Chicago is an amazing city with tons of hustle and bustle in the streets. When it comes to showing the soul of the city, Jason Martini is definitely one of the most talented street photographers out there. He is able to capture the people of Chicago in their natural and gritty environment doing what they do best–live. Check out more of his soulful images below and get inside his mind as well.
1. How did you get started in street photography?
I have always loved big cities. I think that is how I got started. I told my mom in 1984 that when I grew up, I wanted to be either a breakdancer or in the mafia. When I took a photography class in high school, 1993, it was a perfect fit.
I began to study photojournalism in college but quickly changed to another major… and put the film camera down in 1997. But I always had in my head that I wanted to live in a big city like New York and take gritty photos.
I finally bought a Nikon D40 in 2008. My long walks through Chicago, taking photos of what I found interesting began to focus on people and street photography before I even really knew what it was. I’ve always been a people watcher. I posted a photo on flickr and someone said it reminded them of a Henri Cartier Bresson photo.. so I looked him up and instantly became obsessed with street photography.
2. How do you shoot in the streets?
It’s evolving but I like to shoot like there is no tomorrow! It’s like I’m trying to make up for lost time. I don’t know if I will live in Chicago forever so I try to take it all in. I go out with the goal to get a more powerful shot than the ones before and outdo myself.
I have always loved interesting plays on light and shadows, thinking about it like how I used to develop film and what worked. I look for interesting characters and watch for scenes to unfold. From the beginning, I knew that I had to get as close to people as possible. I shoot a lot from the hip, it’s fun and it helped me get over my issues of shooting people.
I move around a lot and get a coffee half way through!
I shoot with a Nikon D40 and D300s and usually bring a 17-55mm 2.8f and 50 1.4f or 35 1.8f.
3. Where do you find inspiration?
Well the biggest source of inspiration for me has been Chicago. I enjoy the feeling of being uninspired because I know I can change that blank feeling if I just go for a walk or get on the train.
I find inspiration in everything going on in my life, art, news of the city, the world, the music I listen to while shooting or editing, a memory the scene reminds me of. I relate to all of my work in that way when I finished. Usually each photo means several different very personal things to me. I like to title some photos in a sort of cryptic message that I understand based on what that means to me.
I find inspiration in photographers and the connections with street photographers from all over the world whose work I admire. Vivian Maier.
4. What do you love most about street photography?
I love the entire process of creating street photography but would have to say the time I spend shooting in the streets.
The moments that happen so fast my finger hits the shutter before my brain tells me to. It’s like you can’t believe your eyes and what’s happening in front of them.
It’s shots like those, or when a scene is unfolding and you are waiting for that moment and everything somehow falls into place. And then you get home and it’s better than you imagined.
5. What is the #1 tip you have for aspiring street photographers?
Shooting, I say get close to people. Editing, I take my time and look at my images over and over. I rarely process or publish a photo quickly. I usually need time warm up to my photos. I’m always amazed at how many of my images I have learned to love after thinking they were total crap when I first saw them. Make a few edits and then come back to them the next day with a fresh look. Go back 6 months, a year, and try to find images that you missed or what you want to change now. Move to Chicago. :)
What do you think of Jason’s work? Got a question or want to show him some love? Leave a comment below!