Alliance Française de Singapour is going to showcase the International Women Photographers Award - 2019 with the partnership of the International Women Photographer Association (IWPA). Zero Photos’ Michelle Chan is the laureate and her series “Crab Seniors” will be exhibited From 6 June to 27 July 2019.
1. You spent the last few years working on an ongoing and long-term project called “East is East.” Can you please explain the project and the reasons behind focusing on Eastern Anatolia region in Turkey, which is a challenging location to photograph.
As an artist I have a strong bond with Eastern Turkey. I was born in Adana, but my whole family comes from Elazig, which is in the east of Turkey. Even though I have spent very little time in the East as a child, I have a real connection with the people there. The East contains powerful stories that speak to me; Stories that need to be heard or in my case seen. My project is about the Eastern people, their way of seeing the world, their hopes and everyday struggles. In this project I’m not only putting an effort to tell these stories but also pouring my soul in to through photography.
2. According to you, what makes a good photo stand out from an average one? What makes it special?
I think in order to make a good photograph stand out the artist needs to balance the technique and the story behind it and have unique signature style which will help to complete the photograph. I believe if you have a connection with your story this way you can give the viewer real feelings and the photograph will stay in your memory.
3. When comparing your early works with recent years, we see a sudden change in your style, what was the reason for this? How did this change happen?
I felt a bit lost in my own art. Everything was too easy and it felt repetitive. I did not feel like myself anymore and I was in search for something more meaningful to me. I decided to participate in a few workshops with great photographers like Abbas, Jacob Au Sobol and Nikos Economopoulos. I must say after Nikos’ workshop, I found what I was looking for and he certainly changed my life and the way I look at images and the way I look for them as well. He helped me find my own path and myself again.
4. What kind of equipment do you carry with you?
Honestly I don’t carry much with me anymore. I like to keep it as minimal as possible. Just my trusty Leica M262 and a 35 mm Lens.
5. What are your thoughts on the state of contemporary photography? Do you see any new and interesting trends of emerging photographers worth paying attention to?
My honest opinion about contemporary photography is that it seems temporary. Call me old fashioned if you want but the concept behind those are always the same. I have been seeing so many photographs with the same styles and same frames. Characters that look the same, almost the same given messages and even with the same color pallets. It’s more like they have been taken to be consumed not to speak to viewers.
I hope the new generation of photographers will continue to photograph with their own unique way and stop following the same things that everybody has already seen.
If you want to see good photographers just check Zerophotos members and their works. This way you will feel happy and understand how not to be repetitive.
6. Tell us about the concept behind your photography workshops? What do you teach and what should participants expect to bring to and gain from your workshops?
Practice will help participants recognize situations and details that can make a great shot. It will also help them develop social skills and the ability to interact with strangers.
Photography is an attitude, it is an openness to being amazed by what you will discover every time you take a walk with your camera. With practice and some hard work, they will learn to notice the extraordinary and beautiful narratives that are occurring in front of them every day.
My next workshop will be held in early October 2019. Schedule and location will be announced in a few months.
1. Most of your work is black and white. However, you do have color frames in your portfolio. Talk about the decision-making process about when you choose which and why?
The first pictures I was drawn to were black and white. Growing up in a family of colourful abstract painters, funny enough photography was always black and white for me. Getting my hands on a book of August Sander's "People of the 20th Century", I discovered early my interest for photography of people in their environment. But just lately, five years ago, I started to choose photography as my form of expression. And I chose b/w as most photographers I feel connected to and which pictures I admire do the same. My all-time favorite Josef Koudelka. I observed that b&w reduces to the characteristics I am looking for: expression in faces, personality and relations between people. No distraction from the essentials and composition.
Now, why color at all? In rare cases for me, color gets essential. May it be the color contrast or a certain color combination that adds the zest to it. An example is a picture taken in Ghana where the yellow flip-flops gain such an importance for me that I broke my routine with pleasure.
2. How do you like working on assignment? How is it different from shooting for your self?
On my own, I am looking for special moments when things are right, a touch of here and now, of freedom in time and place. The appeal of assignments is to develop a new perspective together with my clients. I try to see the world through my clients' eyes: what would be of their pleasure, what could change their view on the world around them? A surprising journey. In both situations, in my view empathy is key.
3. In many of your pictures you are very close to the subject. Can you tell us something about your approach - any tips and tricks?
There is no short-cut, I have to be near to the subject. Especially as I've chosen to use a 28 mm prime lens. At first, this sounds like a technical requirement and you could say, just use a zoom lens. But this is not an option for me. In my experience, prime lenses catch the personality of the subjects stronger and more visible.
