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APF Interview

Sebastian Siadecki in conversation with Rohit Vohra

in APF Interview/Street Photography by

Sebastian Siadecki is a photographer who has lived and worked in New York City since 2001. He works in color and primarily with film, and he has been a member of the NYC Street Photography Collective since 2016.

RV: Hi Sebastian, welcome to APF. I am writing to you from sunny, New Delhi/ India and I hope the weather is not that crazy in New York as it was last week. Please start by telling our readers about yourself. Where are you originally from? What is your day job?

SS : That sounds wonderful… I’m jealous!  The weather has been crazy in New York for the last month.  And very cold.  But spring is coming. I have faith.

About me… I’m from suburban New Jersey originally, about a 40 minute drive from Manhattan.  I’ve lived in New York City since I started college in 2001.  My “day job” – though often it’s an overnight job as well – is as an emergency room physician in a large hospital in Manhattan.

Sebastian Siadecki
© Sebastian Siadecki

RV : How did you get involved with photography and why street photography?

SS : It happened very gradually.  My father was a pretty avid amateur photographer, though never with any artistic inclinations.  But he showed me the basics of how to work a camera.  From the time I was in high school until about 4 years ago I intermittently dabbled with photography.  But it was never a consistent effort and I had no idea what I was doing.

At some point I decided to buy myself a decent camera, mainly for travel.  But then, over a year or two, my interest got reawakened in a much more serious way.  I went to the big Garry Winogrand retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2014, and though I didn’t immediately run out and shoot on the street, it was around that time that street photography started to really interest me.  I began reading, watching documentaries and videos on YouTube and got myself more and more excited about it. Eventually in 2015 I went out one day with the specific intention of shooting on the street… and I’ve been really serious about it ever since.

Why street photography? I think the element of chance is what attracts me to it the most. You never know what you will encounter out there. And I love the instantaneous and intuitive aspect of it. I’m always amazed to find things in my photos that excite me but that I didn’t even notice at the time.   There’s also an interesting paradox in that sometimes going out into the whirlpool of activity in a place like midtown Manhattan is quite soothing – despite being on a crowded street, I feel a certain sense of calm when I’m out shooting.

That said, my interest definitely isn’t limited to what would be considered street photography – I’m into all kinds of photography that involve an unplanned encounter with the real world.  And I’m trying to expand my own shooting into other places and parts of my life.

Sebastian Siadecki
© Sebastian Siadecki

RV : Over the years street photography keeps pushing boundaries. Privacy continues to be a battle street photographers have to fight on a daily basis. Tell us about the street photography scene in New York.

SS : In terms of privacy and ease of taking photos, the scene in New York is as open and relaxed as it could be.  People generally don’t react at all to the presence of a photographer and while uncomfortable encounters sometimes occur, they’re quite rare in my experience.  New Yorkers are assertive, and I think if you are assertive and confident and look comfortable in what you’re doing, people generally respond to that energy.   There are a lot of street photographers in New York, but I think the scene is very open and inclusive; other photographers seem mostly happy to meet and share ideas and experiences.

Sebastian Siadecki
© Sebastian Siadecki

RV : Have you ever got into trouble while shooting on the streets?

SS : I think everyone who shoots on the street, even in New York, runs into some unpleasant situations. But I don’t find it very exciting to talk about because it has little to do with photography itself. I think if you believe in what you’re doing, the occasional bad encounter won’t stop you.  I’ve been yelled at, grabbed and even spit on once but compared to the amount of time I spend shooting, these episodes are very rare – and they’ve become even more rare as I’ve learned how to maneuver on the street.

But you have to remember that most of the people you encounter won’t have any concept of what street photography is… or be able to relate to the fact that you are out there – in their way – trying to make something beautiful.   So I don’t blame someone for not understanding. Ultimately, I try to stay confident in what I’m doing and remember that I’m out there with only good intentions. If maintain that attitude then it’s hard to go wrong.

Sebastian Siadecki
© Sebastian Siadecki

RV : What makes you keep shooting with a film camera? What are some of the films that you love shooting on?

SS : It’s hard to explain why I choose to shoot film. There isn’t any single clear reason. Probably because almost all of my photography heroes shot film, it always just made sense to me to do the same. I love the look of film, I love the feel of a mechanical film camera, and I think not being able to look at my photographs immediately is very good – it keeps me paying attention to what I see and creates an important distance and objectivity, since it’s usually a few weeks before I see the pictures. I have nothing against digital, and I shoot digitally often when I travel. But for my primary work in New York I want to keep shooting film as long as it’s available. I also started doing color darkroom printing about a year ago, and that really renewed my excitement about using film. Anyone who has access to a darkroom – especially a color darkroom – should take a stab at making prints. Creating an analog print from your own work is an incredible experience.

Film-wise, I shoot exclusively color and almost always negative film. I primarily use Kodak Ultramax 400, Lomography 800 (which is rebranded Kodak film), and sometimes Fuji Superia. All of these are considered consumer grade films and I primarily use them because they’re the least expensive. That said, I generally don’t aim for a lot of grain or a really gritty look – I prefer cleaner images. But I’m finding that the secret with color negative film is overexposing it a bit. I’m usually about 1 stop overexposed – or at least exposed for the shadows – and I find that these cheaper films all respond really well when given a lot of light.

Sebastian Siadecki
© Sebastian Siadecki

RV : You are a member of the NYC street photography collective. Tell us more about that.

SS : Yes! It’s something I’m very excited about. NYCSPC was started by my good friend Jorge Garcia in 2015, and I’ve been involved for about 2 years. It’s a group of street photographers in NYC that meets monthly to look at and critique each other’s work, and we also publish zines of our work and organize events such as gallery shows and print swaps. And we’ve recently started teaching workshops. We’re probably the only big online photography collective that actually meets in person. There are 21 members but anyone is welcome to attend our meetings and participate. We try to be as inclusive and supportive as possible.

We also recently received official nonprofit status. Our ultimate goal one day is to have a permanent gallery and lab space that we can use to stage our shows, workshops, and meetings – essentially to be a physical home for the street photography community in New York City.

Sebastian Siadecki
© Sebastian Siadecki

RV : Please tell us about some of the photographers who have inspired you over the years.

