Since childhood I have considered myself an observer of everything that surrounds me and excites me. Photography has given me the ability to return to those important moments through images, and I’ve always found this fascinating. I’m more aware of it now, this possibility to go back and remember. I still recall with emotion when my grandparents gave me their Kodak INSTAMATIC X-15 for taking pictures. From that moment on I was held captive by anything that would appear in the viewfinder. Nowadays, I feel it’s essential to take photos daily, as it’s a visual and very personal record of everyday life.
This has evolved, in such a way that the traditional consumer of images has now become a “prosumer”, generating and offering their perspective on social networks. As a reference, let’s consider the scope of mobile photography, which has become a powerful tool for telling stories. Personally, it has allowed me to meet interesting characters on the streets and made it easier for me to approach the issues relevant to my environment.
In my pictures I try to capture the contrasts of light and the details of the characters, silhouettes and objects. I think that the best light to do this in is daylight; I only need to go for a walk with a pair of comfortable shoes and my cell phone fully charged. On the streets, a certain look can be intriguing. You can stop, get closer to your subject, or respect their anonymity and take a picture without them noticing and just thank them afterwards. The streets are pure emotion, that is where the stories are.
Personally, I’ve never liked to capture misery or the degrading condition of the human being; this has never caught my attention. On the other hand, shadows, contrasts and the characters that emerge from them, spontaneous symmetry and natural gestures, these are more interesting to me for generating my visual discourse.
Chihuahua city is located in the north of Mexico and, being close to the border, we have an interesting cultural mix. This has caught my attention and led me to title one of my projects: Puro Norte. In it I present urban portraits of individuals with expressions and in activities denoting the identity, clothing, instruments and poses of the urban cowboy, in costumes from a western film.
Go out, walk and be alert, but don’t stop enjoying the ride and the experience. This is where objects and people have something to say, have made their own history and are waiting to be seen. It’s all about going out to look for them in order to find them.
I prefer to document my own environment without expectations and tell the tales of what I see in my own way, though pictures. I don’t ask for poses and often I don’t ask for permission, but I watch and wait for the moment instead. Photography has given me the opportunity to meet some unique characters; it’s just a matter of approaching people with respect and making my intention clear when necessary, as in the case of a portrait.
I am constantly on the hunt, defining my style and reinventing it. This is evolving more and more, allowing me to expand to other networks and find various platforms for experimenting with an image. This is part of the process and the evolution of photography. It changes on a daily basis and requires you to be a curious person.
In my photographs I try to present my vision – what I have to tell – by using certain angles and editing processes. For some time, a quote has accompanied me and it’s by one of my favourite photographers of all time, Lola Álvarez Bravo: “I seek the essence of beings and things, their spirit, their reality. Interest, personal experience, ethical and aesthetic commitment form the photographer’s third eye”. I hope to some day find this, I am still looking for it, but so far I think I’m getting closer.
About the author: Ramón Cruz is a college professor and photographer based in Chihuahua, México. Documentary, portraiture and street photography are his areas of focus. He is currently a member of 1415 Mobile Photographers.
You can see more of his work here:
14&15 Mobile Photographers
This story begins with two photographers: the first one, Christian, a Frenchman living in Arcachon, a little town on the Ocean, 70 km away from Bordeaux. The second one, Valeria, an Italian living in Milan.
They have met by chance in the virtual land of an app called Instagram in 2013, and for the last four years they have been sharing their thoughts about photography through two other apps called Viber and Kik. They have never met in the real world until now, though they have been planning to do that sooner or later. As they share not only a love for photography but also the fact they don’t like talking about their personal work, they have decided to write about one another. This is the first of two articles reassuming a relationship based on reciprocal admiration and a long conversation about the need for photography.
(Within dance the expression pas de deux refers to the number of dancers, men and/or women, performing together a sequence of a ballet or choreography.)
I was a very “young” Instagramer with no awareness of my own work when I first came across Christian Mondot’s photography in 2013. I was making my first steps in the jungle of Instagram when I found his striking bw account (@cclm31) and I was caught off guard by all those images speaking so honestly of their author’s emotional side. It was more or less like when a child perceives the difference between himself and an adult, feeling the shape of authority. Compared to mine, his gallery had no contradictions or random images, but showed a definite strong identity. The most impressive trait to me was that all the images seemed related to one another, like words of a speech, and they were meaningful and soulful despite the absence of a garish subject.
I was in awe of his skillfulness in focusing on humble details, like an old washtub, a newspaper in an abandoned classroom, a closed door.
His extraordinary way of shooting the ordinary showed a contemplative eye to the world and spoke a language full of intimacy to my heart.
I realized in my naive approach to his photography how intensity doesn’t need spectacularity or drama, but rather a moved eye, and how the importance of a subject comes from the story the photographer sees or imagines behind it. Everything can become important when beautifully focused and framed, but it’s not just a matter of technical skill. The impact was strong but it took me a long period of time and more personal consciousness about photography to unfold the mystery and to understand the message hidden behind that work.
