Note: Every Wednesday, I feature street photographers with great skill and soul. For this week, I decided to feature amazing Parisian street photographer Yanidel. I first witness Yanidel’s work when I googled “Paris Street Photography,” and his site came up on top. I’m glad it did. He roams the streets of Paris with his Leica M9, and consistently shoots great street images. Continue to read this inspirational interview with him! Oh yeah, also feel free to check out all of the other featured street photographers of the week here!
1. How did you get started in street photography?
It started with my move to Paris five years ago. Paris is absolutely wonderful for long walks since there will be something interesting inpretty much any corner of the city. During these walks, I started to notice scenes and atmospheres and took my first snapshot at that time. Parallelly, Paris is also one of the mainstay of photography so I was exposed to the work of famous street photographers through exhibits or magazines. At the same time, as I began looking for a new camera, I got attracted by rangefinders and discovered the big role they played in the history of street photography. All of that came together at the same time and soon after I found myself in the street shooting strangers. Not only was I taking long walk, but I had become a shot hunter with a finger always ready to hit the trigger.
2. How do you shoot in the streets?
There are mainly to different ways that I shoot. The first one is random, meaning that I take long walks in a part of town and just let scenes come to me. In a large city like Paris, something will always happen at some point of time and often, great scenes unfold when youleast expect it. On the opposite, I might go to a special spot and hang around a block for a couple of hours. For example, I shoot a lot on the Avenue of Les Champs-Elysée where I have a few spots that I especially like. This approach is quite different to the first one since most time, I will pre-determined the field of view of my shot and then wait for something to happen in the selected space. Technique wise, most of my shots are wide open, therefore I need to either focus precisely or have a very accurate esimation of distance when I zone focus. At F1.4, the sharpness zone is indeed very thin and a slight mistake will show instantly on the picture. Finally, I almost never ask for permission before I shoot, since I am after candid pictures. It does not mean that I won’t interact with the person after I took the shot, often a smile or a little chat, and sometimes even an exchange of emails. People are great when you explain them what you are doing.
3. What do you love most about street photography?
Street photography is in my opinion the mix of a variety of skills and activities. It is physical in the sense that I might walk for 8 hours on a given day, so it definitely helps me keep fit. Secondly, I believe that there is an strong artistic component to street photography, at least in my interpretation of it. Indeed, my goal is not only to describe a scene, but I also try to compose them in a way that is aesthetically pleasing. Sometimes I would even say that aesthetics can be more important then the message of a picture when its main intent is to convey a feeling or mood. I am also convinced that street photography is a great intellectual exercise. Indeed, in a split second you must identify and compose a scene with subjects whose movements and attitude you don’t control. That part is often bound to your life experiences and cultural background which help you build a message, be it straight forward or requiring a more complex interpretation. Let’s not forget that while you are observing the scene and getting ready for the shot, you will often need to be tweaking the parameters of your camera for correct exposure, depth of field and focus. Since I use my camera in all manual mode, getting a perfectly exposed and well focused shot can be very rewarding since technology did not assist you in anyway. And finally, I love the adrenaline in street photography, that is that pressure you feel as you close on a subject in hope of the perfect candid.
4. What is the #1 tip you have for aspiring street photographers?
Get out in the street and practice. The technical skills involved in street photography can only be learnt by being out there shooting. Books can obviously teach you the basics of exposure but once you have understood the interaction of aperture, speed and ISO, there isn’t much more to read about. Many mistakes and misfire will happen during the first few months but at some point, your eyes, mind and camera will form one and shooting will really be only about spotting good scenes and conveying a message or feeling. That leads to another tip, keep you zooms at home and learn to use fixed focals (35mm and 50mm are the traditional focals of street photography), that will force you to move around for the best angle of view and make you get closer to your subjects.
Also don’t forgive to show him some love and leave a comment for him below! Even ask him a question while you’re at it!
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