SS : There are many! Probably my biggest inspiration in photography is William Eggleston. His work was the first that I saw that really got me excited about photography in a deep way, and made me aware of the power of photography to turn the seemingly banal or mundane into something extraordinary. Even though his work can’t really be called street photography, his use of color, his sense of humor, and the strong personal vision that permeates all of his work have always been a huge inspiration.

In the realm of classic street photography, my other main influences are Joel Meyerowitz (especially his color work from the 1970s), Garry Winogrand, Lee Friedlander, William Klein, and Saul Leiter. As far as more contemporary street photographers, my main influences are probably Jeff Mermelstein and Gus Powell. A few of my other favorite contemporary photographers are Jason Fulford, Ed Panar, Alec Soth, and Justine Kurland.

There are also quite a few great photographers who I’ve become aware of through Instagram and other online platforms. Some of my favorites are Noel Camardo, Missy Prince, Daniel Arnold, Aaron Berger, Todd Gross, Kevin Samuels, and Jerry Pena. And of course, I’m constantly influenced and inspired by my peers in NYCSPC… all of them are making awesome work and I’m humbled to be included with them.

Sebastian Siadecki
© Sebastian Siadecki

RV : A good street photograph has the power to…..Please complete that statement for us and do elaborate.

SS : … change the way the viewer sees the world. I would broaden that beyond street photography to say that is the power of all good photography… maybe even all good art. It changes perception. It creates a greater understanding. Recently I was walking with my girlfriend in Mexico City and I pointed out something interesting – I don’t even remember what it was, maybe someone’s gesture or some other small thing – and she mentioned that she would have never noticed that, and observed that my photography practice has changed the way that I see. But I believe that change can also carry over from the photographer to the viewer. Ultimately, I think street photography is a humanistic pursuit; maybe by seeing and noticing those around us more, we come to care more about each other. One can hope, anyway.

Beyond that, as the photographer, my photographs also have the ability to teach me about myself. I get to go out and try to create something in a very quick and intuitive way, and then I get to analyze the pictures that I made, and the things that drew my attention, and learn about what my own interests are.

Sebastian Siadecki
© Sebastian Siadecki

RV : What is it you hope to achieve, either on a personal or professional level?

SS : I don’t have any professional ambitions in photography. I’m incredibly lucky that I have a fulfilling career that still allows me the time and space to pursue this passion in a deep and wholehearted way.   I think if I had to shoot for a living it wouldn’t be the same. And conversely, I’m confident that I would still do this if nobody every saw it. More than anything, though, I want to keep making work; I want to keep pushing myself to do more, keep growing, and one day be able to look back at a body of work that I can be proud of.   My dream would be to publish a book one day… but that’s not something I really think about much. My focus right now is on making good work.

I also want to continue to help NYCSPC grow; I believe it has the potential to become something really meaningful and unique.

Sebastian Siadecki
© Sebastian Siadecki

RV : Lastly, any advice that you would like to share with other street photographer?

SS : Put in the time. Walk. Get out there.   And don’t get frustrated if your pictures aren’t as good as you want them to be. It will take time. When I first started I had no clue how much time or effort it takes to even begin to become competent at something like street photography… or any creative pursuit.   Art is long, life is short. But if you truly put in the work, eventually you will get pictures that surprise and excite you. And only then does the real enjoyment begin.

Do follow his work on Instagram: Here

In conversation with Rohit Vohra/ APF

rohit vohra

Suzanne Stein in conversation with Rohit Vohra

in APF Interview by
Suzanne Stein
Suzanne is a social documentary/street photographer currently in New York City.  She feels very strongly that, as a photographer, it is vital to photograph everything in her sphere  as honestly as possible.  According to her, the world is changing rapidly, and photography done in public places can serve as a critical record. I spoke with her last week about her journey, her strengths and weakness. Sit back and enjoy.

RV : Hi Suzanne, good to have you with us. I would like to start by asking you about your early interactions with photography. When did you start taking pictures and what makes you go out on the streets today to take pictures of strangers?

Stein : I started taking pictures 4 years ago. I was on a trip to Europe and suddenly started chasing strangers with my iPhone! I couldn’t figure out what had taken hold of me. I googled some stuff and found street photography. Life has never been the same since! That was June 25th 2015.

I am always motivated to seek out strange moments, classic moments….but a lot of what I do is social documentary narrative street photography and so that’s always a big motivation.

Suzanne Stein
© Suzanne Stein

RV : What were some of the challenges you faced when you started out? Do you still face those challenges and how do you deal with them?

Stein : Main early challenges were the technical camera issues….I didn’t know how to use the camera as well as I am able to now, so I didn’t know how to use things like DOF to create images.  I am a pretty concrete thinker and so that comes out in my photography….kind of straight up imagery. I never honestly really felt challenged…I was always just diving  in and throwing everything I had into my images. Learning on the way. I feel that the biggest challenge now is to reach a wider audience….not on social media. In other forums which I’m focused on at this time.

Suzanne Stein
© Suzanne Stein

RV : Social documentary is a very complex medium and one has to be very careful presenting the right story. How do you choose your subjects and stories?

Stein : I just get a feeling from some people….or a scene just grabs me. I’ll see something that hits me and, as I get close see, details emerge, things unfold, my attention is caught.  Sometimes people see me and grab me! Many many times this happens…people want to be included in the mosaic. Too many people are left out of life….Street Photography for me is about democracy—including everyone even if some viewers don’t get it.

 Suzanne Stein
© Suzanne Stein

RV : In this ever changing world of street photography, please share with us what is street photography in your book?

Stein : Street Photography is truth.  For me, it’s a few things:  narrative, realism, honesty and independence.  I don’t think there should be rules imposed and I believe the genre is wide open to interpretation.  I dislike mannered, stuff and gentrified approaches and I feel that straight up realism is the most important thing that should be present in my images.

Suzanne Stein
© Suzanne Stein

RV : Please tell us about a day in the life of Suzanne Stein.

Stein: Oh!! I’m always moving. I work out in the morning, I shoot afterward in the daytime, I eat pretty clean….I have dinner, work on pictures. As the weather gets better here in New York City I’ll be shooting a specific set of images at night after dinner….then I work out again  very late at night…then work on more pictures! I have business stuff that I’m trying to pursue/keep up with.  I never rest. Lately I’ve been socializing a bit but quite honestly I work at something (my son, Photography, working out) constantly. I’m always experimenting w my camera.

