On The Edge: Márkus Lászlo
I like walking in the streets. I like people. I enjoy the joy of hunting and a successful shot makes me proud to some extent. I like that there is no manipulation in it
Q1: Please state your name and occupation, please. Where do you live?
A: My name is Laszlo Markus. I work as a freelancer dealing with the publication of literature in Hungary. I live in Pécs, which is called the cultural capital of the country.
Q2: Welcome to On the Edge. You will have to pick one of your best street photographs and you are asked to refer to that photo only during the interview. Would that be ok with you?
A: My favourite one is this photo taken in the summer of 2014. On this scene I shot pictures in several times of the day because the afternoon lights were really beautiful.
Q3: Any particular reason for taking that picture, Markus?
A: As all street photographs, this was also a volley. I had been waiting for half an hour when the cycling lady appeared. I do not use sequential shooting option so I only have time for one shot. It was perfect this time – but I only realized it at home when I was processing the day’s pictures. The radial lights and shadows turn the attention towards the cycling figure, who seems to be rolling out of the light.
Q4: Is this your style of street photography then? Do you think you have a style? If so, can you describe it?
A: In street photography, some tries to capture the actions, others almost step into the face of people or hunts from the distance with telephoto lenses. In my pictures, I try to compose people in the integral unit of space and light. The forms of the human environment and the lights and shadows best express together people’s living space, actions and the direction of their movements. Street photography can never be impersonal. The street photographer has to show all that he wants under the fraction of moment. It is a very difficult task and it fails 9 out of 10 times. Street photography is like bloodless hunting. Looking for the scene, lurking around, waiting for hours and shooting.
Q5. Tell me what is street photography? Have you got a definition? Let’s hear it!
A: Street photography is a relatively narrow layer, it is, in some respect, socio-photography. Most of the times, it cannot be repeated, interesting, surprising or even astounding – it is not an easy genre. It is easier to take pictures of objects, make macros and portraits because they can be planned. But not street photography where you either capture the moment or not. Of course, you can wait for it to happen again but usually it just doesn’t. It gives its beauty. Continuously looking for movement, topics, scenes, events and actions puts the excitement of hunting into street photography. That’s why the experience is always freshs, interesting and they have the magic of novelty. It helps you to get to know your neighbourhood: the places and the people, and last but not least, yourself. It’s got a loose framework, but at the same time, the genre definitions of successful pictures expose rigorous conditions.
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: In street photography, I was attracted by the observation of continuous movement, the changing world and tracking events. The street photographer’s studio is the whole world, I haven’t chosen any mentors for myself. I learnt how to take photos autodidactically. However, I have some role models, the photos of whom I can often draw inspiration from. The art of André Kertész, Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson inspires me daily to implement new concepts, to try out new ideas. As a matter of composition, I learn a lot from the pictures of Knut Skjærven. I have a look at all of them and I am always amazed at his recognition of situations, his choice of the right perspective and his use of a rather cleared picture cut methodology. Georgona Jerzina Pauwels and Willem Jonkers’ street photos have an impact on me. Gabi Ben Avraham impresses me with his strong colours and the dominance of the grasped details. And Tatsuo Suzuki charms me with his unique vision.
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: First of all, I approached street photography in the traditional way but instead of Canon or Nikon, I chose the Pentax system. For this purpose, it was perfect. For different Pentax frames I preferred to use old, film lenses. My favourites on the long run were a Pentax 28-70 mm f4 and an Smc Takumar 50 mm f1,4 camera lenses.I have never liked long focal length lenses because they are inappropriate for quick actions, in my opinion. The lenses of the street photographer have to come from the normal and wide focal length lenses. Today, the task of the street photographer is much easier. The MILC frames are small, not at all flashy and great sensors are developed for them. There are several good lenses and they are also suitable for the use of high-brightness film optics so they are perfect for this purpose. At present, I use a Samsung NX 3000 with more wide length and normal lenses and my favourite Helios 58 mm f2 camera lense which I connect to the frame with an adapter. Thus I take the pictures with manual focusing which made me get used to speed and discipline – you cannot shoot at random. Of course, I know that everybody prefers different manufacturers. Personally, I think it is a shame that Samsung has stopped manufacturing cameras so I will have to change soon. My next system will be a Fujifilm X one.
Q8: Are there any particular reason why you call yourself a street photographer? Many people capture landscapes, seascapes, birds caved in. Do you take such pictures as well?
A: I like walking in the streets. I like people. I enjoy the joy of hunting and a successful shot makes me proud to some extent. I like that there is no manipulation in it. We reflect what we see and experience and what we have to fight for day by day. The other branches of photography are not really attractive for me, though, I cannot deny I have had such attempts, too.
Q9: Do you know what is the difference between photography and plain picture taking? If so, tell me what it is.
A: Photography is a conscious activity, even street photography. You plan what you want to capture. You find the moments to capture in an environment which others might find boring. Today, in an age of mobile phones everybody takes pictures and thinks big of themselves but the only thing they do is to hold up the mobile and click. No ideas, no composition, no technical setting, only boring photos.
Q10: Why do you think that all the best street photographs are shot in black & white? How do you explain that?
A: A well-composed black and white photo always dramatizes the topic, the events. There is a bigger emphasis on the light conditions and on the effect on space and people. There is no doubt that there are exceptional photographers – I admire the work of Ben Avraham, for example.
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: Every conscious shooting is a serious thing, thus street photography is, too. The number of street photographers is increasing in the world, there are a lot of workshops and meetings, prestigious journals are published regularly. There are more and more exhibitions covering all or parts of the continents, which appear in the streets and squares. These open-air exhibitions can get to more people than the ones organized in art galleries. The latter one is more for the profession, so for a narrower audience. It is worth taking the results of street photography out where they were taken.
Q12: Are there any value in street photography you think, besides your own enjoyment?
A: With street photography, you can get to know new places, interesting events and strange people. You can explore the hidden values of your neighborhood but its biggest virtue is that it is a mirror. It shows you what you are like.
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 to see into the future, but tell me anyway.
A: I can see that while European street photography is approving, there are more and more followers and bigger audience, in my home, Hungary, it is overshadowed by the present legislation. The accelerated technological development makes the job of the photographers easier but in street photography the human factor will be always decisive.
Q14: One last question: What is the most important thing with a photograph? With any photograph?
A: A good photo does not need a title or an artificial wrap or advertising. A good photo attracts the eye and touch the soul instead of the mind. A good photo is sold by the composition and the play of lights.
Q15: Is it true then that street photography was invented in Europe?
A: The cradle of street photography was Europe, indeed, but you can find very strong street photography communities in any points of the world. Street photographers are usually community people who can find a common voice with each other and the outsiders.
Thank you very much, Laszlo. Much obliged. Will you see yourself out?
© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved.
Copenhagen, November 23, 2017.