Note: Every Wednesday, I try to feature street photographers with great skill and soul. For this week, I decided to feature street photographer Jimmy Dovholt! The brother has a great eye and is representing the streets of Stockholm, Sweden. I remember stumbling upon his blog one day, and being totally blown away by his great eye. Peep this great bio written by him and give him a big hand as English isn’t his first language! Also feel free to check out the feature from last week with Neal Bingham.
1. How did you get started in street photography?
I took up photography in the summer of 2006 when I bought a cheap DSLR to go with a couple of old Pentax lenses I had from the early nineties. I realized pretty soon that I was not going to evolve quickly enough on my own, so I became a member of a large Swedish photo community.
Later that same year I shot what I consider to be my first street photograph (pictured above) and began looking for the right pool in the community to get some feedback. I found something called street photography and loved it instantly.
I soon realized that I had to overcome the uneasy feeling of shooting strangers in the streets. In the beginning, I shot people in their backs or from a distance, but that wasn´t the kind of images I wanted to do. I needed to get close with my subjects. The solution was to hook up with a couple of other photographers from the community and start walking the streets in small groups.
Within a year I got rid of all my zooms and tele lenses, left the camera bag at home and started shooting with primes, working my way down the focal lengths: 70mm – 50mm – 35mm – 21mm in a couple of years. (I shoot with Pentax K-7 now which means 1.5 x the focal length).
2. How do you shoot in the streets?
I hate lugging extra lenses or other equipment with me. Not so much because of the weight, but I have realized that when I have more than one lens to chose between I start switching back and forth, wasting energy on the shots I can´t shoot because “I have the wrong lens on”. Nowadays I shoot with what I have, knowing that I can´t shoot everything all the time. Instead I concentrate on what I can do with the camera in my hand. It´s a liberating limitation, as far as I´m concerned.
With only one focal length you will soon learn it by heart, making it possible to compose without looking through the view finder. I also use manual focusing pretty often, sometimes combined with hyper focal prefocus to be ready to shoot instantly. That means I can shoot from the hip, knowing when the frame is filled and when the subject is in focus.
If you don´t shoot Pentax cameras you might not know about the TAv priority setting. It´s a manual mode but with auto iso in a specified range. Using TAv means I have manual control of both shutterspeed and depth of field while the ISO adjusts it self within a range set by me. At times there is high noise, but I care more about getting the moment right.
Once the settings are done and all, I am ready to go shoot. I carry my camera in my hand all the time, with the strap wrapped around my hand to keep it from flapping around. I then move around or pick a spot and wait, constantly listening to what is going on around me. Most of my missed shots are because I did not pay attention enough.
When I see something interesting I move in shooting range, make the shot and move on. Other times I decide to hang around, trying to work the scene from different angles. Other than that I try to change my strategy according to where I am. There´s nothing wrong with hanging on the sidewalk in a strategic place while shooting the stream of people passing by.
My images usually comes out as very clean and graphical compositions or as tight and rough snap shots. In my opinion the snaps are the most challenging shots to make since they could take a lifetime to appear but only a second to disappear.
3. What do you love most about street photography?
On a personal level, I think my passion for street photography comes from the fact that I really love observing people. In an urban environment with a constant flow of individuals there are so much going on. And when the high life, low life, new life, old life and no life converges I want to catch it. It´s like going on a field trip, studying humans in their natural habitat.
Besides documenting the ordinary I´m very much amused with the prospect of combining unrelated individuals in the frame, thus adding complexity and mystery to the viewer. The best street photos for me is the ones that don´t give away the answer.
On a higher lever I consider street photography to be an extremely important part of documenting our time. It creates a link back from the classical images from HCB, Brassaï, Koudelka et al. to the present. Just think about it: Street images from one place over a period of decades would be a fascinating timeline of human behavior. I would be happy to contribute to that.
Do you got a street photographer that you would like to see featured here? Leave a comment below with your nomination and a link to their portfolio, and I’ll see if I can feature them as well!