Suzanne Stein
© Suzanne Stein

RV : Books or gear, what excites you more and why?

Stein : Lately gear! Because I don’t really have what I need….there are some lenses and equipment necessities that I don’t have the funds for….so I’m always very happy to acquire gear!

Books are awesome!  But…. I don’t often like to sit still unless I’m working on pictures….honestly I’m not always interested in looking at photography. I go through phases. I also don’t want to be influenced. I think lately I’m into film….better inspiration.

Suzanne Stein
© Suzanne Stein

 

RV : What should we expect from Suzanne in 2019-2020? What are some of the projects you are working on?

Stein : Hmmmm….I’m staying quiet. I’m hoping for something to come through, we’ll see!! As well as opportunities to show work and start moving into different audiences…I’m going back to Skid Row to continue making images….I want to do things a bit differently there…continuing in the same style but also evolving into new territory. I have no idea what the future hold! I’m always surprised….

Suzanne Stein
© Suzanne Stein

RV : This is a slightly difficult one, according to you what are your biggest strengths and weaknesses ?

Stein : Strength….I am honest and unafraid. I make my own rules and generally have no problem working independently of other people’s protocols. I experiment and am very exacting about what I do. I’m extremely disciplined and I don’t give up. I believe strongly in an independent approach to making art and am able to resist becoming derivative in my image making.

Weakness….I get too close. Sometimes this is an issue because I want to see more of a scene. I can get lost in details and miss something major in an image or scene.  I get extremely frustrated with the business of photography and the way things seem to work and this can sometimes get in my way.

RV : Who are some of the photographers who have inspired you or helped shape your vision?

Stein : Nobody! Except possibly Smith’s Minimata and Martin Parr which I had seen and remembered before I started taking pictures.  I always loved old pictures….always was very interested in images of the Vietnam War (reportage), WW2, old villages in Eastern Europe….these images that I saw as a young person probably generally shaped some of my views as to what I think is important. As I got into  photography, I learned of:  Helen Levitt, Saul Leiter, W. Eugene Smith, Henri Huet, Martin Parr, David Turnley, Nachtwey, Salgado to name a few.

Suzanne Stein
© Suzanne Stein

RV : Lastly, what advice would you have for someone starting out in the field of Social documentary?

Stein : My advice is to follow your own vision. Do not ever seek to emulate or copy another artist/photographer. Never say no to a wild idea….and learn to use social media wisely. Do not take it too seriously because there are too many flaws in many platforms, and to many generic images in wide circulation. Forget “likes” on social media because they are next to meaningless as a judge of artistic merit. Work diligently and as much as your situation allows. Never give up and find people you trust to look at your pictures. Don’t believe anybody’s hype. Focus on your own work and forget what other people are doing.

You can find out more about her Here

You can follow her here on her Instagram 

Suzanne Stein in conversation with Rohit Vohra/ Editor APF

rohit vohra

Find out some of the workshops coming up with Rohit Vohra & Vineet Vohra Here

Konrad Langer (@Konaction) in conversation with Rohit Vohra

in APF Interview/photography by
Konaction

Konrad is one of the most gifted individuals who struggles to label himself as a photographer. He was inspired by skateboarders & grafitti artists, anyone who used streets as their creative outlet. We sat down with him to talk about his art and what drives him to take such compelling city scapes. In the community he is known by the name @konaction 

RV : Hi Konrad, good to have you with us. Will like to start off by asking you how did you get into photography?

Konrad : In 2013 I downloaded the Instagram app and discovered some great work in the community. As I was always out in the streets exploring unusual places I started to take my mobile phone to document my daily explorations. That’s how I started to take photos regularly.

Konaction

 

RV : What got you interested in Urban photography or urban scapes?

Konrad : I was always interested in urban environments. As a teenager I was fully into Skateboarding for several years. Compared to now, that was already a way of interpreting and using urban shapes.

Also I think the diversity of manmade structures seem more interesting to me, than other motifs.

 

RV : Berlin as a city seems to have had a huge impact on your works. What is it about Berlin that you love the most?

Konrad : A good thing about Berlin is that it is ever-changing and you’ll find a lot of different neighbourhoods over the whole city with different styles and vibes. Also the historical perception often is an interesting part of my explorations. There are not many cities in Central Europe, that had such a moving history within the last century.

Konaction

RV : What role did Instagram play when you were starting out?

Konrad : As I said, Instagram was the main source of inspiration for me, to document things with my smartphone in the beginning. Nowadays it’s also a motivation to constantly produce new stuff, even when I am busy or not in the mood. This helps me to get better in what I am doing.

Konaction

RV : Do you think the community that instagram has built has enabled people to connect and express freely?

Konrad : To connect definitely. I have met more than 300 people only through Instagram and some of them even got into real friendships over the years. Especially in traveling the community is amazing and it’s always fun to meet fellow Instagrammers in other countries in the world.

Express freely yes and no. In a technical way for sure, as Instagram allows to show your art forms potentially to the whole world out of first hand. In a formal way, many people that take Instagram seriously are stuck in a certain style and chasing this causes often a loss of engagement. 

Konaction

RV : You have shot for campaigns in the past. Do you have a regular day job or are you doing photography professionally now?

Konrad : Photography is my hobby but yes, I did shootings for many campaigns already. Now I am more concentrating on my job as a Social Media and Content Strategist at a digital agency in Berlin.

RV : What do you do when you are not shooting?

Konrad : Spending time with my girlfriend and our dog, meeting with friends and I love going to rap battles a lot. The creativity and energy that people put into this artform amazes me every time.

Konaction

RV : For someone visiting Berlin for the first time, what are some of the places that you would recommend to other photographers?

Konrad : I get this question asked a lot and my answer is always: It really depends on your interests. Not everyone is into architectural photography or street minimalism but if I would recommend places, I would take people out in the suburbs and explore mainly socialist modernism residential areas. It’s special bit I find these structures quite appealing.

Konaction

RV : How much is photography part of your travels? Do you often choose places, which would be photographically inspiring?

Konrad : Yes, very often!

