Ibarionex Perello is a photographer, writer, educator as well as the host and producer of The Candid Frame photography podcast. He is the author of 5 books including “Chasing the Light Improving Your Photography Using Available Light“. His latest book is “Portraits of Strangers.”
Great having you Ibarionex! For people who may not be so familiar with you and your work, can you tell us your life story and how you got introduced to photography?
I was introduced to photography while attending the Boys of Club of Hollywood when I was very young. The experience of developing film and making prints was a revelation for me. The experience of making photographs that people responded to in a positive way was a very self-affirming experience for me. It was something that I was certainly lacking in my life and photography provided me an opportunity to value myself and the way that I saw the world. That simple emotional response is what did and continues to inspire so much of what I do around photography.
You run one of the most educational and listened to photography podcasts : “The Candid Frame“. Can you share how you got the idea for it, and why you do it?
I started the show 8 years ago as a result of listening to other podcasts which solely focused on gear and equipment. I thought what was missing was actual conversations with photographers about photography. Because of my experience as a writer and editor, I knew plenty of photographers and the skills to conduct a decent interview. So, I learned how to create and distribute a podcast and just started putting it out there. Now, the show enjoys thousands of listeners from all of the world and has featured conversations with some great photographers including MaryEllen Mark, Elliot Erwitt, Dan Winters, David Hobby, Zack Arias, Douglas Kirkland and hundred of others. It’s been a great source of inspiration for me and the thousands of others who listen to the show.
Tell us more about your interest and passion in teaching and writing on photography. What are some of the most valuable lessons you offer to students trying to find their own vision and capturing light?
As simple as it sounds, it’s just to shoot as much as possible. Don’t do it just on the weekend or once a month. It’s important to make it a daily practice, even if its with a camera phone. The practice of shooting is not just about learning how to use a camera, but developing a unique way of seeing. The camera doesn’t make much of a difference with respect to that. The only way to get better as a photographer is to develop a sense of light and composition. Though it’s certainly important to know your camera, it’s importantly only so far as it becomes second nature to you. Nothing ruins the rhythm of shooting than being preoccupied with camera settings. This is why shooting on a daily basis, if at all possible, helps to both master the gear as well as developing one’s way of seeing and making photographs.
You’ve recently wrote a new ebook on shooting portraits of strangers on the streets. How did your first interest in street photography emerge, and what role does portraiture play in your work?
I’ve been shooting on the street since I first started making pictures. I remember walking around Hollywood with a camera looking for things to photographs, especially people. So, I was shooting on the street long before I ever became aware of the genre of street photography.
As a street photographer, I produce a lot of street portraiture. As a result, it’s something that I’m often asked about. How do I approach people to make their photographs? How do I make the image that I make? So, I wrote the book as a means of answering that question. There is a lot of interest in doing this by photographers, but many people are fearful and anxious about the process. The book is meant to address those fears and I dedicated an entire chapter to contending with those feelings and then moving past them to make great portraits. I hope that it will help people to brave approaching people, because if my experience is any indicator most people respond favorably to being photographed.
What are some of the fears you personally have in street photography, and what are some strategies you’ve been able to overcome some of them?
My biggest fear currently is simply a concern about repeating myself. I have been shooting for a long time and so there are certain kinds of street images that I am quite adept at making, some of which I see as cliche. So, whenever I go out and shoot, I’m concerned with pushing my personal limits of seeing and photographing. I want to see and making photographs that I’ve not made before and that can be difficult at times. Ironically, I have to let to go of even this expectation when I go out and shoot in order to get to a place mentally, where I can be open to something new. If I go out with an agenda, I usually fail miserably. When I simply put myself into a state of mind where I just see, react and shoot, I can surprise myself with some great and unexpected results.
You tell us more about your new ebook? Who is the book for, and what are the benefits the readers will get from it?
As I mentioned before, the idea of photographing strangers is something that people feel a lot of fear about. So, they are often asking myself and other photographers how they achieve their images. The book is meant to provide insight and tips on how to photograph strangers whether the image is a collaborative portrait or a candid shot of a moment on the street. There is no particularly secret to it, it’s just about developing a personal practice. Every one approaches it differently.
There is a Bruce Gilden approach and on the other extreme is Henri Cartier Bresson. Neither is better than the other, but they each produce significantly different images. It really comes down to finding an approach and technique that serves your own personal way of seeing. The book is meant to inspire to move past whatever personal obstacles they’ve created for themsleves and to discover the great images that can only happen when you move past your own fear, doubts and insecurities. The images that you produce as a result will slowly diminish those concerns that are based on nothing more than feelings and fear that never really manifest themselves outside of our own minds.
For street photographers starting off and still nervous approaching strangers, what are some assignments you would offer them?
Schedule regular time for shooting. If you have a day job, take part of your lunch break to shoot for 20 minutes. Or find some way to make shooting a regular part of your week. Don’t just wait for the weekend to pick up the camera. If you wait for the weekend, that’s only 4 times a month that you will actually get out and practice your craft. It’s hard to develop and refine your skills with that little practice. Imagine a musician only practicing four times a month and expecting to become a great performer by the end of the year. It’s not going to happen. It’s no less so with a photographer.
Who are some street photographers you recommend people to check out?
I recommend people check out the work of William Albert Allard and Fred Herzog. They are both masters of color street photography. They are from two different eras of photography, but they both demonstrate an incredible sensitivity to light and color. If you want to see how light and color can be a subject onto itself, these are two great photographers to check out.
Any last words or things you would like to mention?
I heartily recommend people listen to the show if they want to truly be inspired by some amazingly talented photographers. I have not only interviewed several street photographers, but also photographers from other genres, all of whom will inspire and enlighten you.