But, of course, it's not easy to come close to the subjects. I think, there are two parts. When I am in the flow, I completely loose the feeling to be a kind of disturbance to the people around me. I act as it would be totally natural that I am around. And in those special moments, people also have the same feeling about me.
It helps to stay very calm, move slowly and smile a lot. In my case, I am also never demanding or trying to direct the situation because I always want to have my pictures to be candid.
4. Do you think your musical background helped you in developing a communication ability with the people?
This is an interesting question. I never saw it like this. But yes, performing in front of many unknown people definitely helped me lose shyness. This might be especially rewarding when making the first encounter.
5. What is the importance of post processing to you? What are your limits of editing a photography? What kind of post processing are you doing and what tools are you using?
The process of taking pictures for me is always in color because also my surrounding when taking photos is obviously in color. I review my pictures a lot while working, but do not want to view them in b/w on the display of the digital camera. So, turning to b/w is the first step of post processing. Afterwards, there might be some minimal contrast and brightness adjustments. In rare cases, I do some cropping. In general, the aesthetics of my Leica suits me very well such that the post processing can be reduced to a minimum.
My name is Kristof Huf. I was born in Mexico and I am half Canadian, half German and live in Munich Germany. I studied Jazzbass and Restoration.
My name is Costas Polinakis. I started my journey with B&W film thirty years ago, but later I switched to digital. I’m more interested in documentary and travel photography now. I currently live in Greece, but I’m very fond of exploring new places and cultures.
1 . Which was the most interesting place for you that you photographed? And why?
I think it was my first trip to Ghana with Nikos Economopoulos. Being my first time in an African country, the cultural differences inspired me to took some meaningful photos. So far, I love all the places I have visited and had a chance to shoot photos in, but Ghana felt special to me. I connected a lot both with the locals and the people I traveled with.
2 . For you what is the importance of the camera used in the field? What type of cameras you prefer and why?
I am not very fond of post processing in my photography. I’m looking for that perfect shot that I will not manipulate later on my computer. So I decide and act very quickly. For this reason, the camera is very important. In the past, I used to have good results with DSLR’s but lately I started using smaller cameras with fix lenses which are more versatile and inconspicuous. Sometimes I even use my phone which has wider 28mm alike focal length. All in all, I prefer to use smaller, unnoticeable and quick cameras with autofocus. They are easy to carry and don’t bother people like big DSLR’s.
3 . Do you make observations on an area to locate interesting backgrounds or revisit or you prefer a more spontaneous approach?
As I don’t have so much time to travel I prefer spontaneous photos, taken “in the moment,” so I can’t say I revisit the places that much. But generally, I pay attention to the elements of the location, the background, the light, shadows and then after this quick observation I begin to photograph. I am not thinking too much prior to taking a photo, for me the most important is grasping the unique expressions of people involved in some activity or just the subject’s mood.
4. How do you organize your time for photography?
Photography to me is always related with travelling to new places and meeting new people. As much as, I have time for travelling, I carry my camera with me and those are the times when I have a chance to actively shoot. Other than that, I carry my camera with me, but it’s rare that I come up with good results. Those are generally more personal photos of my family, especially my son Harry.
5. What recommendations do you have for photographers interested in portrait and documentary photography?
I recommend to new photographers to make observations even if they don’t carry a camera with them. Trying to understand the human situations is always a good approach and adds a lot to your photographic skills and language. This practice will give you the confidence you will need to get closer to your subjects. By doing this you will never need to use big telephoto lenses on people. I shoot mostly with moderate wide-angle lenses, so I have to go close and often I can't avoid interaction with the subject. It's much more difficult than shooting with a telephoto lens but the result is different.
And finally build your own ethical and moral rules. As the eye behind the camera, distorting or manipulating the truth will be in your hands, use this power carefully on your subjects and on your viewers.
2018 was a special year for ZERO as it was our first year. To celebrate and say farewell to 2018 we wanted to showcase where our members traveled and what they shot. Enjoy!
My name is Kasia Trojak, I’m a Polish-born, LA-based assistant director working on feature film and TV productions. My interest in photography ignited while studying in Paris, shooting and developing black and white film, and it grew into an ongoing exploration of places and people by wandering the streets of distant locations and capturing their stories.
1. Who are the photographers that inspire you or have inspired you in your photographic work the most?
When it comes to street photography, I admire Alex Webb and his attention to detail, composition, and study of light and color. I have been inspired by photographers who have different approaches from what and how I shoot but who create amazing, out of this world images. The use of light and color and the abstraction of bodies and shapes in Viviane Sassen’s personal work stays in the back of my head when walking around and seeing people. I also especially admire the direct, honest, raw and yet very creative and personal approach of Deana Lawson. She has a point of view that seems ordinary and descriptive but that is carefully crafted and unique. Even though her portraits are staged they don’t lie.