Preferred subjects to talk of his inner world are people and nature. Many of Christian Mondot’s photographs don’t feature visible people but rather their absence: melancholic shots like those of abandoned places full of traces left by their passage, empty restaurants frozen in the wait of customers, interiors of churches in the half light without believers.
Sometimes we get the human presence from a sign, like the light coming from a window, or a dog waiting for its master. Through this feel of missing people, Chris seems to talk of a lost Golden Era, full of warm relationships and expectations, like youth is.
These images without people and missing people are gloomy, and fascinate the observer with their ominous power: the unpleasant loss of the Golden Era is unavoidable. In more recent images, the presence of people seems rather to emphasize the serene acceptance of the loneliness of the human condition. Chris shows himself like a lone wolf, bashful and contemplative, loving his rich and multifaceted microcosm.
Nature is his best friend. Chris said to me he often gets lost in the beauty of landscapes, standing alone and totally overcome by the feel of immensity, absorbing the space around him in an impossible desire of symbiosis and waiting until he understands how to take “that” shot. Nature looks like Mother: peaceful, embracing and supportive. This side of Chris’s work suggests a powerful identity with mystical traits.
He is a professional musician, and music never leaves him alone as it is always in his head like a soundtrack. That’s why looking at his photos featuring awesome countrysides or marvelous sea landscapes, I have often sensed a sound, like a whisper, growing until it becomes the din of an orchestra tuning its instruments.
Chris uses a poetic black and white language to tell an endless series of little stories. He has a very personal use of black and white: his black is deep and enveloping, often taking most of the image, sometimes soft like velvet, others very intense and dramatic. Inside it, smooth like a caress or sharp like a blade, the light insinuates itself, showing beauty. He uses his whites coming out of all those blacks like a curtain raised to reveal the truth. It’s a mystical light and I have often felt in awe of his way of engrossing the observer: ravished and sucked inside the frame, we are called to take part.
Christian Mondot’s photography fulfils its author’s wish to engross the observer in his own emotions. These are artistic photographs, evoking much more than they show, involving more than what they feature.
There’s no way to escape a personal participation in these charming stories, so be ready and enjoy them.
You can find Chris on: Instagram | Website
March of fears and memories. At the end of every downward road the sea appears frozen. Huge slices of ice are floating on the water like melancholic islands. Blue eerie light all day long. The wind is whipping the faces as a reminder that winter never really ends here. It’s a frozen waft that comes from somewhere far away, probably from the history of Helsinki, that cast off the despots but not the architects.
“It’s getting dark, too dark to see”
The trams, sleepy but obedient, are carrying the thickest winter coats. The seams have unraveled due to the double layer of pullovers beneath them and the eyes read the co-passengers like a book with a beginning, but without a middle or an end. Most of these thick coats are disembarking in front of Central Station, its entrance always covered by a shadow that seems amphitheatric. Doors open and close and the beggars are walking around, fishing only the bad-tempered passengers: it’s a glance of solidarity that they’re searching for, not the money in the wallet. One should spend a quarter of an hour in front of Central Station, because on that spot all the neighborhoods of Helsinki are condensing; on that spot the wrinkles on the foreheads seem like frozen railroad tracks.
“Hand in hand”
One can never really leave Central Station behind, not even when you see the buildings by Alvar Aalto and think that you’ve landed in another city. On this latitude and longitude, modern architecture resembles slices of concrete ice, which must rise above the everlasting piles of snow. The contemporary buildings are quiet in the interior: the laughter and talks of people seem to be less loud than whispers. Quite often, the voices seem to be getting distilled by the tall windows and they soon convert to light. The high heels of a woman, the keys of a guard, the crying of a baby, all that noise tends to challenge the serenity: it’s the denial to surrender in the dogmatism of walls.
“The orange balloon”
The studious visitor, the one that carries in his luggage grief but not hope, is usually jealous of the people sitting inside the cozy cafés. The windows are steamed by faces exhaling words; human snouts crouching into wide coffee pots. Aside, on tiny plates, sweets not bigger than sugar cubes present proudly themselves: they cost more than the coffee. All those underpopulated tables are becoming a cheap allegory about life up north: people diffused in a territory, trying to muzzle the weather by shutting a heavy door in its face, the same way that one is shutting his eyes in order to forget.
One is tripping over the threshold of the Ateneum or Kiasma museums in order to learn something that has little to do with art. In Ateneum, among sorrowful paintings hanging from black walls, a newlywed couple is shooting marital photos. A blonde woman is dragging her wedding gown on the stairs and next to her the husband is dressed in a fine suit. The photographer is chasing them on the staircase, is searching for them on the halls and is climbing on the first floor for a panoramic photo of the couple; everything is taking place among paintings that talk more about the ones that passed and less about the people left behind. An older man is staring at a painting by Albert Edelfelt, the one with the coffin of the young child on the boat; the man turns afterwards, his head towards the newlyweds. He doesn’t applaud nor disdain them: he seems to be playing a match of chess in his head, where destinies of happiness and sorrow battle against each other. If, one has to judge by his gaze, the grim version of the destiny is leading.
