(English version at the bottom of the page)
Ce Blog sera intégralement monochrome. Il y a quelques semaines de ça, j’avais pris la décision de ne faire que de la couleur. C’était pour me sortir de ma zone de confort et me confronter à la couleur que je n’ai jamais vraiment pratiquée. Je ne suis pas très discipliné et j’ai recommencé à éditer quelques unes de mes photos en N&B. Je continue néanmoins à faire de la couleur, mais je vais faire une petite parenthèse monochrome pour ce Blog.
Quand on demande à des photographes de rue de dire d’où ils tirent leur inspiration, on a presque toujours des noms de photographes connus. Garry Winogrand, Saul leiter, Joël Meyerowitz, Daido Moriyama, Harry Gruyaert, Martin Parr, William Klein … Moi même quand on m’a posé cette question pour différentes interviews que j’ai pu donner (Inspired Eye & Tim Huynh), j’ai fait comme tout le monde et j’ai cité quelques uns de ces “Masters”. Comme si on était obligé de citer des photographes connus pour donner une certaine légitimité à son propre travail. Un autre avantage de citer des photographes connus c’est de présenter une espèce de filiation avec ce qu’on fait. Moi j’ai tendance à citer Daido Moriyama, William Klein et Garry Winogrand. Ce sont des noms qui parlent à tout le monde pour peu qu’on s’intéresse à la photo de rue et permet aux personnes d’avoir rapidement une idée de ce qu’on fait.
Quand j’ai commencé la Street Photography, je ne connaissais absolument pas tous ces Masters. J’ai ainsi commencé sans aucune culture. Assez rapidement, je me suis rendu compte que j’étais attiré par l’esthétisme de certains photographes. J’ai tout de suite été séduit par ces contrastes très forts émanant des photos de Moriyama et de Klein. Pour ceux qui me suivent depuis un moment, mon travail s’inspire beaucoup de ces photographes. Je n’ai absolument aucune prétention de leur arriver ne serait ce qu’à leur cheville, mais je me reconnais dans ce qu’ils ont fait avant moi. Quand j’ai découvert Winogrand, ça a été une révélation. Comme lui, j’ai été attiré par le 28 mm. Il avait cette capacité de capturer dans ses photos l’énergie vibrante de la rue.
Ce qui est rigolo, c’est que personne ou presque ne vous citera des photographes contemporains comme source d’inspiration. Depuis quelques temps déjà, j’ai découvert le travail d’Alex Coghe, un photographe italien basé à Mexico City. J’avoue que la première fois que j’ai vu son travail, j’ai été un peu perplexe. J’ai trouvé ça très ordinaire, mais plus je me suis mis à étudier son travail et plus je me suis rendu compte qu’au final, cette simplicité s’apparentait beaucoup au travail de Winogrand. Rien de tape à l’oeil, mais si on regarde attentivement ces photos, on se rend compte qu’elles sont plus complexes que l’on aurait cru. Le contenu prend souvent le pas sur la forme et c’est plutôt bon signe pour une photo. D’ailleurs Alex ne le cache pas . Il voue un culte à Garry Winogrand qui est une grande source d’inspiration pour lui.
Alors oui, Alex Coghe est une source d’inspiration pour moi. Pas uniquement ses photos, mais aussi ses Blogs très intéressants sur la photographie de rue. Très peu de Blogs apportent autant d’informations sur la pratique. Je ne vous parle pas de réglages à utiliser mais de réflexions bien plus profondes. Je ne saurais vous conseiller de passer régulièrement sur son Blog pour lire ses articles. et Dieu sait qu’il est prolifique !
Comme vous pouvez voir sur les quelques photos présentes dans ce Blog, elles sont assez différentes de mon travail habituel. J’abuse moins des ombres et lumières et il y a plus de nuances de gris et l’accent est mis sur des situations rencontrées dans la rue au lieu de se concentrer sur les forts contrastes. J’essaye aussi de moins remplir mon cadre en mettant de l’espace autour de mes personnages. Je vous avoue que ce n’est pas évident car j’ai toujours tendance à vouloir être très près des personnes que je photographie dans la rue.
