David Horton: I’m a graphic designer by day, street photographer by accident. After art directing and observing some of the finest commercial photographers in the business for over a decade, I made the conscious decision to get behind the camera instead of the photographer. I discovered street photography. I am primarily interested in making emotional connections. I’m interested in telling stories and creating a narrative. I’m interested in capturing the mystery—the mystery of life and the beauty of people moving through the world.
1. What does street photography mean for you on a personal level?
Street photography has taught me to open my eyes and to be more aware of my surroundings and the smallest details in life that often go unnoticed. It takes me to areas of the city I live in that I’ve never been to, or, more accurately, I’ve been to but never really seen. It’s allows me to meet some amazing people—many of whom are in this collective.
2. What do you want your viewers to take from your photographs?
I try to create moods and atmospheres in my pictures—intriguing worlds to enter. My most successful photographs open a narrative with the viewer. I am most satisfied with a picture when it is open to multiple interpretations where each viewer completes the story differently.
3. Why do you photograph?
For that feeling you get when a scene is unfolding and you know that it’s special —your heart is racing, anticipating the moment, and you’re just praying that you capture it …for the feeling of being invisible, when you’re in the zone where the world is oblivious to your presence and you’re just watching, waiting …for the moment when you go through a day’s shoot and discover that you’ve captured something special, something real, something lasting …for stopping time.
4. What are some other types of photography (outside of street photography) which interest you?
I really enjoy street portraiture (with consent). Sometimes I like to slow things down—talk to a person and try to coax out the individual. I’m also on the hunt for a good, long-term documentary project that I can sink my teeth into.
5. What excites you most about being a part of a collective? And what do you hope to contribute to the collective?
I’m very honored and grateful to be part of such a talented, thoughtful, and diverse group of photographers. Selfishly, I now have 13 mentors who will consistently push me and help me develop. We’re all friends but it’s always about the work first. I value that immensely. In that climate, with the right attitude and the right people, you grow faster than you ever imagined possible. I hope to be able to share that energy and dynamic with others (in the larger street community) through this collective.
6. Tell us the story of one of your favorite street photographs
Sometimes I ask permission; sometimes I don’t. I knew in order to do this shot right, I had to ask permission. “Hey, mind if I take a quick portrait of you?” “Yea, I fuckn mind. You can’t take my picture. Why the fuck you want to take my picture anyway?” “Well, I think you’re kinda cool looking and specifically, I like your reflection on the mailbox.” “Man, you’re fucking crazy, you know that? It’s gonna cost you two bucks if you want to take my picture.” “Two bucks to take your picture? You’re crazy! You should be paying me two bucks to take your picture!” I started walking away and stopped. “You know what? I think this shot is worth two bucks, I’ll give you two bucks.” “You’re out of your fuckn mind, you know that?” “Yea, I know.” He looks off to his right and starts drumming his fingers on the mailbox. I take two shots—done. I hand him the two bucks, thank him, and start walking away. “You know, the cops have plenty of pictures of me, you coulda just asked them for one!” We both start cracking up. I wave over my head and walk on.
7. Who were some of your photographic heroes when you started off?
Like many, I started with Cartier Bresson. But the one that really rocked my world was Saul Leiter. I read a tiny little article about his very first book in PDN at least 10 years ago. Nobody knew who he was but I was smitten. That book—which is now worth a fortune—was my very first street photography purchase. His work transcends photography. It’s the intersection of painting and photography. That idea opened a whole new world for me.
8. How did you discover “street photography”?
Interestingly, I believe I discovered it through the Grit & Grain group in Flickr. Even being familiar with the work of HCB and others, I wasn’t aware that there was actually a genre called “street photography”. And, I certainly didn’t understand what it was all about. That group opened my eyes and kicked my ass.
9. Can you share one of your favorite photos (from another member of the collective) and share why you love it?
When I look at Jason’s work, I’m reminded of something Sting said about Bill Withers, “his music is simple but profound”. Jason’s frames are rarely complex arrangements, which of course puts even greater pressure on the content and the story. His camera is like a magnifying glass that enlarges the smallest, most serendipitous scenes that many overlook. His shot, Phone Booth, is a spectacular example of storytelling.
This picture is a bit darker and edgier than most of Jason’s work. It reminds me of Saul Leiter but with a darker narrative. There’s a beautiful ambiance—perfect for the story—gritty and textural with an overall bluish hue. The viewer feels like a voyeur. The well-dressed man is out of place, surrounded by seedy postcards of prostitutes advertising phone sex. He’s wearing a wedding ring, hand on the receiver. Are we witnessing internal conflict over infidelity? How long has his hand been on the receiver? Does he pick it up? Or, has he already called and is in the process of putting the receiver down? Is he now feeling remorse?
Back shots are very difficult to pull off successfully. This picture could only be a back shot. Identifying or putting a face to the man would dilute the mystery and the story. I just love this one; I wish I’d taken it.
10. If you started street photography all over again, how would you do it differently?
I’m not sure I’d do anything differently. I guess I could have started earlier but I wasn’t ready—logistically or emotionally. Now I just need to make up for lost time.
11. What is one question nobody has ever asked you about your work–that you wished they asked you?
Do you shoot digital or film? : )
12. What are some visions you have for the collective?
We didn’t start this collective for the purpose of stroking our egos or pure self promotion. The world certainly doesn’t need another self-serving photography collective. We all met in a private critique group and realized that we could be honest and brutal with each other yet still respectful and congenial. We think that is unique. We’d like to give back to the on-line community that helped many of us develop and we believe that this group of people is capable of achieving that in a positive and productive way. We have big plans.
13. Do you feel it is valid if a street photographer participates in making a photo, not just observing the event?
Sure but I rarely see it pulled off successfully. Larry has a shot that he took in NYC where he (accidentally) spooked a woman. He shoots with a SLR and a pretty big lens so sticking that thing in someone’s face can be intimidating. Anyway, she gasped and threw out her elbow, the wind blew back her hair and she happened to be backlit. The result is pretty amazing. Although she’s reacting to the photographer, that doesn’t come across in the picture, it just takes on a life of its own.
14. How do you think your photos reflect who you are as a person?
I’m a pretty sensitive and respectful person and that’s how I approach my subjects. I think that comes across in the pictures.