“Shadows are falling”
Whatever can’t be easily controlled is often getting drowned in a glass of alcohol. In the city’s market-halls, where the wooden kiosks stand next to each other selling fish, cheese and souvenirs, the locals anchor in the tables for a glass of Jaloviina. It’s a strong drink that burns the innards and fires up the talk. At the port’s market-hall, most of the people sit next to the windows and cover themselves with blankets that look like sheepskin. They stare at the little ferry that returns back from Suomenlinna, panting in the frozen sea. The glasses are getting a refill every now and then and the view of the six little islands doesn’t cause any feeling of security: the old fortress has become an outdoor museum.
“One step at a time”
The sea is everywhere. Once in a while, somewhere ashore, somebody is exiting a steaming building and runs towards the sea. He or she is half naked and is holding a towel. A dive for a couple of seconds into the cold sea and then the person runs back inside again. The less courageous prefer to stay away from the sea and they just sit on the chairs outside of the sauna. They return two, three times inside the steaming building and they repeat the ritual as if this is a ceremony of purification. It’s a siesta that has to be done with eyes wide open and the body suffers without tears.
March of fears and memories. Up here, on the frozen north, the spring has been waiting for months around the corner, that overrated season of the year that always arrives triumphant and merciless. A long winter is trying to stay behind; all that silver light of the snow is the deepest version of darkness. One is visiting Helsinki in order to embark, sooner or later, in the northernmost metro of the world. The underground itineraries are never too distant, but they resemble journeys under the skin. The metro stations seem to be built on the stomach of eternal rocks and the itineraries carry on endlessly. But there comes, after all, one day that the passenger is emerging on the surface. The sun has gained some courage and appears finally in the sky while the trees are wearing their leaves again. It’s an almost violent moment, which romanticism falsely taught us to assume as peaceful. Whatever emerges then on the surface is just buried fears and memories marching on together.
The doors of the market-halls remain open and the windows of the cafés are not steamed anymore. People avoid museums. They prefer to stand on the piers of the city, where both small and big boats are getting ready for shorter or longer journeys. A man and a woman are embarking on a vessel. They are still young and they put a basket between them. They are going to Suomenlinna in order to stretch a tablecloth on the ground and clink their wine glasses. A person they loved passed earlier this spring. They are going to the old fortress to talk, to get emotional, to laugh and to stare at the city from afar. Meanwhile, the people left behind on the piers of Helsinki are observing the scene and turn into potential painters. The shorter journeys are for the boats; the longer ones, for the people.
“A distant farewell”
“The future islands”
Building up a sense of connection with Beijing through the iPhone lens – by Paul Yan
It is one thing to live and work in a city of another land other than the motherland you were born in; it is another to get used to and be in peace with it even though you have lived there for ten years. Here’s my story of how I gradually developed a sense of connection with the city of Beijing through the act of photography, which is non other than mobile photography.
I was born and raised in Taiwan, which has been geographically and culturally part of China since antiquity, but not idiologically, since 1949. Although the official languages of both lands are practically the same, the written forms are very different. People of Taiwan write in the traditional Chinese characters, while citizens of China write in the simplified form that was developed and finalized in the 1950s. The difference between the two is so great that it’s common that a person who is accustomed to one form doesn’t recognize the other. The differentiation can be found in many aspects of life including ethics, patterns of behavior, aesthetics and values.
I had been working in the music production industry of Taiwan since 1990 and was fortunate enough to have worked briefly in Beijing in the mid-1990s, participating in producing a few musical projects that are now lauded by the Chinese media as classics of the Chinese rock and pop music. However, I didn’t feel the need to move to China to continue my music production career as I had enough work to do in Taiwan. It was in 2005, after being encouraged and invited by my friends, that I moved to Beijing to continue my music production career. Everything had been going very well with work, I’d made many new friends and I had been supported by old and new customers. However, it was pretty hard for me to really establish a comfortable rapport with the city.
Everything changed after I started to take photographs, mainly in the street of Beijing, with my mobile phone in 2015. On my days off from long hours of studio work, I frequently went out and roamed the streets of the city for over 6 hours at a time to shoot to my heart’s delight. That became my only mode of exercise to keep me fit. I found myself opening up and chatting a lot with strangers in the street while taking photographs with them in the frames as the human elements. Sometimes environmental portraits are made after brief conversations with my human subjects. Being mindful of the happenings in the streets and parks, feeling the heartbeat of the city, I began to build up a real sense of connection and belonging through the act of mobile photography.
It’s a splendid myth that the act of mobile photography has brought me closer to the soul of the city of Beijing after living in it for ten years.
[Smoke on the Cluster]
You can find roadside Barbecue stalls everywhere in Beijing, and all over the country, when the climate is warm enough. Roadside BBQ is a major pastime for the people in the evening; you can smell the smoke and scent from afar. Upon seeing this stall, I asked the chef if I could photograph him working – he was totally cool in front of the lens. My right hand almost got burned while taking this one as I was holding my phone very close to the grill while he was sprinkling spice over the clusters of mutton.