Bien évidemment quand je parle d’inspiration, je ne parle pas de changer foncièrement ma façon de travailler. J’ai un style propre, mais j’essaye d’y insuffler des petites choses que j’aime chez les autres. Mais comme j’en avais parlé dans mon Blog The content over the form, c’est un processus assez long de changer les choses.
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About inspiration in Street Photography.
This Blog will be fully monochrome. A few weeks ago, I made the decision to only make color. It was to get me out of my comfort zone and confront myself to the color that I never really practiced. I am not very disciplined and I have started post-processing some of my photos in B&W. I still continue to shoot color, but I will make a small monochrome parenthesis for this Blog.
When street photographers are asked to tell where they draw their inspiration from, we almost always have names of known photographers. Garry Winogrand, Saul Leiter, Joel Meyerowitz, Daido Moriyama, Harry Gruyaert, Martin Parr, William Klein … Even when I was asked this question for different interviews I was able to give (Inspired Eye & Tim Huynh), I did like everyone else and I mentioned some of these “Masters”. As if we were obliged to quote famous photographers to give a certain legitimacy to our own work. Another advantage of quoting known photographers is to present a kind of filiation with what one does. I tend to quote Daido Moriyama, William Klein and Garry Winogrand. These are names that speak to everyone if you are interested in street photography and allows people to quickly have an idea of what you do.
When I started Street Photography, I did not know all these Masters at all. I started without any culture. Soon enough, I realized that I was attracted by the aesthetics of some photographers. I was immediately seduced by these very strong contrasts emanating from the photos of Moriyama and Klein. For those who follow me for a while, my work is inspired by these photographers. I have absolutely no claim, but I recognize myself in what they did before me. When I discovered Winogrand, it was a revelation. Like him, I was attracted by the 28 mm. He had this ability to capture in his photos the vibrant energy of the street.
The funny thing is that hardly anyone will cite contemporary photographers as inspiration. For some time now, I discovered the work of Alex Coghe, an Italian photographer based in Mexico City. I admit that the first time I saw his work, I was a bit puzzled. I found it very ordinary, but the more I started to study his work, the more I realized that in the end, this apparent simplicity was very much like the work of Winogrand. Nothing fancy, but if we look closely at these photos, we realize that they are more complex than we would have thought. The content often takes precedence over the form and is a good sign for a photo. Besides, Alex does not hide the fact. He devotes a cult to Garry Winogrand which is a great source of inspiration for him.
So yes, Alex Coghe is an inspiration to me. Not only his photos, but also his very interesting Blogs about street photography. Very few blogs provide as much information about the practice. I’m not talking about settings to use but much deeper thoughts. I can not advise you to regularly go on his blog to read his articles. and God knows he’s prolific !
As you can see on the few photos in this Blog, they are quite different from my usual work. I use less shadows and lights and there are more shades of gray and the emphasis is on situations encountered in the street instead of focusing on strong contrasts. I’m also trying to work differently by adding space around my characters. I admit that it is not obvious because I always tend to want to be very close to the people I photograph in the street.
Of course, when I talk about inspiration, I’m not talking about fundamentally changing the way I work. I have my own style, but I try to breathe in some little things I love about others. But as I mentioned in my Blog The content over the form, it’s a long enough process to change things.
Some very salient points made here Jeff. Take Vivian Maier for example; Did she simply shoot her own thing totally unaware of others work? or was she influenced/inspired and had actually studied in depth the greats and contemporaries? Either way, eventually a photographer has to find their own way of seeing and capturing. Theres definitely a paradigm shift in the photographs presented by you in this blog. I still see high contrast in a couple of them, but you’re taking in the scene. I like your close up work, you’re a very good practitioner at it by the way, that said I prefer this style. It could be said that high contrast, close up work immediately grabs the viewers attention, it pleases the masses in some way, great for Social Media possibly. Having some content is much more subtle, extremely difficult to obtain and causes the viewer to pause, think about the shot, what is and maybe what isn’t included in the frame. I’m familiar with Alex’s work, partly due to your feature in his magazine. There’s more to his photography than first meets the eye, I agree, but also there’s a lot more to your work too.