Konaction

RV : When you are travelling to a new place, do you hunt for locations by yourself or you like to connect with local instagrammers, especially with the community that you have built?

Konrad : So and so.. I try to research in my own and find interesting neighbourhoods, that I can explore. Meeting up with locals is always helpful. The bigger the city, the shorter the time, they can bring you places that I wouldn’t find on my own.

Konaction

RV : Lastly, what would your advice be to young photographers trying their hand at urban photography?

Konrad : Just try to find your style, get inspiration from others but don’t just copy stuff that you see. If you have a bit of uniqueness and innovation in your work, that will always help you to stand out at the end.

Another thing that I really realize, especially for my style of photography and for beginners is that the gear really doesn’t matter. You can do amazing stuff with only your smartphone and you can do crappy pictures with a 10K gear – the interesting things are outside the camera and your creativity behind the lens.

Thanks for your time Konrad. You can follow Konrad on his Instagram HERE

In conversation with Rohit Vohra/ APF

rohit vohra

Moises Levy in conversation with Rohit Vohra

in APF Interview/Best of street photography/photography/Street Photography by

Moises is an established architect who lives in Mexico City and loves all graphic related works. He has been producing Fine Art Works since 1990. His true passion is capturing human condition. We met up with him recently and this is what he had to share.

RV : Hi Moises, good to have you with us today. Could you tell us a little about yourself, your photography and your journey so far?

Moises : Hello I’m a deeply passionate man with a profound interest for images, space and light. I work as an architect and photographer in Mexico City, I try to mix both works with balance as one leads me to the other. My first steps into architecture and photography were when I was 14 or 15 years old, almost 40 years back, since then I live and understand my life through my eyes.

RV : You are an established architect living in Mexico, please tell us what motivated you to hit the streets for the first time?

Moises : Looking back I can say that my first images were at the streets, mainly traveling, but I couldn’t find very well how to approach street photography. I felt lost in a universe of possibilities and then I started exploring other genres as landscapes and architecture until I felt I should grow as an artist and express more emotions from life and the human being and that’s how the street become my main work space.

RV : You call yourself a Fine Art photographer and it seems you enjoy all genres. If you had to pick one out of still life, landscape, street and architecture photography what would that be and why?

Moises : For now I’m only shooting streets, I’m living a period where landscape doesn’t excite me too much. I’m searching for clever moments with coincidences, magic, and a story to tell, and this only happens on the street. On my landscape photography man was nowhere to be seen, now, the human being is always the main subject on my images.

RV : Who are some of your favorite photographers when it comes to street?

Moises : I’ve always enjoyed the work of Elliot Erwitt, Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand, Herbert List, Ferdinando Scianna Capizzi, Josef Koudelka, Abbas, Attar, Ho Fan, Raghu Rai, Mario Giacomelli, Vivian Maier, and my friend Stanko Abadzic.

RV : Please tell us about your selection process, what are the things you primarily look for in a photograph when you are making a selection?

Moises : For me, photography is an extraction from reality, and when it’s captured it has its own life, it becomes independent. I always look for it to be visually attractive, balanced, with a story to tell and that it creates an emotion on the viewer.

RV : Since you practice many genres, would you say your genre has an influence on your choice of camera or do you use the same camera for all genres?

Moises : Shooting landscapes and architecture is very different from street photography. Time runs on a very different speed. Setting up the gear for landscape photography can take up to 10 minutes and just one long exposure photography takes from 3 to 5 minutes. Besides, I use medium format cameras, a tripod, filters and lots of accessories that can weight up to 20 Kg. when I shoot the streets I use only one camera and one lens.

RV : What are your thoughts on color vs. black and white? Will we ever see works from you in color?

Moises : Of course you will. For me B&W is a more powerful and conceptual tool when you are working with visually clean shapes. Color helps an image when it isn’t strong enough, because when the image is pure you don’t need any color. Though recently I’ve captured some images where I can’t seem to convert into B&W because part of the message is in the colors.

RV : As a photographer, what’s the most memorable place that you have shot in?

Moises : I’ve been in amazing places photographing landscapes and architecture. Some of them are Mexico, Iceland, China, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, England, USA, Belize, Cuba and in all of them I have stories of the places but not of the people and that led me to street photography. I was recently in Cuba and photographing its’ people has been a memorable experience. Everyone has a story to tell.

RV : Silhouettes play an important role in your works, is it a conscious decision or just a limitation of place and time?

Moises : That’s a question that I asked myself recently. Since I was photographing landscape and architecture, silhouettes were an important part of my images and when I went back to street photography I realized that the high contrast images were the most powerful for me, and they also leave something to the viewers’ imagination. It is also something that I acquire by seeing the work of Mario Giacomelli, his work inspired me into B&W and high contrast images. It gets me closer to the drawing that as an architect is part of my vocabulary.

RV : What do you hope to achieve with regards to your photography?

Moises : I’d like to keep building my style as a photographer. I believe that when someone is young they work and work without questioning much. When you grow up you realize that you need a visual vocabulary so you can explore and tell your story.

RV : Lastly, for someone starting out in the field of photography and wants to try his hands on various genres, what would your advice be?

Moises: My advice would be to start on street photography, even when it’s the most difficult of all genres. There, they will learn all the basic concepts of photography, such as knowing the space, depth, light, speed, and emotions. When they master all of these everything else will be easy and enjoyable. Lastly, Never stop looking for all kind of art.

You can follow Moises Levy on his Instagram HERE

In conversation with Rohit Vohra/ APF

Mou Aysha in conversation with Rohit Vohra

in APF Interview/photography/Street Photography by
Mou Aysha

Mou Aysha is a Humanitarian photographer based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She loves to travel and seeks to discover the unseen. She spoke with Rohit Vohra, Co-founder APF about her creative journey so far.

RV : Hi Mou, good to have you with us. Please start by telling us how was it growing up in Bangladesh and when did you get involved with photography?

Mou : During and after my studies at University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh, graduating with a Masters in Applied English Linguistics, I have been following the photography workshops and courses at First Light Institute of Photography since 2014. I am currently employed as the administrator at this non-profit institute and I’m also involved as a volunteer for social and humanitarian projects of First Light Institute. I started photography as a passion and now I dedicate myself to capturing the best moments of life as I see and feel them. I believe that with empathy, compassion and love, we can change the world for the better as artists. I am a positive person who sees beauty in everything.

