On the Streets with Maktub Street-Dog by Dilshad C.

His name is Sacha Dohmen aka maktub street-dog, and he is 36 years old. Sacha lives with his beautiful wife in Belgium in a very rural area in the middle of nowhere between Liège (Belgium), Maastricht (Holland) and Aachen (Germany). “I´m a self taught amateur photographer” as he likes to point out. His work has been featured on P1xels, Mobiography, the Appwhisperer, Mortal Muses and IPhoneography.com, IPhoneography Central, in the first issue of IPhotographer magazine and in the second issue of MobFiction Magazine. He also has got an honourable mention at the Mobile Photo Awards and made the shortlist with 2 of his images on the last IPA quarterly. His work has been exhibited in Prague at the Gallery Kvalitár and in Holešov at the New Drive Club. He is co-organizer of the second Belgian International IPhoneography Art Movement exhibition in Brussels this year. I came across his work sometime ago now, and fall in love with Sacha’s photography straight away! We have spoken many a time and I consider him a friend and a person that I respect, so, to be able to interview him it’s only a great honour, for he is a true source of inspiration for me!

You talkin´to me.

 DC. When I look at your work I truly feel as if I knew what you are feeling, I can see you roaming the streets and trying to catch what other people don’t see! We both have been inspired by the same people or style, so talking to you now gives me only great pleasure! And I thank you for accepting my offer! Before we get into the nitty gritty of this conversation, can you tell us a bit more about yourself? Why maktub street-dog?

M S-D. It´s a pleasure for me. Why maktub street-dog? When I start doing street photography, I did not want to publish under my real name. Street photography is not really legal in Europe. So I needed a pseudonym. Maktub is an Arabic word and literally means: “it is written”. Street-dog from the German “Straßenköter” which mean stray dogs.

Arise And Shine In Necro-City

 DC. Your heart, quite similar to mines, is dedicated to street photography, or specifically to catch peculiar and particular faces and expression or people that, most of the time, are left alone by the general crowd. What is street photography for you?

M S-D. For me, street photography is not a genre of photography. It´s a lifestyle, street photography is the time you can give yourself to watch, observe and understand the people around you. It has changed my life so sudden and with unexpected result, my life took a new direction. I’m more attentive about the people and situation around me and I found an activity that allows me to express myself. I capture a fraction of life and later, build my own storyboard for this person. All I need is a street and my camera to make something extraordinary out of the banal, to create a social drama, to awake emotions.

My motivation to document life and take street shots is to capture and awake emotions. Photography is all about emotions. Street photography is also a social study and a mission; you show the world what life is like.

Dead End Friends

M S-D. Yeah, that is the extraordinary about street photography. You can talk about everything, love, pain, solitude, anger… My camera is a mirror that I tend to the society. It´s not enough to go out and press the shutter, you must have a genuine interest for people and their life.

The Tombstone Blues

 DC. With me, probably because I am pleasurably inspired by Koci, it’s all about people with hats too, but I love them to wear a heavy beard, or to have their faces lived, wrinkled, old… used and abused, I want to see someone that everyone else tries to walk away from, or no one pays attention to, that’s what takes my attention, what is your trigger?

M S-D. I feel like you. Nowadays the world is getting smaller and smaller and people are tending to look more alike. I´m always on the search for people with a certain individuality, in the way they dress, the way they walk, the way they look…

Down So Low

DC. Each time I see one of your photos I am overwhelmed by the capture, their expressions are jaw droopingly good! How do you manage to catch that moment?  Who are these people?

M S-D. Cartier-Bresson called it the decisive moment. Well, in my case I would call it luck. I’m lucky to be at the right moment at the right place and pull the trigger at the right time. In candid street portraiture you have only one chance and this opportunity will only take a fraction of a second. The only thing you can do if you’re fast enough is to shoot twice; the killer in the film shoots always twice. Street Photography is like a game, you get lucky or you get nothing.

Insomnia And the Hole in the Universe

 DC. The characters of your photos are those that I have been looking for all the time, I am truly boggled, how do you find them? Do you talk to them? Is there any one story that will always resonate in your mind?

M S-D. I don´t think when I shoot, I’m a walker, or like the French poet Baudelaire said a flâneur, and my camera is part of the walking. My eyes are always 10-20 feet ahead and search for something to catch. If I´m alone and found an interesting person, I can follow this person for a quarter hour, waiting for the right situation, before I show up out of the crowd like a shark to take my shot. I never talk to them, I´m too shy. As soon as I show up, I dive under again.

Evil Man, Don’t Play Your Games With Me

DC. There are, of course, many ways to do street photography, for me two resonate most. The first just walk around and shoot each time I see a character that tickles my senses! But with this I have one problem: the composition or the background might not be there as I wanted, hence I go into the heavy apping and blurring and scratching, which I also like as a style but it all started because I wanted to cover what I did not wanted to see and concentrate on my main character. The second is to find a location and patiently wait there as a fisherman waits for his catch: I have the story and I just need the protagonist, which hopefully will fall in my net… Where do you see yourself? How do you plan your day? I would love to know how you shoot?

M S-D. For me, the real originator of Street Photography is Garry Winogrand with his book “The Animals” and the streets as zoo. I never plan when I go out in the urban jungle and like Winogrand, I can walk down any street without taking photos. In 99% of cases I shoot from the hip, without thought on the background. I´m only interested on facial expressions, emotions… The background would only distract, regardless of the quality of my composition.  Only in a few of my shots like “Before I Die…” the background is more important or just as important as the protagonist.

