Archive of week 10 interview.
1) Tell us where you’re from and how that has influenced your photography.
I'm from Sheffield in South Yorkshire, England, but I've lived in London for about 10 years. I've never really given much thought as to whether where I'm from has influenced the shots I take. There is a lot of beautiful countryside on the doorstep of Sheffield which I spent a great deal of time in as a child, but I'm not really a fan of classic landscape photography. I tend to be drawn to more urban, gritty scenes - maybe in contrast to what I grew up with.
2) You just visited NYC on vacation (or Holiday as the British say). How is street photography different on the other side of the pond?
If anything the people I asked for their portrait in NYC were less suspicious of me and more willing to pose. New York does have quite a frenetic feel to it, so I think when it comes to 'classic' street photography, it is perhaps easier to 'hide', so to speak. Whilst there I saw a guy taking candid street shots, he was getting seriously close to people, but they didn't seem to notice, and he then just disappeared into the hustle and bustle of the sidewalk.
3) How do you approach random people on the street to take their photograph?
I find the quicker the exchange the better. Rather than launching into a big explanation, I just smile and politely ask if I can take their picture. Most people say yes, some people ask why. If they ask, I say it's just for my portfolio. Sometimes I might flatter them a little, such as telling them they have a great look, which tends to do the trick! I'm always a little nervous when I ask the first one of the day, sometimes my hands go a bit shaky which can be a bit problematic! Once you've asked the first though it gets much easier.
4) Tell us about your "Brief Encounters" series.
It's a series that has evolved rather than been planned. When I first got my digital camera (summer 2006) I found I began to take far more pictures than I ever did on film, mainly because cost was no longer an issue. I started a mini documentary project, in which I aimed to get 20 decent shots of London life each month for a year (they're buried in my Flickr stream somewhere). As part of these shots, I would get the odd street portrait. After a while I realised it was the street portraits that interested me most, and the documentary stuff took more of a back seat (although I do still like to mix it up). When I go out shooting now, I'm disappointed if I come back without any portraits.
5) I love how some of your street portraits are diptychs. What inspired you to show two different views like that?
I only recently discovered the wonders of diptychs when looking at all the amazing stuff on Flickr. I just began playing around one day, at first with two portrait shots of the same person, just with different expressions, then I realised that not only was it nice to see a face in close-up, but it was interesting to see a bit of context regarding their surroundings. I haven't seen a lot of diptychs like that, but I'm sure I'm by no means the first person to do it.
6) Tell us something we don’t know about one of the portraits chosen for Spotlight Seven.
I didn't know that Brian Haw apparently makes a point of not looking at the lens, so I count myself very lucky.
7) If someone was going to buy you one piece of equipment at B&H, whatever you wanted, what would it have been?
Oh a D300, without a shadow of a doubt!
8) Are there any photographers that you admire or seek to emulate?
I love the work of Jane Bown, the resident portrait photographer for The Observer magazine & newspaper. I believe she's in her 80's now but still going strong. She takes beautiful, simple black & white portrait shots that cut right to the heart of her sitters. She still works on film, and uses natural light wherever possible. What I love the most is that she carries a light bulb with her, just in case she can't find suitable window light. Her job would be my dream job. Other leading photographers that I admire include Martin Parr, Mario Testino and Anton Corbijn. Flickr continues to be my main inspiration though, I'm astounded at some of the talent that's out there.
9) What are your goals as far as photography is concerned?
I don't have any major goals, I just hope I never lose the passion I have for it. Being recognised in any way is great, and like Eamon, I would love to be shortlisted for the NPG portrait prize. The most important thing for me is to keep taking pictures.
10) Show us a photograph you wish you took on Flickr.
This was tough, because there's so much great stuff to choose from. I think it has to be this one though: www.flickr.com/photos/mikepeters/2075215566/