Mou Aysha

RV : Bangladesh has produced many photographers; do you think growing up there has had any influence on your interests and consequently your photography?

Mou: Yes. I love to travel around Bangladesh. I also love to go through other photographers’ work every day and I find inspiration from these activities and life in general.

Bangladesh has many excellent photographers and they are all very good in their field. But I am mainly influenced by the work of our legendary photographer, GMB Akash. His work and way of helping unprivileged people inspires me every day. He is our Mentor. He has an enormous impact on my work as well on my life philosophy and my views of the world around me. Many of us take photography seriously after seeing his work. He does not only take photos, he inspires you every day to be a good human soul filled with light.

RV : We do see a lot of happy faces, genuine smiles in your works and you have earlier said, “I believe with love, we can change the world for better”. Is that the message you want the viewer to take away from your photography?

Mou : I try to capture the beauty of people and their souls. Emotional connection is very important to me and to capture that I use simplicity in my presentation. I photograph simply. I narrate simply. I want to connect the viewer naturally with my images. The main challenge of my work is bringing out emotion in its simplest form. With my images I want to tug at your heart intensely.

I basically take portraits of people who are marginalised, living on the outskirts of society. I have a special affection for portraits and have therefore, produced an extensive series of them. Genuine smiles, emotions and people’s stories attract me the most. My mission for photography is to continue my journey as a passionate disciple of photography. I want to capture the purest of emotions in my photographs. I also occasionally feel inspired by other subjects and compositions and try not to limit my creative instincts. I seek to discover and photograph the unseen, therefore, I find myself becoming an explorer with a powerful desire to travel. These peripheral groups of people go through very difficult times, but still they manage to smile, they manager to persevere.  To me they seem like heroes.

Mou Aysha

RV : What is it about people and places that draws you to them?

Mou : Photography is more my passion than my profession. It means a lot to me personally and I find a great deal of satisfaction and challenge in this art.

I only shoot what I feel is important to me. I go out to take photos because it’s fascinating to me and because I am curious about people, their lives, their culture and their faces.

Every time I go out with my camera I feel happy. Every new place and all new people I encounter make me happy. I become attached to some of my subjects and we sometimes become friends. They have a strong impact on me and I keep remembering their faces. It’s very rewarding for me to present them with their photos and this makes them very happy. Sometimes I return to the places to share some good moments with them, not only for photography.

Mou Aysha

Mou Aysha

RV : When did you get involved with social work and what inspired you to help others?

Mou : As a student at First Light Institute of Photography, I saw how the director and master photographer, GMB Akash, could change thousands of people’s lives with his humanitarian work. He inspired me to help others and changed my idea of life itself.

I started to actively participate as a volunteer for First Light Institute’s humanitarian projects from the beginning of my studies there. So far, I have been involved in gifting 50 different businesses to different unprivileged families which changed their lives completely.

One of the missions of my photography is to help the people I am working with. These people make me understand how beautiful life is and how easily we can help each other. I always want to do something for them rather than only taking their photos. They are more important to me than my photos.

Now in my capacity as Administrator for the First Light Institute, I participated in setting up a school in a remote village where 120 students are getting free education, whereas, their parents have never been to school. There are many more activities that the Institute has initiated in which I’m involved but the list is quite long to describe everything.

Sometimes we try to do other charitable activities such as distributing new clothes or sandals to street children as well as feeding them a good meal in a restaurant which is a rare moment for them. The Institute has also collected and distributed toys to child labourers and new clothes to the elderly during festival times as well during the winter time.

Mou Aysha

RV : Do you also travel outside of Bangladesh to capture other cultures? If you had the opportunity where would you like to travel?

Mou : I mainly work in Bangladesh as its people and places are magical, but I would also love to travel to all the places that I have never been. I have a long list of places to which I will travel very soon. I mainly want to travel to south Asian countries like Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam but there are also many more places that interest me.

Mou Aysha

RV : What place or experience involving photography that you’ll never forget?

Mou : I have a lot of memorable experiences. Every person I met was like a new experience. I don’t just go there and take photos and leave. I spend a lot of time with the people I photograph. I build up a relationship before I take photos. Sometimes I spend the entire day for one portrait.

Spending time with these soulful, beautiful people is the most valuable experience I cherish. Photography changed my life. Because of photography I travel intensely around my country which has helped me to meet some incredible humans from different cultures and backgrounds. Their life experiences changed my views on life. I have learned that simplicity is the key of life.

Mou Aysha

RV : What projects can we expect from you in the future? Would you like to share anything with our readers?

Mou : I intend to be travelling more to be able to grow as a person and become more sensitive as an artist to capture the beauty of different people and places.

I want to travel to every single place in Bangladesh and take photos of all the beautiful people I will encounter. I want to have a solo exhibition soon with all of those portraits that I will take and some of those that I have already taken.

Mou Aysha

RV : In your photography you focus on emotions as much as you do on the technical aspects. Could you elaborate on that?

Mou : I take simple images primarily of people. I try to take portraiture images with simplicity, but which also reflect a soulful mood and a deep human connection. In addition to the uncomplicated composition, the people whom I photograph are incredibly beautiful and brave. And I believe that this is what sets my work apart from others. For me the people are more important than any defined photography style I follow.

Mou Aysha

RV : Where do you see or hope to see yourself with photography in the coming years?

Mou : I actually don’t have a specific plan. I don’t live by plans. Every day is a gift to me and I want to live my life fully. I want to do something for society and my people.  But I also want to be happy. These are my main goals in life. In five years I want to publish my book with the best portraits that I have taken. I also want to do something for the people I photograph.

Mou Aysha

RV : Any last piece of advice that you would like to share with our readers?

Mou : Be honest and respectful to the people you photograph. Work really hard and take photos every day. Love your life and always be positive. Learn to be happy in every situation and never give up on your dreams.

Thank you for taking the time out for us Mou, We wish you all the best for your future endeavours.

Do follow her work on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mou_aysha

In conversation with Rohit Vohra/ APF

rohit vohra

Exclusive interview with Blake Andrews

in APF Interview by
Blake andrews

You Can Shoot. Can You Talk? by Arek Rataj.