[The Day After]
After kissing my mother goodbye at Beijing airport, I decided to stick around outside the airport building to take advantage of the overpass under which people would walk by. I pre-focused on the floor a few meters in front of me, held my phone right on the floor to get the composition and then waited, squatting… A couple of minutes later, this lady walked by and I released the shutter with the phone’s ear-buds cable as she just got into the frame walking in full stride. Thanks to her curiosity about what I was doing, she glanced my way over her shoulder while the photo was shot.
[A Stroll with Siddhāttha]
Early winter morning stroll in the woods, I felt peace and imagined walking behind Mr. Siddhāttha Gōtama, aka the Buddha (the Awakened One) – listening to him teaching me how I could practice to be free from all attachments to ego and everything. This was shot with the Slow Shutter Cam app in Motion Blur mode, focus-locked on the nearest tree, scanning the phone vertically to achieve that blur.
[Progressive, in Raving Lights]
A photographic tribute to all the classic progressive rock bands like Yes, King Crimson, Genesis, Rush and Marillion, etc.. This was shot on an overpass with the Procamera app set to 1/2 second at ISO 32. I focused on the floor and wiggled my phone vigorously when these people walked into the frame to take the image. The light streaks were headlights and tail lights of passing cars.
[Tread the Path]
I was experimenting here, taking low-angle shots with the Manfrotto Wide-Angle add-on lens. After locking the focus on the ground in front of me. I set the shutter speed and ISO in the ProCamera app in my iPhone 6 Plus, then squatted on the edge of the pavement by the boulevard leading to Tian-An-Men Square in Beijing and waited for my prey. I had the top edge of my phone right on the pavement and tilted the lens up towards the low afternoon sun with the intention of including only someone’s legs in the frame. I saw a man coming by while another was in the distance. The shutter was fired when the one near me was about to walk out of the frame and the one in the distance was right in the triangle formed by the former’s stride.
[Kalyāna-Mitra – Lesson from a Tree]
This tree, among others, has always been erect on the bank across the small river close to where I live, and can be see from my balcony every day. It changes from being leafy to bare and the cycle goes on through all the seasons. It has become one of my friends in nature and has been a living reminder to me of the lesson of impermanence and equanimity in all conditions. It’s my “Bodhi Tree” if you like. One day, I decided to shoot a photo of us two together…
[Into the Unknown]
I was strolling in the eastern downtown area of Beijing one afternoon when I came upon this entrance/exit of a subway station. An escalator connected the station to the ground level where a translucent blue canopy had been installed. Refracted blue light fell on the walls and the ceiling inside the tunnel, rendering the people on the escalator as silhouettes against a blue background, when one looked up from below. The words “twilight zone” came to mind when the scene met the eyes.
[Crossfire in the Jungle]
This image was taken at a crossroads in Beijing, where cars honk their horns relentlessly at everything in front of them, right at the instant when the traffic lights go green. Life in the urban jungle isn’t so easy for a lady, especially when you’re threatened by carnivores on wheels that don’t know pedestrians are to be respected.
[Ascent to Luminescence]
Me and my wife were visiting a friend who was a professor at medical school. This stairwell was just outside his office. I thought the profile of the stairwell wall, when looked down from the upper level, was geometrically interesting for a photograph… but not that interesting without a person in the frame. So I had my wife go down to the level below and asked her to go up with her hand on the rail. I took the photograph while she reached the spot that I’d pre-visualized for the composition. Thanks to my lovely wife for her co-operation!
[Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side!]
Shot on a rainy night outside the entrance of a supermarket near home. I saw the wet pavement reflecting the red light emitted by the neon sign above the storefront and thought it would make good foreground for an image. A girl walked into the frame pretty soon. My lips pressed one of the volume buttons of the phone’s earphone cable to fire the shot, right when her legs were in wide stride in front of the bright store light.
[Up is the way!]
I was wandering around a bus station one afternoon when I hit this spot under an overpass where a triangle was formed by the columns and the edge of the overpass. Without hesitation, I focused on the stairway, carefully composing the scene so that the top tip of the triangle touched the top edge of the frame, and waited for my prey to get on the stairway.
[Mama told me not to come!]
It was in a lovely August afternoon last year when this photograph was taken. A few kids were playing and running around in an open area of a park, and the pinky dress and shoes of this jolly little girl attracted my eyes immediately. I pre-focused on the ground about 1.5 meters in front of me, squatted and waited for her to run past me, and she did!
Viva innocence and purity!
[Universal Fountain of Love]
At the fountain in the frontal plaza of the Hyatt Hotel in Beijing, which was pretty close to the Royal Palace/Forbidden City/Tian-An-Men Square. The fountain was lit from inside the rim around which people like to take selfies or pictures of their family and friends. The plaza is usually swarming with people in the evening so it can be hard to take a clean photograph of the fountain.