2. What are the challenges of being a female photographer working primarily in the street?
Some challenges include the society’s expectations and fears imposed on solo female travelers. Fear of “what if?” has stopped me multiple times from taking a picture that I saw clearly and composed only in my head. Also, the reactions of people and subjects encountered on the streets can be discouraging. In the past, I would feel uncomfortable when approached by strangers while shooting. It took me years of practice to learn how to interact with people I wanted to photograph and have less of those “photographs I haven’t taken” in my head, and more on the memory card in my camera. All in all, I think that women’s contributions to photography are limitless and that women shouldn’t be treated as less capable.
3. Most of your work is focused on life in Cuba, do you have any other locations to focus on or are you more focused on a project about Cuba?
I have been spending a lot of time in Cuba in the last few years. It is a truly magical place to me and I can’t imagine not photographing the Cuban life and activities. I’m pursuing ongoing projects there concentrating on the young generation of Cubans, who are not limited by their country’s history and who are pursuing their dreams and following their creativity. To me, coming from a post-communist country, growing up watching the same Polish cartoons as Cubans, understanding similar hardships, to me Cuba is a kind of special place that doesn’t exist anywhere else. I lust for the creative life that my generation has there and I strive to document it in multiple simultaneous projects.
4. There’s an ongoing debate about the ethics of photographing strangers. What is your approach and how do you maintain a balance between taking from and giving to the people you photograph?
My first instincts are to try to remain unnoticed, as I think people’s reactions to me will ruin the picture. For portraits, I try to engage with people and then ask them if I can take their picture, directing them not to smile or not to show me peace signs or thumbs up, etc. Also, this question needs to be approached on a case to case basis. I think there are times when you need to “steal” a picture, without the person giving you a permission to take it; and sometimes it’s an exchange based on mutual understanding and compliance resulting in meeting new people, maybe even forming friendships. Doesn’t matter the means, the end result for me is always the same: to capture, create or freeze a moment that is forever beautiful, nostalgic, reminiscing of the time and the place – the outcome has to be positive. Even If you can’t give back directly to your subject maybe you can give their beauty to somebody else or to yourself. To me that is why I do what I do.
5. What do you think about social media and the Internet’s positive effects on photography today?
I think that the Internet is a great tool for presenting and promoting your work. Social media has changed the genre of photojournalism and documentary for sure, mourning the printed craft, and a lot of photographers have suffered from it. However, it could be a good way to monetize on your craft as well. Nowadays many creative businesses had to adjust due to the growth of the Internet and social media, and whether we like it or not, it is the direction that we need to adapt to. I think it also gave opportunities to regular and talented people to exhibit their work and they wouldn’t have been able to do so without it. On the Internet you are your own curator, your own publisher, and for the lack of the better word, your own brand. If used with intention, it can promote and establish your work.
Nazywam się Kasia Trojak. Pochodzę z Polski, a mieszkam w Los Angeles, gdzie pracuję jako drugi reżyser przy filmach pełnometrażowych i produkcjach telewizyjnych. Moje zainteresowanie fotografią zrodziło się, kiedy studiowałam w Paryżu - robiłam i wywoływałam wtedy czarno-białe zdjęcia tradycyjne - po czym ewoluowało w kierunku, którego trzymam się do dziś: skupiam się na miejscach i ludziach napotkanych podczas wędrówek ulicami dalekich krajów, i na uchwytywaniu ich historii.
1. Którzy fotografowie inspirują bądź zainspirowali cię najbardziej?
Wśród fotografów ulicznych podziwiam Alexa Webba i jego dbałość o szczegóły, kompozycje, uwagę, z jaką zgłębia światło i kolor. Inspirują mnie artyści, których zdjęcia różnią się od moich tematycznie i stylistycznie, ale są wspaniałe, nie z tej ziemi. Kiedy chodzę ulicami i widzę różnych ludzi, mam z tyłu głowy niesamowitą grę światła i kolorów oraz abstrakcyjność ciał i kształtów, jakie znajdujemy na zdjęciach Viviane Sassen. Szczególnie podziwiam też bezpośrednie, szczere, surowe, a przy tym bardzo twórcze i osobiste podejście Deany Lawson. Jej sposób patrzenia na świat wydaje się zwyczajny, opisowy, a w istocie jest głęboko przemyślany i niepowtarzalny. Jej portrety, choć aranżowane, nie kłamią.
