strict definitions and borders. Look at a picture and you feel it. One of the cornerstones for me is “authenticity”. Therefore the least common denominator that I’d agree to would probably categorize street photography as a candid photographic approach, which is practiced in public areas and involves human beings or traces of human beings (like shadows, reflections et cetera).
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 started focusing on street photography in 2007. At this time I worked with an old Nikon SLR, had access to a dark room at university and began to develop a deeper understanding of analogue photography. As I could not connect to the liveliness of landscape, still life or architecture photography, I focused on motifs involving humans. Back then I didn’t really have any mentor, photography rather turned out to be a satisfying autodidactic approach to my environment.
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: In that sense I’m a purist. Basic qualities of a camera: it has to feel good in your hands/pocket, it has to be small/light/simple and it has to have a decent lens! If I would want to spend much time with technology, I would not do street photography, but work in a factory that develops and produces cameras. I’m interested in aesthetics and the camera is a mere extension of my eyes, which has a better and more detailed memory than I have. Actually I’m shooting almost exclusively with a Fujifilm Finepix X100 with a 23mm f2 prime lens; sometimes I hit the streets with a Nikon DSLR with a 17-55mm f2.8.
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, when I’m on vacation in Tuscany, I surely take a few landscape shots, but telling short stories about mankind somehow became an addiction that makes it harder to appreciate other themes. It’s not that I don’t know about the value and the noteworthiness of great parrot-pictures, but I often just don’t feel attached to those kinds of subjects.
Q9: Do you know what is the difference between photography and plain picture taking? If so, tell me what it is.
A: I think there are two possible reasons for calling oneself a photographer. The first is that you’re earning a living from what you do. The second is more of a state of mind. If you take pictures for a long period of time and with a certain passion, some day you’ll start seeing the world around with the eyes of a photographer.
Q10: Why do you think that all the best street photos are shot in black & white? How do you explain that?
A: Well, reduction has the ability to increase impact.
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: Doing street photography is like carrying out a sociological study. You explore society and human behavior in general and make the results accessible to the posterity. At best your tiny discoveries are memorable and amuse people or activate a thinking process. Isn’t that any good? Of course that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can make a living from it.
Q12: Are there any value in street photography you think, besides your own enjoyment?
A: As I mentioned above, I think there is a certain value for the public. However my key reward is a personal satisfaction, which is mainly gained through the process itself. Some people are able to distract themselves with clay-pigeon shooting or knitting socks, I prefer to get on the streets and in touch with my fellow men. So my motifs to do street photography are mainly of a selfish nature. If people like what I do, it’s great. But it happens every once in a while that I come up with a picture or a scene that no one except myself seems to appreciate, which is no problem at all.
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: Privacy seems to become a luxury good and we have to see what this means for shooting strangers in public. Law in Germany in quite restrictive and even though anyone is taking pictures of anything in our smartphone-generation, people easily suspect you of having dishonest motifs, if they get aware of being photographed.
Q14: One last question: What is the most important thing with a photograph? With any photograph?
A: It has to evoke something and must speak to the viewer. It may cause surprise, laughter, shock, admiration, jealousy, thoughtfulness or whatsoever, but there has to be some emotional reaction.
Q15: Is it true then that street photography was invented in Europe?
A: I don’t know and in this particular case it’s not important to me. To a certain level I’m inspired by the past, but I try to focus on the present age. Carpe diem! 😉
Thank you very much, Fabian Schreyer. Much obliged. Will you see yourself out?
© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved.
First published May 2013.