Blake Andrews is a photographer based in Eugene, Oregon. He has been shooting for over 20 years and has used the street approach although he doesn’t like to call himself a street photographer. He says, “photography for me is a daily bodily function.”

Interview with Blake andrews

Q. What is your first childhood memory?

A. That time is pretty fuzzy with many half-remembered mental images contaminated by photos seen later. The first clear memories I have are from a house where my family lived in Eureka in maybe 1973-ish. I remember a playground nearby with log structures, a tree in the yard, and once when it snowed.

Q. Are you still learning who you are?

A. Yes, but I’m making progress. I feel I know myself fairly well but there is still plenty to learn. So maybe I’m currently a grad student in myself, PhD still a ways off.

Q. Who are you when no one is looking at you?

A. Same person but with more food stains on my chest.

Q. What got you involved in photography in the first place?

A. I took an intro b/w night course in my early twenties. It taught me the basics of shooting, film development, and darkroom work. I had a great teacher (who I still keep in touch with). From that point I’ve been mostly self taught.

Interview with Blake andrewsQ. Ansel Adams once said: You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved. Could you tell us about your favorite photographs, books, music and people who are closest to you?

A. Favorite photographs: The ones which balance beauty and imperfection. Impossible to pick a favorite. Favorite books: I generally read nonfiction, mostly memoirs and historical narrative. I used to read novels until about age 30, but they don’t appeal any more. Probably my favorite recent book was The Stranger In The Woods by Michael Finkel. Favorite music: I ingest a constant stream of music of all varieties and eras, some of which I share on my weekly radio show. I like just about anything which feels authentic. People closest, in order of emotional proximity: My immediate family, old friends from way back, my local photo community, Eugene friends (mostly other parents), various online contacts.

Q. There’s a thin line between invading people’s privacy and taking their photographs. Why do ethics matter?

A. Taking a photo of another person is by nature invasive. That’s the the nature of the medium. But it can be done ethically and with humanity.

Enjoyed this. Read the full interview in the latest issue of APF Magazine. Download HERE from the iOS store today.

Interview with Stuart Paton, by Arek Rataj

in APF Interview/Street Photography by
stuart paton

You Can Shoot. Can You Talk?

Arek Rataj spoke with Stuart Paton recently. Stuart is a freelance photographer born and raised in the central belt of Scotland. He shoots street photography in the spirit of reportage. And vice-versa.

STUART PATON

Biography

I’m a photographer because I couldn’t face a dreary 9 to 5 and it offers the only hope I have of self-validation and re-enchanting my world. More shadowboxer than prizefighter, I nonetheless aspire to pictures with some lo-fi sociological value and soul. Always aiming for something that looks like a mixture of ‘Guernica’ and The Shangri-Las.

stuart paton

Q. What is your first childhood memory?

A. Basking in the comforting swirl of my mother’s amniotic fluid but thinking, ‘It’s probably all downhill from here, pal’. Then a few years later, feeling lost and lonely after being dropped off at a children’s home and realising my precocious pessimism had been bang on the money. OK, maybe that first one was just a daydream but a relic of the second lives on in my pictures. If life had a reverse gear I wouldn’t use it much and certainly not for my childhood.

Q. Are you still learning who you are?

A. No, I’ve already cracked that code and now I’m busy trying to unlearn who I am because I didn’t like what it taught me. That said, it definitely is helpful having an understanding of what makes us tick in order to avoid being capsized by mind-storms. Personally speaking, I cope better by staying outside my head because it’s not a place I want to loiter. You probably already have a similar feeling about this interview.

Q. Who are you when no one is looking at you?

A. I suppose this is the question that provokes the most lies from people.

That’s like, ‘Did the tree really fall down if no one was there to actually witness it ?’. To an extent we view ourselves through the eyes of other people so when no one is looking at me I’m keeping an eye on me for them.

As a kid, I was a jukebox stacked with a cute playlist of adopted personas. As an adult, there’s a near perfect overlap between the public and private me. Probably because my default position is misanthropy allied with a highly ethical code of conduct that treats everyone with decency until I find out they are, in actual fact, a cunt. Schopenhauer said, ‘We’re only truly ourselves when we’re alone’. But was anyone there to actually witness that ? And if there was, does that mean it wasn’t truly him who said it ?

stuart paton

Q.What got you involved in photography in the first place?

A. Accident, necessity and my dad. I’d ditched my apprenticeship at the local docks, got kicked out the house and set off on a six month road trip of America with my best pal. I was 19 at the time and bowled over by what I saw there. The natural beauty; the searing inequality. My neurons were short-circuiting with it all so I bought a little Agfa 110 to ease the burden.

After some more traveling, I returned to Scotland and splashed out on a bottom-of-the range SLR. I started shooting pictures in earnest, using my unemployment money on bus trips and cold pies. This was Britain in the mid-1980s, just a few years into Thatcher’s dystopian masterplan so for anyone with a pulse it wasn’t tough finding social subject-matter.

My dad was a good club photographer and had built a tiny darkroom underneath the stairs where we had to kneel down to print. He saw promise in my early snaps and encouraged me onwards. I mulled over the alchemy and mute hieroglyphics of it all. Then went out and shot ‘Hoi Polloi’. My apprenticeship proper.

Enjoyed this. Read the full interview in the latest issue of APF Magazine. Download HERE from the iOS store today.

APF Magazine

The 7 Stories by Tavepong Pratoomwong‎

in APF Interview/Best of street photography/Street Photography by

The 7 Stories is a new series we are starting today. We will invite photographers from all over the world to share seven of their favourite photographs and the back stories behind them. To kickstart this campaign we invited Tavepong Pratoomwong from Bangkok, Thailand.

Tavepong Pratoomwong was born in Chanthaburi , Thailand in 1981.
He has been interested in the art of photography for long time since he studied in Rangsit University. He almost stopped shooting until the end of 2013 when his wife surprised him with marriage anniversary gift. It was a ticket to Varanasi, India. That ticket , that trip was the turning point of him to take pictures again.
After he went back to Thailand he joined the Street Photo Thailand’s activities ”365 days in 2014” created by Noppadol Weerakitti. It let him go out and taking photos everyday since then.

