Interview: Martin Waltz
This month’s featured artist is streetberlin. A street photographer from Europe!
Be sure to follow streetberlin and support his work!
City and country where you live
- How you started with street photography?
I started shooting street after I sold my overly complex DSLR gear and went for a compact Fujifilm camera. I was surprised how easy it was to get close to people without them noticing that I was taking pictures. So I started to play around in the streets.
- Why street photography?
I like the unpredictability of street photography. You go out and you never know what you get. I also like the minimalistic approach gear wise. You just need a half way decent camera with a moderate wide angle and you are set. Finally I think the outcome is highly relevant. Street Photography reflects on urban life. And this is the life most of us live on a day to day basis.
- What and/or who inspires you?
Inspiration comes from many sources. Poets like Charles Baudelaire or Gottfried Benn, movie directors like Jim Jarmush or Wong Kar Wei, painters like Edward Hopper or Claude Monet, photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson or Daido Moriyama. And of course a lot of very excellent contemporary photographers like Rinzi Ruiz or Khalik Allah.
- How often do you go out to capture moments?
Usually several times a week. When traveling daily. Sometimes I feel emptied out, then I won’t shoot for a week or two.
- What do you look for when you go out on the streets?
When on the street I will look for light, geometry and texture. Other than that I look for nothing in particular. Images find me, not the other way round. I just have to remain open minded and focused - which is not as easy as it sounds.
- Do you interact with your subjects?
If I shoot a street portrait, I will ask. For candid photographs there is no explicit communication before the shot. Yet if I’m close there is a nonverbal exchange of human energy of course. After the shot I just move on, or simply stay where I am. If people realize that I took a photo of them, I will smile and nod, which usually does the trick in relaxing the situation.
- How do you challenge yourself to improve on photography?
Outside feedback is key. I participate in several photography groups, where we get assignments on a regular basis. The results are presented in the group and are subject to peer review. This has proved to be extremely helpful. Other than that I have participated in two street photography workshops this year. Lastly getting a portfolio review by a skilled fellow photographer turned out to be money and time very well spent.
- You are very active in social media, having social profiles in different known platforms such as tumblr, G+ and Facebook. How do you manage to stay on top of all of them? We all know how time consuming social media can be.
Some photographers do quite the opposite and try to share little amounts of images in a big time period. Obviously you differ with that approach, although you don’t exaggerate either. Can you explain your point of view towards social media and mention some of the advantages of putting yourself out there? As some sort of recommendation for street photographers trying to expose more of their work out there.
Well, it takes time, yet it is extremely rewarding. I get a lot feedback about my work, which allows me to distinguish my stronger and weaker photographs. I’m in an inspiring exchange with fellow street photographers around the world. I see the work of other contemporary street photographers, which again is inspiring.
If you want to happen on social media, you’ll have to establish a consistent stream of content and you have to connect with other people. I shoot, process and edit all by myself, exchange on with like minded folks on social media becomes extremely valuable as a balance.
Advice: Every social media channel has its own rules. Learn them. If you decide to play a channel, post original content. Don’t post a link to your blog post. Post the content directly and maybe add a link.
- What gear do you use? Philosophy: Digital or analog?
These days I shoot digital only, the Ricoh GR and the Olympus EM10 being my favorite cams. Back in the day I shot all analog, developed myself and had my own darkroom. In those days we would have killed for the possibilities the digital workflow allows. I see no point in going back to analog.
- B&W or color? Why?
B&W only. I like the focus on structure, geometry and texture, that comes with shooting B&W. I feel the innate abstraction that comes with black and white photography to be important for my work. I have tried color several times. It does not appeal to me. And I’m not really good at it.
- Your images are very dark, with high contrast covering the full range from pure white to pure black. We know you breathe black and white, and so, are you considering in trying different approaches towards black and white? Like over or under exposing images? to put an example.
There are changes over time. These days my work is far more subtle and richer in tones than it was, say a year ago. And yes I do experiment with over or under exposure. Most of these experiments do not result in publishable photographs, though.
- What about post processing/developing?
To me post processing is part of the creative process, so it is very important. Each photo warrants its own approach. I start by doing several versions, if the photo matters to me. At a later stage I will compare the versions, choose one, or more often do another version.
- What are some other projects you are currently working on?
Berlin blur is a project where I work with long exposures and double exposure to create a more abstract imagery.
Subway is project about the human element meeting this gigantic mechanic machine called subway.
Both are work in progress.
- Your photography has a very well defined structure which is easy to recognize if someone is familiar with your work, but sometimes you publish images that seem rather one day experiments, yet you always stay faithful to your defined style. Do you consider in changing your approach when you experiment and then go back to your defined style?
These experiments like long exposure during daytime, extreme points of view, or extreme lenses like the fisheye are in the beginning just that: experiments. Over time they enhance my repertoire, making my style richer. Daytime long exposures started as a one time experiment, but now it’s a cornerstone both in my Berlin blur and in my subway series. These techniques can be combined. The resulting images can be surprisingly strong, simply because there is an original viewing experience.
- The selected picture.
This is easily my most successful photo both in terms of likes as in approval by various editors. A few things are noteworthy:
- I took this shot on a morning run.
- The photo was with an iPhone.
- I took roughly 20 shots.
- Taking this one meant I had to wait quite while standing in the reach of sprinkler and getting wet.
- Post processing took 20 seconds, editing: identifying the best one of the series 30 minutes.
- Street Photographers in tumblr you truly admire.
- Any advice from your personal experience?
Get outside feedback, because it is very hard to judge you own work.
Study your failures. Your failures will tell you how you can succeed. You just have to listen.
Most importantly: shoot, shoot, shoot. like any art, like any craft, like any sport mastery comes only with practice.