The girl in the frame had just finished posing for her friend’s smartphone on the rim of the fountain and was bending down to pick up her purse, getting ready to leave when I took this photo.
[Nothing Lasts Forever]
The city of Beijing had a pretty heavy snowfall on November 22nd 2015. I was delighted because I had been hoping for the advent of snow so I could go out and have some fun shooting in it. My white trip started at about three in the afternoon. I had already been rewarded with a couple of worthy frames when patrolling in the wafting snow before this image was taken. The snow on the branches of this tree by the river, along with the snow on the surrounding ground, were tinted electric pink by the row of red neon signs on the other side of the road. I put my iPhone on a tripod and set it up about 3 meters from the tree and half a meter above ground. I angled it up approximately 30 degrees so I could have the tree, with its hanging leaves, as a natural frame that partially veiled the residential buildings across the steaming river.
The sun had completely set when I began working on this image. To have the ISO value as low as possible to avoid noise and grain, I set the shutter speed of my ProCamera app to the slowest it could go: 1/2 second, and I had to set the ISO to no lower than 160 before under-exposure was inevitable. I left the auto white balance on as the colour temperature decided by the app was quite spot-on on this occasion. The app’s self-timer was set to 25 seconds, giving me time to get into position in the frame, playing the human element.
This image, as a self-portrait, conveys my state of mind at the moment:
Steam on the water, snow on the ground, leaves on a tree, smoke from a cigarette, man in an overcoat – all conditioned things are but fleeting existence. Nothing lasts forever. So don’t be attached whatsoever.
May all be in peace and joy!
Paul Yan is a talented photographer and Picker. He is the first author to be published on Grryo following the announcement of our partnership with Picwant.
See more of Paul on : Instagram | Interview video on YouTube
A Self-Interview: Shuko by Shuko
Photographer and Clients (Yokohama, Japan)
ONE: At what point in the development of your photography do you think your images will start to speak for themselves?
Henri Cartier-Bresson is known to have said, “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” I believe him.
I admit that I feel a long way off from having a consistent “body of photography work,” but in
the meantime, repeated efforts and studying others’ works feel very important.
Self-portrait with Water Lilies (Naoshima, Japan)
TWO: Whose photography have you studied? Which photographers and their works have impacted you the most in times to come?
Some photographers who come to mind are: Richard Avedon, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Annie Leibovitz, Peter Lindbergh, Alfred Stieglitz, Hilla and Bernd Becher, Helen Levitt, Diane Arbus, Imogen Cunningham, Dorothea Lange, Cindy Sherman, Graciela Iturbide, Denis Brihat, and Rinko Kawauchi.
Ready for the Journey (Toulouse, France)
It doesn’t seem like a huge list, but I ended up focusing on painting within the major of Visual Arts during college, so my inspirations are drawn from many disciplines.
Abstract Self-Portrait (Japan)
New Year’s Eve in Chinatown (Kobe, Japan)
Street Dancers (Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan)
In particular during high school, I was really influenced by Richard Avedon. His 1994 retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, “Evidence 1944-1994”, brought with it the opportunity to see him speak at a special lecture for high school students. My family lived one hour south of New York City, so I hopped on the train after school one day and was blown away by the photographer’s raw energy. His honest portraiture, which captured the uniqueness of the human spirit and body which was printed at a bigger-than-life scale, has left a lasting impression on me.
Before seeing the retrospective, I remembered reading about him and his work in magazines. He loved the photographed image so much that he apparently used to tape film negatives to his skin and expose them under the sun until the images burned onto his skin.
Lady with a Purple Parasol (Tokyo, Japan)
Univers Parallèle – Parallel Universe – 異世界 (Toulouse, France)
Portrait of My 91-year-old Grandmother (Tokyo, Japan)
Another photographer I met during my time studying abroad in southern France had a deep impact on me. His name is Denis Brihat, and he’s a multi-award winning nature portrait photographer who created his own chemical process to highlight the beauty of his inanimate subjects on photo paper. He was an advisor to a black and white photography class I took, and I will never forget him talking about a ten year period during which he was very quiet, developing his own method of photography. At that time, I understood better the possibility of portraiture in a wide range of categories.
Mt. Daisen (Tottori Prefecture, Japan)
Falling into an Underground Pocket (Tokyo, Japan)
THREE: You’ve talked about printed photographs by photographers you admire. How important is the printed product to you? We live in such a digital age now – how do you reconcile the difference between the wide availability of digital images and the decreasing number of images that exist as prints?
Yes, the tactile product holds a lot of significance for me since I trained as a painter. But it’s a whole different category of product now, more than ever, it seems. Ansel Adams is known to have said, “Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.” These days, that would sound absurd to hear from the mouth of a celebrated photographer! I currently live in Japan, but before I came, I was creating paintings that included photographic images printed on inkjet tissue paper. If I were still making those, twelve “photographic paintings” in one year would indeed be “a good crop”.
Gate 2 at Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine (Izumo, Japan)
Open Sesame (Kanazawa, Japan)
Rooftop Poolside (Barcelona, Spain)
FOUR: What about travel? How long have you been traveling, and what do you look for these days when you travel?
