Note: Every week, I feature street photographers with great skill and soul. For this week, I decided to feature street photographer Caspar Claasen. Whenever I look at his work, I have to always take a closer look as something fascinating is always happening. The subtleties and humor of the images may not be apparent at first, but the guy definitely has a knack of capturing decisive moments. Want to hear where he finds inspiration and how he shoots on the street? Read his exclusive interview below and become inspired.
1. How did you get started in street photography?
First of all, I think I started street photography way too late! Although, way back in the early nineties, I actually did already do some street photography.
But for reasons I can’t remember, I stopped shooting on the streets. Perhaps it had to do with simply time and money…
Now, for ten years already, I have worked as a visual designer.
So I have been making designer photographs as well–capturing stylish and pretty pictures of buildings and landscapes and shapes and forms.
Not bad at all, but really quite abstract, lonely, and to be honest, quite boring too.
Then one day, not that long ago, it simply hit me:
I sat down and looked at my favourite photos and photographers, and saw they had one thing in common: they were taken in the middle of life, on the streets, and were about life, about people.
So if I wanted to really do this photography thing, dammit, I needed to take the jump.
I just got out there.
And though it scared me to bits, candidly shooting complete strangers, suddenly the idea of not shooting them at all was even more scary.
2. How do you shoot in the streets?
I walk (a lot) and see what I run into, see what happens. And if something happens I hope to catch that. And then walk on.
I do not want my photos to be staged or posed, so I never ask. To me, that would be like a lab scientist telling the mice what to do.
Also, I want to have an honest and open attitude when taking photographs.
This means that I don’t use a sneaky big lens and secretly shoot from the other side of the street. Also I almost never shoot from the hip, unless there is simply no time.
People (and mice too) rarely ask me what I’m doing.
3. Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration mostly and naturally in other photographers’ work.
I do believe in knowing, and learning from, the classic street photographers.
Winogrand, Leiter, Van der Elsken, etcetera. The more modern classics like Weber, Stuart, Einzig, all the known names.
The Street Photography Now book is great for seeing if what I am doing matches up (on a lucky day, maybe).
I recently rediscovered this other great book I own, from the ’80′s, Goodbye Manhattan by Nicolas Faure, just to drop another name.
And of course the interwebs is insanely full with street photography nowadays–although a lot is mediocre and exchangeable.
4. What do you love most about street photography?
I love all the clichés. I love being outside, just walking with no specific place to go. Biggest cliché: I love not knowing what will happen next. The freedom. The realness. I love it when things magically work out.
But, and most street photographers will recognize this, there’s also a frustrating and darker side to it. Being completely dependent on strangers and daylight.
There are days I come home exhausted, with nothing to show for. And there are days when I think I have nothing, but at home, behind the computer, I find I did make a good shot.
And vice versa, when I find out a promising shot failed miserably.
What I do love is when I find out I got really lucky. I find something working out perfectly, something I didn’t see when taking the picture.
All those hours walking in the cold rain suddenly worth it!
Martin Parr recently said it right: “It’s luck, but it’s earned luck.”
5. What is the #1 tip you have for aspiring street photographers?
Since I am an aspiring street photographer myself, I can give a lot of tips. And all of these I try to apply to myself too.
To start, be serious and ambitious (two tips already).
Be critical. To me, street photography is not about simply being outside and snapping a picture of someone you don’t know.
Anyone with some guts can do that. It’s about shooting an image in which something truly happens. An image with context. With some form of urgency.
So push your limits.
Do scary things.
So what do you think about Caspar’s story on how he got started on street photography and his thoughts on street photography? Leave a comment below and show him some love!