Before I Die…

DC. Your editing style is wonderful, how much experimentation does that involve? Do you know exactly what do you want to achieve or sometime you are sitting there, scratching your head and thinking “I Love this one but also this and this, which one should I go for?”

M S-D. Thank you. I think the most important thing is to find one’s own style. Once we found the style, the rest comes from alone. I use primarily black & white, it´s the purest form of photography. As I said earlier, photography is all about emotions and I think black & white focuses the emotions better. Then I heavy blur the background. Black and white and the blur reduce my picture to its essential elements. My third step is to add scratches and texture, for this point, I´m very influenced by the music I listen while I work on the photo: dirtier the music, dirtier the edit. Bruce Gilden said “If you can smell the street by looking at the photo, it´s a street photograph”. This is my workflow to make people smell the street.

 DC. You have a few on-going series, can you talk to me about these? The one with the 99 shades of crazy characters is my favourite! How did you come up with the idea?

M S-D. As I start with street photography 4 years ago, make series was a way for me to learn to see. I went out of the street with the purpose of only photographing bearded man, the next day only smokers, and so forth… After 4 years on the street I´m not sure if this is something that lets learn, but this little series help me a lot.

The idea after the “99 Shades Of Crazy” project is simple, find 99 extraordinary character that many would call crazy and thus show that there is no “normal” in our wonderful crazy world. In one or other sense, we are all crazy. That we are all different makes the world just interesting.

99 Shades Of Crazy (04)

 DC. Does having an on-going project help you? What would you say to some that maybe is struggling with its motivation?

M S-D. Yes for those who have a problem of motivation, a project is the perfect remedy. Starts a 365 project (1 image/day/year). Or the IPod shuffle project may be a good idea, I don´t know if it already exists, every morning you press the shuffle button and during the day you try to make a picture that has to do with the title.

Personally, I think this kind of project does not help me. The first reason is that if I’m too focus on something, I miss other occasion. The second reason is that if I force myself to post a photo every day, I will publish photos that I regret later.

99 Shades Of Crazy 01

 DC. Do you get stuck? Do you sometime doubt what you are doing? If yes, how you come out, what is that one thing that inspires you?

M S-D. Street Photography is an art that nobody wants to hang in his living room. Of course I doubt from time to time. But like Robert De Niro says in Heat “I do what I do best” and I don´t know how to do anything else.

 DC. Out of all the photos you have taken, which one are the three that you really are in love with? And why, what is the story behind?

M S-D. My favourite picture is definitively “It´s Coming Down”, a simple street portrait. I always want to take pictures that stimulate the imagination of the viewer and I´m not really a fan of a picture saying, “this is what it is”. I think this works very well in this picture. The story of this picture is really simple. Non-scheduled I take the bus to Aachen, the next town near my village. When I get off of the bus, I start directly to shoot. After two minutes, I realize that I forgot my bag in the bus. Damn, my IPad, my papers, my money, and my keys… A non-stop one-kilometre sprint to the central station, but the bus was gone. After a lot of discussion and phone calls, a driver told me my bag was found and that I should wait until the bus come back. Always worry if everything was still in it, I was there when this woman came studying the timetable. I knew immediately this is my picture of the day.

It´s Coming Down

“Just You And Me” This is a shot from a trip to Maastricht Holland. One of the rules in street photography is be invisible and adapt yourself to the environment. When I left my house in Belgium three hours earlier, the weather was just awful so I dressed me accordingly. My thickest Barbour Jacket, leather boots, a hat… That and over 1 meter 90 tall is all you need to be discovered if the local weather conditions are not the same. Impossible to photograph unrecognized. So I have to rethink my options.  For this shot I saw this guy take a cigarette and instead to stand still and to photograph him, I distracted him “can I have one too?” and while I went up to him I shoot from the hip.

Just You And Me

“Got To Find A Better Way” The first thing I noticed when I saw her, was with what dignity she wears her age. There was nothing to do with the sad, the miserable and pathetic of most of my street shots. Full of vitality, she looks just great, and for sure, a lot of young lady´s would love to be like her when their get old.

Got To Find A Better Way

DC. Flickr is your home, and you have been incredibly popular in there, what’s the secret behind this? On the other hand, it seems that Instagram is somewhere that you don’t really post, why?

M S-D. Ok, let´s start with Instagram. The main reason why I´m not active on Instagram are all the, follow me, follow me and “a like for a like” type of people. Naturally, every time I have a picture in the “Flickr Explore” twenty people added me to their favourites. The difference is that these people don´t harassed me. Why I am so successful at Flickr?

I think the secret is to just follow the work of someone we admire. I have roughly 200 contacts that I follow on Flickr. Some four years. Among others Richard Koci Hernandez or John Fullard whose work I admired for years, they still have never comment or fav on one of my photos. It’s all the same to me. I prefer people who do not like what I did and ignore me that people who “likes” anything without looking.

DC. Where can we find you? And if someone would like to learn how to edit with your style, what should they do? Do you have some tutorials around that we can check out?

I just start my own website and blog about street photography

The aim is to give tip and tricks about street photography and feature photographers I admire. If you are interested?

DC. Thank you, is this an offer? (Happily Smiles).

M S-D. MOB Fiction Magazine just published in their second issue one of my tutorials. The complete issue is about street photography and worth every cent. Otherwise you can find me on Flickr and Facebook

DC. Would you like to add anything that I have missed?

M S-D. I thank you from the bottom of my hearth for this opportunity, I noted that the questions were chosen carefully and with passion like all what you do.

DC. Again, thank you ever so much for your time and please don’t stop, for each time I see your photos I just want to go out and shoot!! You are one incredible person and I hope that I will have the honour to personally meet you and go out for walk!