Now He is a part of photographic collectives.
iN-PUBLiC , StreetPhotoThailand

He shared his top 7 photographs with us and here are the back stories.

1. Ant man / Bangkok , Thailand 2015 

I walked around in town recently. On the upper floor of a building I saw a man writing a note. The building itself looked clean and simple. For me, when I spot some activities on many different levels I always try to find some connection between them. 

I know the tiny man is quite cliché but I always try and find some way to make it special. Near that area there was a food cart with many dishes in front. So the first idea was make his legs dip into the dish. It didn’t work well but I continued shooting this composition. Suddenly he reached the upper beam to help him stand up. But in the photo it’s like he is jumping down to the dish below.

“ Sometimes you never know what result it will be. You have to believe in your own instincts, always concentration and keep the composition right ”

© Tavepong Pratoomwong
© Tavepong Pratoomwong

2. Share / Münster , Germany 2015

This is one of my favorite photos of 2015. In July I had a chance to join the Observe collective exhibition in Germany. After the event, I went with other photographers to the Peace Festival in Münster. It was a good day to meet many photographers from the internet whom I’d never met in person before. The Festival set up in a football-size park. When we reached it, we looked like kids running to a new playground. I saw an interesting group cutting watermelon. I thought I might get some nice action from this kind of scene, so I sat in front of them tilting my camera up to get some beautiful sky and kept shooting. 

A good thing about the festival atmosphere is people did not care much about a camera man. The shot I like the most has a rhythm of hands stacking up watermelon. The right side of the photo has a connection of many circles of hands. It’s far more than I expected in the first place.

© Tavepong Pratoomwong
© Tavepong Pratoomwong

3. The smooth criminal / Bangkok , Thailand 2016

When people realize they were a target of photography, some just ignor, some did not like and some really want to show off ! While I took photo of one man using dropper drug to his eyes. Someone jump in and try to steal his friend’s thunder. Normally I hate when a man show V sign or 
try to play with me but when I saw him do the Michael Jackson ‘s smooth criminal , I decided this guy is exception.

I got this photo when he try to do an anti-gravity lean and fall of.

© Tavepong Pratoomwong
© Tavepong Pratoomwong

4. The Horizon / Brighton , UK 2017

Last April I had an opportunity to attend the Sony world photography awards 2017 in England and then traveled to Brighton. I am very impressed with Brighton. It has a lot of beautiful light, nice people. I got one of my favorite photos this year from this city. It was a time when we were going back to the bus. While walked along the beach, I was looking for a scene to take photos. 

Suddenly, I noticed that the Brighton Old Pier’s are parallel with skyline, which only happens in a very specific perspective. I was very lucky, one of our fellow forgot his belongings at British Airways i360,  So I have the opportunity to wait for someone to fill in this frame. 

After a little wait, there was a child running to his mother. I pressed the shutter immediately. ” Some time it’s not about changing location but changing the point of view “

© Tavepong Pratoomwong
© Tavepong Pratoomwong

5. Headless Dog / Bangkok , Thailand 2014 

In 2014 I join the “365 Day in 2014” event of Street Photo Thailand. The point is to take photos every day and select the best one, then submit on their Facebook page. When I haven’t enough time I always trip around my home area. I discovered a small village where people came out to exercise after work at a playground. That day the rain had just stopped, so I had not met many interesting subjects until I found a dog chasing a cat and got some pictures. Near that dog and cat group, there was a cowardly looking dog standing in the middle of the street. I’m not interested in the dog, but the background with sphere shapes is fine. 

So I decided to take pictures of both of them but the dog suddenly turned its head back to bite something and I shot it 2-3 times. No idea of a headless dog came in my mind. I just wanted to shoot a dog and interesting background, that’s all.

“ I like dogs as Elliott Erwitt use to said They’re sympathetic. They’re nice. They don’t ask for prints. 

© Tavepong Pratoomwong
© Tavepong Pratoomwong

6. Tree man / Tokyo , Japan 2014

One day I was in Japan looking for a camera shop (Yes… if you visit Japan, your camera equipment maniac might relapse). I found a smoking area in front of a train station and a group of office workers smoking. My friend told me this is how they slake off. After taking photos for a while, I saw a little hole in a tree. What if the face of a man poked out through that hole? So I tried positioning the angle to achieve that idea. He did not realize that I was taking his photo (because I was behind the tree) and looked at the advertisements on the big LED monitor on the opposite side. That’s why he turned his face up. I took many photos vertically and horizontally. Finally, I got the best shot when I almost stopped doing it.

Treeman is one of my favorite photos and the one that changed my life. Many people know me from this photo because it was the 1st place winner in the Miami Street Photography Festival 2014.

© Tavepong Pratoomwong
© Tavepong Pratoomwong

7. Metropolis / Tokyo , Japan 2016

Last year I wanted to go and get some rare Pokemon in Ishinomaki city (They make event for help people who affected from tsunami in 2011) and going to take photo around Sendai next. 

Suddenly the earthquake in middle of the night and in the morning I got phone from my mom that my lovely dog died in Bangkok . I decided to change destination to Tokyo. I used the walk as meditation to forget those bad news, then I finally found this shot outside a coffee shop. I first shot a man and he aware of me. So I changed the subject to a woman who sitting next to him and when I try to composition framing I observe some connection.

“ Good day , Bad day , Anyway…The show must go on ”

© Tavepong Pratoomwong
© Tavepong Pratoomwong

We hope you enjoyed the back stories. If you would like to suggest names of photographers, who should be featured in “The 7 Stories”, please leave a comment.

You can follow Tavepong HERE

Interview with Spyros Papaspyropoulos from Street Hunters

in APF Interview/Best of street photography/Street Photography by
Spyros Papaspyropoulos

“Spyros is a street photographer and blogger from Greece. He had a passion for photography from a very early age. He loves the unpredictability of the genre and loves to meet new people. His images are often close ups of people as he enjoys the intimacy and challenge of getting really close. We spoke with him in length about his passion and about his very successful blog, Streethunters.net

Q. Hi Spyros, good to have you with us today, please tell us about yourself and your early interactions with photography.