Traveling is of utmost importance to me! I’ve been traveling since I was a baby, and I have come to accept that I am always living “abroad” in one way or another. That probably sounds like an unstable mindset, but being at peace with it has opened up a lot of freedom in my thinking. For example, it allows my creative work to be more of a home to me than any geographic location. So actually, the longer I go without working on my creative projects, the more insecure and “homeless” I feel. In photography, the process of photographing and the process of editing for public viewing help me feel “at home” even if I am in a country that I wouldn’t identify as my native country.
Contemplation (Oita, Japan)
FIVE: How would you describe your relationship to architecture?
I’m pretty sensitive to spaces. Deep down, my interest in architecture is about one day finding or making a “real home” where I can work on many kinds of creative projects – a deluxe art studio. But in general, I’m keenly interested in how people build homes and other buildings for specific uses. It’s linked to my fascination about how people make themselves at home in the world – how they make themselves comfortable (personally and professionally) in order to live secure, fulfilling lives.
SIX: What inspires you, and what do you hope to inspire in others?
I’m inspired by a life lived with resolve – the ability to find and determinedly put into practice many original solutions amidst life’s challenges. It’s possible that I photograph people and places that speak to this topic. I hope that in the long run, my work can be strong enough to encourage people to live bigger than what they believed possible.
To see more of Shuko’s work, please visit her Instagram
I must have been around four or five when I sat on my parent’s bed next to my little brother. My father closed the curtains, set up the projector and showed us a Christmas time film he had made. It was about us, about me and my brother; we danced and laughed, we decorated the lowest branches of our Christmas tree with blue and red glass balls.
I remember how strange it felt looking at myself on the white bedroom wall. That was me for sure swirling on the floor without any shame. She had my ridiculous haircut and brown pantyhose. And yet, how could it be me, when I was there, sitting on the bed, carefully watching?
That is my relationship with photography. I am seeking the childhood magic.
We have an innate need to surround ourselves with stories. We use stories, written and visual ones, to make sense of life, to better understand each other and ourselves. We use stories to connect.
I‘ve always loved stories. I love listening to them, reading, and writing them, but I only started taking pictures after my first child was born. I shot to document, to remember the moments, how the light hit the green walls on our bedroom, how she smiled and waved her fingers towards the window when she woke up. The first steps, first everything. Those were the kind of pictures I wanted to have when I couldn’t sleep and was afraid I wouldn’t remember any of it.
Then we moved abroad, first to Poland, then to the States. I bought an iPhone. Little by little photography took over. The memory on my phone, constantly full. I wanted to document everything; the white walls, yellow school busses, the way everything felt like living in a collection of short stories. How new it all felt, exciting.
Soon documenting gave way to treasure hunting. I collected shadows, light, clouds, trees, houses, doors, people, streets, anything and everything. It was liberating, it felt like play. My best attempt at becoming Indiana Jones.
I’m still in that phase. I shoot everything that interests me, everything that resonates. I try to capture the red bird sitting next to my window, how the morning light falls on dead tulips at 6:27 AM when my girls are still sleeping, and I’m drinking coffee, writing.
I like street photography and I enjoy shooting portraits. I watch people and imagine what keeps them awake at 2:00 AM, what are they hiding, what songs they listen to when they feel alone. People have always interested me the most.
For me a frame is a separate moment in a story that has already begun. There’s a character, a protagonist, someone that I can relate to. There are forces that resist each other: light and darkness, uniqueness and mundane, stillness and motion. There is the feeling that something is about to happen, a twist is approaching.
A frame leaves me with questions and expectations. It creates suspense and makes me ask what if, what then, what next. But it does not provide answers. It leaves the story unresolved.
I’m drawn to frames that feel strange and mysterious, cinematic frames that feel more like Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and less CNN. I love that feeling I sometimes get when shooting, the feeling that there’s a secret I can’t immediately figure out, everything does not instantly make sense. Life does not always make sense.
What ultimately makes the scene is an emotion. Beautiful settings give me aesthetic pleasure, good frames evoke feelings. If I don’t feel anything while taking a picture, the picture won’t be good.
Emotions are personal, subjective. The feelings I have when shooting differ from the viewers’. We interpret the pictures based on the stories, fears and needs we carry within ourselves. When we look at art, we look at ourselves.
The magic of photography is it celebrates the uniqueness of a given moment. Witnessing a special moment lingering in front of me, being able to capture that, knowing that it will never exist again. Magic. It is finding shadows that make me feel small. It is a sudden eye contact in the middle of a street when waiting for the light to turn, hearing the seagulls close by. It is seeing small stories. The flag on the wall, people gathering beneath it, speaking Russian, the way the man shakes his head and watches his shoes underneath the table. It is studying expressions on his face, learning his secrets.
Photography demands I be present. Ever watching the smallest details inside one big frame.
A good frame feels like a poem, like looking at someone’s dreams.