Anyway, I’m talking a good game here, in reality I’m not a very good photographer, but importantly I know what I like.
The easiest way to get some recognition is to post and share some striking photographs with some immediate visual impact. It’s a “like machine”. As you said, good for Social Media who need to grab your attention quickly. The type of theses photographs are almost always the same. High contrast, close-up, light & shadows … I have a few pictures that fit this category and some of them caught the attention of people and had some success on Instagram. I like them but they are not necessarily my favorites. People don’t care much about content. You need to “like” fasst. How could it be differently ? Let me blame again SM. Who really take the time to analyse a picture now ? I’ve already said, on Instagram, you can’t see the photographs in full screen… what a shame for a platform where people share a lot of photos. The emphazis is put on the immediate visual impact.
I could keep on doing the same high contrast work but I don’t want to be categorize as “the high contrast guy”. Some people already doing the same niche, certainly better than me. One another reason is that it’s borring. I need to add something more in the frame to keep me interesting in the streets.
What I like about Alex’s work is the apparent banality of his photographs. It pushes you to look more closely to his work. It’s like music for me. I know for sure that when it takes time for me to appreciate a LP of a band, it’s a good thing. I’m pretty sure that this LP will outlive others.
Formulaic is the perfect word. That applies to photographers and musicians! Of course, they know it works and so it keeps on repeating until everyone is producing the same. Let’s face it, we’ve all done it and have all been attracted to it. My blogpost (weston Super Mare) that you commented on this morning for example, I was fairly certain which shot the curators at Leica Fotografie International would choose, and would also gain attention on Facebook… it wasn’t my favourite by a long way, but…. Anyway, you’re on the right track, in the groove and in photographic terms “Rockin’ 😉
I don’t know on what track I am, but I know that I’m not trendy, surely outdated. But that’s fine for me. Never been a big fan of the masses 😉
Hi, Jeff. Thanks for including me and if I am in some way an inpiration, I am happy. Anyway, I would clarify something about my photos can appear “ordinary” stuff. I guess this is the sensation today, where a lot of photographers are used to see (pretend) hight contrast, or focusing on the wow effect, looking for the visual impact and then you realize a lot of pictures are 0 content. I always believed a photograph doesn’t need to yell to reach a potential audience and I still believe this today where flash and fashionista approach is super proposed. Also, I get bored with black piece backdrops where today anyone is overexposing to create impact (sig). I guess is a sign of these times where Garry Winogrand, Henri Cartier Bresson, Lee Friedlander, Helen Levitt, Willy Ronis are considered outdated. As you know, I am using street photography as a gym to train my photo skills, by the moment my real work is focused on social documentary, breaking news, portraits and books for models. If someone would become familiar with my work I would share with him more my photojournalistic work and not street photos. Yes, I know, today street photography is the trend, but is not something paying my bills, or better, in part I achieve this sometimes because I am able to sell prints and books, something not anyone is able to achieve today.
People focus too much on sharing photos with strong visual impact. It’s like the Graal. The problem with that is that we see a bunch of copycat trying to do exactly the same thing of people who had success with a kind of picture. Street Photography is about capturing moments of the mundane. But people want that moment to be extraordinary visually speaking. When I look at all the photographs who are finalists in all the SP contests (SF, Miami, Italy …), I’m amazed to see always the same stuff and makes me think that I’m outdated as well. I like ordinary photographs because it’s related to the life we live in. For me “ordinary” is not pejorative as some people might think.
I got it. Yes, I agree. I really don’t know how a green drink on a car can be so strong fo someone, but I got it.
People think that minimalist equal arty and arty equal legitimacy. People like to think that they are artists. Personnaly I don’t feel being an artist. At most I’m a witness of a Time. There’s clearly a trend. I feel theses photos very disconnected to the world we are living in
Hi Jeff , I know … long time ago . I’m not that chatterbox, just want to say : really good photos . Take care !
Hey Helmut, I know you’re not a talker 😉 I read your interview for Inspired eye. Thanks mate