Well, if you want to hear my definition of my street photography? It is the pure and unaffected reproduction in pictures of true human emotions.
Q1: State your name and occupation, please. Where do you live?
A: My name is Roland Willaert. I am a 63 -year -old film and television consultant and I am a photographer. I am a Belgian living in Germany at the Baltic Seaside near Lübeck and in Berlin.
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?
Q3: Any particular reason for taking that picture, Roland?
A: Since a couple of years I always have a camera ready in my pocket. If I see a situation, that touches me emotionally I try to cover this feeling by a photo. First of all I see the picture in my mind, then I evaluate “Can the picture carry my feeling ?” If yes I take it. In this case I was in a tea room in Lübeck waiting for my coffee. I saw the old very distinguished lady waiting for her tea and cake. My emotional story behind: I guess she ‘s there every day, she prepares herself every day with hair styling, make-up and cloth brushing, coming every day in the same place at the same table asking for the same things, and in fact fighting against loneliness and hoping to get some human warmth.
Q4: Is this you style of street photography then? Do you think you have a style? If so, what is it?
A: I think street photography is too narrow. I don’t like classifications, because by looking for good pictures you have always a pair of scissors in your head. But yes I think I have a style. It is a photography where human beings are in focus.
Q5. Tell me what is street photography? Have you got a definition? Let’s hear it!
A:. Well, if you want to hear my definition of my street photography: It is the pure and unaffected reproduction in pictures of true human emotions.
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:. Since I’m 12 I take photos. I tried almost every discipline with some well appreciated results. But at the end it was for me dissatisfying, till the moment I read a book by Roland Barthes. He describes that he forgot in his mind how his deceased mother had looked like. He regarded some pictures of her and was very disappointed, because even in the picture he couldn’t recognize his “real” mother.The photos didn’t show real feelings and real situations . That was for me the light bulb moment to start rethinking about photography.
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: For my part gear isn’t important at all. Good photos are made in your mind. And you can shoot them with everything what can shoot photos. I saw great photos from smartphones and bad photos from expensive and exclusive gear. Because I am a normal human being and I see the world with average human eyes I prefer to work with normal lenses (meaning 50 mm for 35 mm cameras). My gear : Nikon D800/Nikkor 1,8-50mm, Panasonic DMC-G3/Summilux 1,4-25mm, Panasonic LX3, Ricoh GR,
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 don’t call myself a street photographer, like I already told I think this is too narrow. For me the human being is central in a very fast changing world. My results are mostly “ Social” photography. I don’t take solo birds, plants etc..
Q9: Do you know what is the difference between photography and plain picture taking? If so, tell me what it is.
A: Main characteristics of street photography are stories, emotions, people, dolefulness, happiness, pain, injustice, rare or delicate situations , claire-obscure style less beauty, composition, brightness, color contrast etc..
Q10: Why do you think that all the best street photos are shot in black & white? How do you explain that?
A: For me the best so called street photos are a mirror of the human being in a sometimes cruel society. Every single photo tells a great and touching story. In black and white it is much easier to focus on the “story”
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: Since making photos is very cheap, millions of people are filling millions of hard discs. Without the real aim to do something with this data. If disc or owner dies everything is forgotten. The result is an enormous inflation of the average valence of pictures. I guess this is at the other hand a big chance to react the opposite: Make pictures of people which are relevant and tell great stories. By the way in the meantime some fashion shots already were done that way; B&W photos are telling stories on street with characterful people and alongside you can see some fashion !
Q12: Are there any value in street photography you think, besides your own enjoyment?
A: Street Photography should show the posterity how the world is today, what are people thinking these days, what are their problems and sorrows…..
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: For my part I divide my photography in projects. Now and in the near future I’m working on “My photo of the day”, “A village is dying”, “My last working day”
Q14: One last question: What is the most important thing with a photograph? With any photograph?
A: To have an own view on the world: being provocative, political, social. Don’t fill your hard discs, be canny and at first make the photo in your mind!
Q15: Is it true then that street photography was invented in Europe?
A:.I don’t know and I don’t care
Thank you very much, Roland Willaert. Much obliged. Will you see yourself out?
© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved.
First published May 22, 2013.