The girl went to look for mermaids
She found green that felt heavy and tasted secrets
like a broken tea cup hidden in a closet with forget-me-nots crying for water and why
I take pictures for the same reason I write. I do it to experience how it would feel to be someone else, to understand. To better live this life as me. To be more like a child again.
You can find me on Instagram as @masusanne.
Of all the things I could do in my life, I never imagined that a photography exhibition in Tehran would be one of them. Instead, a few weeks ago I found myself (@eauditalie) on a plane bound for Tehran, for the first group exhibition of Hikari Creative, the Instagram photography group that Q. Sakamaki, Ako Salemi, Eric Mencher and I founded in December 2014 to create and curate artistic street photography, showcasing the best pictures from around the world. Since we launched, Hikari Creative has become a significant point of reference for artistic street photography on Instagram, which is something we’re truly proud of.
The Hikari Creative team (minus one): Ako Salemi (right), Q. Sakamaki (centre) and me.
The exhibition – called Chance Encounters – was held at N.6 Gallery in Tehran and was a big success. An amazing crowd turned up for the opening and it was great to discover that in Tehran there is a wonderful community of people passionate about photography. In many ways this isn’t surprising, if you think of the great film directors and photographers that Iran has produced over the past decades and the fact that for millennia Iran has been a cradle of visual beauty.
Ako Salemi, the man who made it all happen
This passion for the arts is what made our first Hikari Creative exhibition happen in Tehran instead of – for example – Rome or New York: the owner of the gallery, Mrs. Katy Dechamani, is a great fan of Ako Salemi’s work, and it was thanks to her and Ako that we founders of Hikari Creative had our first collective show.
Q. Sakamaki taking pictures at the exhibition
Eric Mencher’s wall at the exhibition
Some of my photos up on the wall
In all I spent just three days in Tehran because my official job (which is that of creating perfumes) didn’t allow me to take more time off, but thanks to Ako’s Salemi brilliant flair for organization I was able – together with Q. Sakamaki and his wife Kuniko – to spend all of my free time photographing the streets and people of Tehran.
Devotees at the Shrine of Imamzadeh Saleh in north Tehran
Ladies at the Shrine
For me the most interesting places to shoot were the Shrine of Imamzadeh Saleh in North Tehran, the bazaars – particularly Tajrish bazaar, which is one of the oldest – and also the giant cemetery outside Tehran, which is next to Imam Khomeini’s mausoleum, still under construction.
Carpet seller in the Grand Bazaar
Closing time, Tajrish Bazaar
Tehran is a city blighted by smog so, even though the sun was out, we actually never saw it. The good side to the pollution was that it gave a rather melancholy and mysterious atmosphere to most situations, which is something I really like in photography. Everybody everywhere was helpful, charming and kind, and I was able to shoot in each place as much as I wanted.
Lone woman walking outside the Imam Khomeini Mausoleum
Child playing in front of Imam Khomeini’s portrait at the Mausoleum
Mosque under construction
Martyr’s tomb at the Tehran Cementery
I only wish I’d had more time in Tehran. I hope to go back soon to see and photograph more of the country and its wonderful people – till then Tehran will remain in my heart as one of the most fascinating and interesting places I’ve ever been to.
Floating memories – Tehran
To see more of Marinas’ fantastic images please visit :
instagram | hikari creative
Antonio Denti has been a Reuters staff cameraman for 17 years, covering historical events in different parts of the world: from Indonesia to Turkey to the Vatican.
Instagram has become the avenue for Antonio to process his experience as a news cameraman into a personal artistic expression. His images are provoking as they serve as evidence of historical events as they unfold. Here is Antonio’s story by his words and images.
Even though I have worked on stories alongside famed photographers, journalists and documentarists, most news cameramen like me are anonymous. For example, many may know Robert Capa as the one who photographed D-day, but very few know the names of the other cameramen who documented and risked their lives to record that event.
Besides anonymity, the work of a news cameraman is like the life of a mayfly. Very quick passages in one-minute TV reports. I don’t even know if some of the stories that meant more to me, like the one on Baghdad’s mental hospital at the start of my Instagram project, were ever aired by any news channel.
When my first son started walking, this last winter, something changed. I continue to respect the job that feeds me and my family, but I wanted to give some space to the real reasons why I have chosen this field of work.
As a photographer, I study the lives of others as as a profession. The people I have photographed were the ones really affected by what was happening. In every place and situation, even though I was there, I was the least affected. What allowed me to feel that I could look at them in the eyes and keep working was not a moral motive, but a personal one.
I would try my best to get the essence of what was happening to them, the spirit behind the facts, the expression (good or bad) of the universal human condition that was happening in their lives and take it with me, to try and learn something of myself and of my life. I do not believe media coverage necessarily helps people. Sometimes it can damage them. However, I think that human affairs are important and precious, meaningful and full of sense. And if you try to catch that sense, a portion of that sense, you celebrate and respect the people whose lives you have intruded upon.
This principle, which is very important for me, has no room in news coverage as it is now, despite the great freedom and respect I have enjoyed from the agency I work for.
