Continuing my month of street photog inspiration, I’ve become a little obsessed with Daido Moriyama and his utterly compelling body of work, with its very consistent low fidelity aesthetic and dynamic composition.
The following are a selection of photos from recent travels to Greece, specifically Athens, inspired by Moriyama’s work.
I’ve been inspired to begin sharing my street photography again this month, in particular due to two “walkietalkie” videos produced and hosted by Paulie B, a New York based street photographer.
The first, and perhaps more conventional “street photographer” is Matt Weber, whose work I was previously aware of but hadn’t really explored. What inspired me about Matt, beyond the quality of his body of work, was the consistency he has demonstrated over such a long period of time. He has played the long game, adopting a stoic attitude to the probability of success on any given day, and this has yielded some phenomenal results.
The second, and most inspiring (for me), of the photographers recently profiled by Paulie B is Daniel Emuna. The quality of his given name aside, Daniel’s work speaks for itself. He’s heavily focused on portraits, often of a group, and his body of work tells you almost eveything you need to know about his approach to photography.
Daniel comes across as deeply humanistic and community oriented. His “walkie talkie” episode reveals a confident, social approach to compassionate documentary photography, with a focus on consent and interaction – a stark contrast to the more candid approach adopted by many street photographers.
Whilst I do love this approach, the video and a review of some of Daniel’s work did get me reflecting on what is lost in the interaction with one’s subjects. Daniel’s work is authentic and his photography conveys a very strong sense of the characters and relationships at play between his subjects, but there is a tendency towards posed street portraiture which lacks the spontaneity and range of interactions which are often the most compelling aspect of street photography for me. The compositions are also very consistent, which is no bad thing, but I miss the happy accidents of composition which can come from rushing to capture the frame in an instant.
Reflections on subject interaction aside, Daniel’s sincerity and awareness were utterly inspiring. In one segment of the video, he talked to the challenge of walking the fine line between documenting and appropriating. His perspective on this was so on point that it ended up feeling obvious – perhaps we simply share similar views on this as well as a first name.
A final point is how niether photographer were talking about kit. Nor were they shooting with an Leica… Most of my street photography is done with an Olympus, and so I was pleased to see Matt with something very similar around his neck. I’ve wondered for years why micro four-thirds cameras are not more popular with street photographers. They are compact, light and generally very ergonomic. They are discreet. They focus quickly and accurately. The small sensor means greater depth of field at larger apertures – great for increasing hit rate with zone focusing. And on the subject of zone focusing, Olympus lenses like the 17mm f1.8 have a clutch mechanism which make it so easy to set and maintain a focus distance at a glance. Matt Weber knows…
I was inspired to get out and take some photos in the crisp evening air of Copenhagen in December. Just days away from the winter solstice, it is dark by 3.30pm, and by 10pm when I took to the streets, it is pitch black. Small groups of locals gathered on benches and corners holding tins of beer, the bars closed as COVID cases shoot up across Denmark. The blanket of grey cloud which has covered the city for the past week reflected the lights of the city creating a ghostly halo across the sky, and Christmas lights sparkled from balconies and windows.
I had a choice when packing for this short trip to Morocco in 2007: pack my beloved OM10, knowing that the likelihood of losing or breaking it in the dense crowds of Essaouira’s annual Gnawa music festival were high, or try to get by using just the camera on my phone, a Sony k800. Reminding myself that I was going for the music, not the photography, I settled for the phone camera.
Needless to say, phone camera technology has come on quite a bit since then, and the quality of the resulting images is not great, but looking back I’m not so unhappy with my decision. I was able to relax and focus on being in the moment, whilst still capturing just enough in the grainy black and white images I took to be able to look back at the photos and relive the energy and vibrancy of an incredible weekend of music, adventure, and friendship.
Back in 2014, a few months before the arrival of my first child, I took a business trip to New York. Along with the usual laptop and suits, I took my trusty Olympus OM10 and a few rolls of Ilford HP5. The weekends bookending the trip were spent walking the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn, soaking up the raw energy of the city and snapping a few photos. I remember I was going through a period of anxiety at the time, and found the usual calm and solace in the practice of making photographs – creative meditation for the mind.
For the second weekend, my wife joined me – 5 months pregnant – and we had one of the most spontaneously wonderful weekends of my life, taking in live music, city sights, sports and culture back to back over the course of just three days. A highlight was catching Tinariwen live at Brooklyn Bowl, an experience I must rely on my mind to remember as I had neither film nor flash for my OM10.
In 2010, Lucy and I took advantage of a business trip to Mumbai as an opportunity to travel around the south of India. The trip, over the course of 5 weeks, included a friend’s wedding in Bangalore, followed by many train, bus, and taxi rides taking in Mysore, the mountains of Western Karnataka, Pondicherry, Madurai, Kanyakumari, Kochin, and Mumbai. There are many stories to tell from these travels, but for now a selection of photos I made along the way.
When walking around with my camera I’m often drawn to people. Particularly on bright winter days, documenting the day to day errands of city folk – the clothing they choose to keep themselves warm, the bags and trolleys they carry, their facial expressions – are all fascinating subjects.
Most of these taken with my Olympus OMD EM5 mkII and the 17mm f1.8 prime. This set up is super compact and discreet – perfect for this sort of daytime street work. More of my thoughts on the camera in an upcoming post.
Armed with tripod and trusty old OM10 I spent a cold evening in the streets around my home shooting long exposures. Portra 400 did well, yielding some nice colours and exposing consistently whether under- or over-exposed. I was impressed with the accuracy of the Lux light meter app on my iPhone – on all but a few exposures the metering was pretty spot on.
Back at the tail end of 2017 we were awaiting the arrival of our duaghter and found ourselves, for the first time in many years, without a lot of travel on the agenda over the festive period. We filled our time with hygge & celebration, and walks around local forests including Hareskov and Dyrhavn. I enjoyed the opportunity afforded by the faltering sunlight to make a series of photos which captured the mood of a winter forest. Two years on, I look back at these photos and feel the way I did as I walked amongst those trees, bathing in the quiet ambiance of raindrops on foliage, and absorbing that mysterious, ancient woodland energy.