2. Z jakimi wyzwaniami musi się mierzyć kobieta fotograf, której zdjęcia powstają głównie na ulicy?
Do wyzwań należą między innymi oczekiwania społeczeństwa i lęki narzucane kobietom podróżującym samotnie. Obawa „a co jeśli?” wielokrotnie powstrzymała mnie przed zrobieniem zdjęcia, które widziałam wyraźnie oczami wyobraźni. Ponadto reakcje napotkanych na ulicy osób, które chce się sfotografować, bywają zniechęcające. W przeszłości czułam się nieswojo, kiedy obcy podchodzili do mnie w czasie robienia zdjęć. Potrzebowałam wielu lat praktyki, żeby nauczyć się zwracać do osób, których chcę sfotografować, a tym samym mieć mniej „zdjęć, których nie zrobiłam” w głowie, a więcej obrazów na karcie pamięci w aparacie. Ogólnie rzecz biorąc, uważam, że kobiety mają nieograniczony wkład w fotografię i że nie należy ich traktować jako mniej kompetentne.
3. Większość twoich prac ukazuje życie na Kubie; czy skupiasz się też na jakich innych miejscach, czy też jednak głównym tematem jest Kuba?
Od kilku lat spędzam na Kubie dużo czasu. To dla mnie naprawdę magiczne miejsce i nie wyobrażam sobie, żebym miała przestać fotografować kubańskie życie i zajęcia. Pracuję tam nad projektami poświęconymi młodszemu pokoleniu Kubańczyków, ludziom, których nie ogranicza historia ich kraju, którzy podążają za marzeniami i realizują się kreatywnie. Dla mnie, osoby, która pochodzi z postkomunistycznego kraju, która wychowała się na tych samych kreskówkach co mieszkańcy Kuby, która rozumie dotykające ich trudności życiowe, Kuba jest miejscem wyjątkowym, miejscem, jakiego nie ma nigdzie indziej. Pragnę takiej kreatywności, jaką wykazują się tam moi rówieśnicy, i dążę do tego, żeby udokumentować ją poprzez kilka prowadzonych jednocześnie projektów.
4. Cały czas toczy się dyskusja wokół etyczności fotografowania nieznajomych. Jakie masz do tego podejście i jak zachowujesz równowagę między tym, co czerpiesz od ludzi, którym robisz zdjęcia, a tym, co im dajesz?
W pierwszym odruchu usiłuję pozostać niezauważona, gdyż jestem zdania, że reakcja fotografowanego na mnie zepsuje zdjęcie. Przy portretach staram się najpierw nawiązać kontakt, a dopiero potem pytam, czy mogę zrobić zdjęcie; proszę ludzi, żeby się nie uśmiechali, nie pokazywali mi znaku pokoju, nie podnosili kciuka, i tak dalej. Ponadto każdy przypadek należy traktować indywidualnie. Myślę, że są sytuacje, w których trzeba „ukraść” zdjęcie, zrobić je bez zgody osoby, którą się fotografuje; czasem z kolei dochodzi do interakcji opartej na wzajemnym zrozumieniu i przyzwoleniu, dzięki którym poznaje się nowych ludzi, a nawet zawiera przyjaźnie. Natomiast ostateczny cel, nieważne jak osiągnięty, jest dla mnie zawsze taki sam: uchwycić, stworzyć, zatrzymać chwilę, która jest wiecznie piękna, nostalgiczna, która przywołuje dany czas i miejsce - rezultat musi być pozytywny. Nawet jeśli nie możesz bezpośrednio odwdzięczyć się osobie fotografowanej, może podarujesz jej piękno komuś innemu, albo sobie. Właśnie dlatego robię to, co robię.
5. Co myślisz o mediach społecznościowych i pozytywnym wpływie Internetu na dzisiejszą fotografię?
Uważam, że Internet to wspaniałe narzędzie do prezentowania i promowania prac. Media społecznościowe niewątpliwie odmieniły fotoreportaż i fotografię dokumentalną i wielu artystów na tym ucierpiało. Przy tym jednak mogą też stać się dobrym sposobem na czerpanie zysków z twórczości. Wiele kreatywnych biznesów musiało się dostosować do nowych realiów związanych z rozwojem Internetu i mediów społecznościowych - czy im się to podoba, czy nie, to jest kierunek, który musimy obierać. Myślę, że Internet i media społecznościowe pozwoliły też wielu utalentowanym ludziom pokazać swoją twórczość, na co inaczej nie mieliby szansy. W Internecie sam jesteś swoim kuratorem, wydawcą i - z braku lepszego określenia - swoją marką. Jeśli korzysta się z tej platformy w sposób przemyślany, pozwala wypromować twórczość i ugruntować pozycję.