Instagram gave me a platform to work on it, as a laboratory for this random cameraman’s diary. Also because, when I think back of things I have seen, they usually come back as stills, not as moving pictures.
The project is entirely made by iPhone captures of my own professional photography over the years. I try to post an image every Thursday, with no definite theme or plan. Like many of my ‘experienced colleagues’ (as in aging) I have captured a lot of moments of people’s lives and this project will continue for some time… I hope.
You can find Antonio’s project on his Instagram page, where he is @antclick.
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I was introduced to Jordan Foy by a mutual friend. I was told Jordan had something to do with a mobile photography and I needed to speak to him. We hooked up and from there I discovered more about his involvement with the app Steller, a new storytelling app that has become a firm favourite in my camera bag.
Jordan is based in the historic city of Chester, UK. Even though he is still at university Jordan has worked in the creative industry for others or by himself since the age of 15. In 2011 he was nominated for the Young UK Entrepreneur Awards due to the work he did with the hotels in his local seaside resort of Blackpool. Jordan saw a market on his doorstep where he could sell photography on a large scale. Following on from this he has held an exhibition in a small gallery in Chester and become involved with the team at Steller. This has been an awesome opportunity that has enabled him to meet so many talented creators in the community.
AB: How were you first introduced to iPhone photography?
JF: I first got my hands on iPhone photography when I got my first iPhone. I was obsessed with it, it blew my mind. I even had two cases! I went through the Instagram filters and frame phase and luckily looked back and learned from my mistakes. I love iPhone photography more than I ever thought, and I haven’t picked up an actual SLR since, I feel it doesn’t matter what you take the snap on.
AB: Photographically, what subjects fascinate you and how would you describe your style?
JF: I don’t have a style. This is something I used to constantly worry about. I was worried that I would get left behind and be a failed creative if I didn’t have a style, so I would try and fix this with a style/genre. I soon learnt this is really not the way to do it. I am consistently inconsistent with what I produce, I just like to document everything. I am fascinated with and inspired by others’ creativity. That is what drives me to be better to experiment with new approaches all the time.
AB: We were introduced by a mutual friend who told me about your involvement with the app, Steller. Tell us about Steller and how the idea behind the app came about?
JF: Steller is a new creative social media app where people can share their stories, experiences and interests, which elsewhere can be hard to share. Steller allows you to create your stories right on the phone through images, videos and text. It has a beautiful design aspect to it for creators and its simple to use. There’s a really vibrant and diverse community taking shape of photographers, food lovers, adventurers and creatives that are very inspiring and sharing in a whole new way.
AB: During its launch week, Steller was featured as Apple’s ‘Editors App of the Week’ which is quite an achievement. What makes Steller so special and how is it different from other photo apps or social networks?
JF: I think the thing that makes Steller so unique is people have a fresh way of sharing. This is something that today everybody is doing, everyone is sharing that latest snap in their camera roll, everyone is keeping people updated with what is happening in their lives and what makes them tick. Steller allows you to do all this in a bitesize interactive story where you can share everything from your latest holiday, to your latest creative photography project, to you’re freshly baked goods straight out the oven! Steller allows you to tell a story, which we all have the ability to do, in a way that’s very beautiful looking and personally designed. With Steller, you have a platform to tell stories grand and small to your hearts content and share them wherever you like.
AB: What are the key ingredients that make up a good photographic story?
JF: Great original photography. I am always very intrigued with how people see the world. I actually have an ongoing hashtag series called #seewhatisee on Steller. This allows people to see into other peoples lives and the way in which they document their last 7 days. This is always very interesting. The app is filled with incredible creatives who use photography and videography in all different ways.
AB: Who are your favourite Steller storytellers and why?
JF: I love all different types of stories and new users keep catching my eye with stories that really keep me interested and anticipating their next ones. Recently I have really enjoyed stories from:
@Devin Castro : Devin’s Memory Bank Series in ongoing series which contain fleeting moments in his life.
@Dariustwin : Darren’s dinosaur lightpainting is magic.
@srt4shawn : Shawn’s Convex Views is a real head spin, very creative.
@asenseofhuber : Turtle Tuesday is an awesome project!
@ChadCopeland : iPhone Only Alaska has mind blowing captured scenes.
@tifforelie : Tiffany’s recipe for autumn chili has her signature mastery beautiful natural light in mobile photography.
AB: Where do you get your inspiration for the stories you tell?
JF: I take a lot of inspiration from Devin Castro as I am fascinated with how he tells a story, and how he documents scenes. I also love taking inspiration from different genres. It expands my eyes to the way others produce photography in say food or interiors or architecture, and adopt it to my own practice.
AB: Where can people find out more about Steller?
JF: People can get their hands on Steller for free on the App Store. You can also check out our featured stories on our Instagram page which is updated everyday with the top stories from all different types of creatives. You can also check out the Steller website for our Editors top picks and Most Viewed stories, as well as search for any subject or user on the app.
Connect with Jordan Foy
Steller // Instagram