A. Hello! Firstly I would like to say thank you for this amazing opportunity! I am a big fan of APF Mag and it is a true honour to be asked to be interviewed by you guys. Gratitude. I am Spyros Papaspyropoulos a street photographer born and raised in Athens, Greece that currently lives and shoots mostly in Rethymno a small town on the island of Crete. The first time I used a camera I was a young boy of about 12 or 13 and I remember that my fascination with photography was apparent even back then. My father was an amateur photographer that loved making family photos, but his true passion was for fine art B&W photography. He had a manual Nikon and a Yashica Electro 35 that has now passed on to me. I don’t know where the Nikon is. That is a mystery. Anyway, my father passed on to me his passion for photography as well! Thank you father. My first serious attempt at shooting photos was when I was 18 years old. I shot loads of portraits of a girlfriend of mine. I remember I used B&W film and I used to shoot manually, trying to figure out exposure and the works. Since then, I have always had one camera or another and I have always documented moments of my life. I must have three massive drawers of printed photos at my parent’s house with literally thousands of prints.

Spyros Papaspyropoulos interview

Q. What is it about street photography that got you hooked to the genre in the first place and what keeps you going?

A. One word. Unpredictability! I just love the unexpected. As a creative I get bored quite easily, so I constantly seek new ways to entertain myself. I found that street photography is so unpredictable and surprising that it works as a means of catharsis for my soul. It has a therapeutic affect on me; it makes me feel as if I have been meditating. The effect it has on me is so profound that when I don’t shoot I get all edgy and snappy and feel as if I am missing something. I think that when I don’t shoot I get withdrawal syndrome. What keeps me going are the same reasons. I love the unpredictable nature of the genre, the mini adventures I experience when shooting street and the awesome people I get to meet. I have found myself in strangers apartments being shown around while taking photos, or I have travelled to unknown destinations, or I have broken bread with people I have never met before and will never meet again, or I have made photos of guys wielding massive machetes wearing smiles on their faces, or I have found myself taking snaps of AK47 assault rifles stacked on hundreds of bullets and more! I just love where street photography can take me. An every day photo walk or street hunt as I like to call them, almost always ends with at least one interesting story to share. I just love that!APF Magazine

Q. Please tell us about your process of shooting on the streets. What are you like, what goes on in your mind and what attracts you to a particular scene?

A. I try to look for things that attract my attention. I work instinctively and spontaneously most of the time and I have found that in the past couple of years I really enjoy capturing interesting faces. As years go by I have noticed that I enjoy getting closer and closer. I love the intimacy of the close up shot, the thrill of it, and the way my lens plunges in the action I am capturing. When I am shooting I am usually lost in my photography. I am zoned in, totally focused on what I am doing. If I have to interact with someone after I have made his or her shot, I always make sure to wear my smile, as wide as possible and to always be polite. I think it is very important to be polite and to smile, it makes the person you talk to feel as if they are talking to a non-threatening individual and they don’t get annoyed if you take their photo.

Spyros Papaspyropoulos interviewRead the full interview in the latest issue of APF Magazine. Download HERE from the iOS store today.

Exclusive interview with GMB Akash

in APF Interview/Documentary photography by
APF magazine

GMB Akash is one of the most well known names in the photojournalism world today. A humble man who has created a legacy at a very young age. He is a source of inspiration for many photographers in Asia. Akash talks to us about his journey, the ups and downs and how he was able to conquer all odds.

© GMB Akash
© GMB Akash

Q. Hi Akash, welcome to APF. First of all let me tell you I am a big fan of your work and have been following you for a long time. Before we start, please tell our readers about yourself and what draws you to photography?

A. Twenty years ago, a boy from nowhere dreamed of having a life that he truly wanted to live. A life that is worth living, worth dreaming. People around me had no idea about photojournalism. At that time, parents supported you even if you wanted to be an artist, illustrator or an actor/singer. But ‘photojournalist’ did not exist in the circles that I was brought up in. I have been criticised for my dream every single day. When I was working with the gay community, people called me gay, when I was documenting sex workers, people pointed at my character, when I was documenting child labourers, people said he was selling poverty. I only listened to what my heart told me that is to bring out the truth in the light. Now I am working and traveling almost 365 days a year. I have photography assignments to carry out, personal photography projects to continue. Besides I have a Photography institute (First Light Institute of Photography (www.firstlightphotoshcool.com) which has hundreds of aspiring photography students. I also take One on One exclusive Photography program (www.gmbakashworkshop.com).

After all my professional commitment I also have to give time to my 500 unprivileged children who are continuing education by my self-funding, there are 50 ‘Survivors’ families whom I have to look after. I pour my heart and soul to depict the incredible human’s beings and continue to write the narrative of their life experiences. I am continuing to write and capture the beauty of the people and their souls.

© GMB Akash
© GMB Akash

Q. You have come a long way. There were times when you didn’t have the money to buy film rolls to now when people from all over the world follow you and you have won numerous international awards along the way. Tell us about the ups and downs in your journey?

A. I started photography with my father’s old camera. And my mother was the only enchanted viewer of my photographs. At the beginning it was difficult for them to understand what I wanted from my life. My freedom fighter father only wanted me to engage in something that will bring change in my country. And my dream never flew from the small window of my small house. I have experienced pain, suffering, trauma which was required to face this journey I am taking in. I was not aware of my ultimate destination, but that intense vulnerability prepared me to embrace my destiny. Now whenever I am working, if any of my photography subject cry I do not stop them, do not console them, I sit still. Because it is okay to cry and make sure to cry a lot. It is okay to have pain, suffering, and heartbreak. The tears are going to bring rainbow in our cloud. And there is no need to regret about all the mistakes we have done, suffering we have faced. If there is no trauma, there is no treasure. From the beginning, I was producing intense kind of Photo Story, which needed a great involvement from my side too. I told myself, ‘Your heart is going to take you to a fearful journey. Continue, no matter how devastating it seems. Because your heart knows where your treasure is’.

© GMB Akash
© GMB Akash

Website: www.gmb-akash.com

Photo Agency: www.panos.co.uk

Photo Archive: www.akash-images.com

Photography Institute: www.firstlightphotoschool.com

Photography Workshop: www.gmbakashworkshop.com

Read the full interview in the latest issue of APF Magazine. Download HERE from the iOS store today.

APF magazine

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