Natalia Jaeger | London

Hello Natalia, can you tell us a little bit about you and how you got into photography?
I was born in Caracas, Venezuela. When I was 19 I moved to Arizona where I studied fine arts at Arizona State University. The work I did while in art school was multidisciplinary and, in most cases, it included video as well as performance art. My interest in photography developed soon after I moved to London.

How did you get involved with street photography?
Two circumstances led me to get involved in street photography. In 2011 I moved to London; a place I had never been before and where I knew very few people. It was also around this time when I received a gift from my mother: an Olympus OM-1 camera that had belonged to her since 1976. So, without having planned it, I had acquired all the necessaries for this type of art practice: solitude, a camera and a new city to explore.

Most of your work are street portraits… What do you like about photographing people?
I truly enjoy observing people’s engagement with the details of their everyday routine. A person’s expressions and habitual gestures are, to me, a gateway to that something hidden underneath our character and personality.

Your street portraits are characterized by their very minimal composition and intimate moments. How did you come up with it?
There is an intriguing and haunting trait that seems to emerge when someone is in a state of waiting (i.e. at a bus stop, waiting for someone/something to arrive or, just simply, gazing into the distance). These brief reveries are, perhaps, one of the few instances when a person’s essence is unveiled. I continue to be fascinated by observing these moments and, by photographing them, I wish to exalt the inner life of people.

When you are out shooting, how much is instinctual versus planned?
At the moment my work is guided by instinct and chance. The only planning I do involves choosing a location (a street or a neighborhood) and the time of day. This approach has been, for an over-thinker like me, quite a freeing and enjoyable experience. By not setting a particular goal, and without the need to achieve any type of objective, I have been able to focus on observation—something I feel has helped me create a visual language of my own.

Most street photographers shoot in B&W - you shoot in color - can you explain us why?
This has been choice based purely on instinct. I enjoy seeing the play of colours created by the juxtaposition of reflections and don’t think B&W is capable of producing the same effect.

If you had the chance to go on a photowalk with a famous photographer, who would it be and why?
Saul Leiter. He was a remarkable photographer with an interesting and wholehearted personality.

What and who inspires you?
I am, for the most part, inspired by films. The works of Maya Deren, Stanley Kubrick and Béla Tarr (to name a few) have helped me understand the importance of seeing and framing an image with a meticulous and attentive eye.

What are your next plans?
I am currently in the process of finding opportunities to train as a cinematographer. The combination of my work as a photographer, my love of cinema, and the urge to learn a new skill has prompted this new creative search.

Sandra Jonkers | Rotterdam

Hello Sandra, welcome to Women in Photography! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
First of all thank you for having me here. Always great to see that there are people like yourself that are giving us street photographers opportunities to show our work to the public and talk about street photography.

Hi all, I'm Sandra Jonkers. I'm a street photographer living in the Netherlands, Rotterdam. I'm hitting the streets as often as possible. But only when I feel the need to shoot, I shoot.

How did you get involved with street photography and what fascinates you about shooting in the streets?
I was already in possession of my camera and taking some courses when I noticed that what I was doing in photography bored me. I really needed some excitement in my photography. That was the moment I noticed the world around me, really noticed the world around me. The streets, that's the place where you find excitement! That moment was life changing for me personal and for my photography. I'm really fascinated by the fact that when I take a shot, you see me. What I shoot is who I am. Nothing more, nothing less.

People are calling you „The pirate of the streets“ Can you explain us why?
They call me 'The pirate of the asphalt' to be frankly. It all started as a joke on Facebook, because I'm hitting the streets with my cam on an electric scooter for disabled people. Someone made a cool joke about that and gave me this nickname. Another one picked that up and used that in an interview with me. Now my nickname 'The pirate of the asphalt' pops up everywhere, it's funny.

What demands do you have on your camera equipment?
Ha, for most people this is going to be a strange answer. I'm using a Canon 70D with a Tamron 24-70 for my street shots. Not really equipment street photographers use for street photography. Most of the street photographers use system camera's. System camera's are much quicker and much smaller and light weighted camera's. You need to be quick on the streets, those camera's are perfect for that. Why I still use a DSLR which is so much slower and also huge and heavy? It's because I'm feeling one with it, the camera became a part of me. Maybe I will take the step to a lighter and quicker camera in the future, but for now we still are having a really good relationship. My scooter is also a part of my gear, that requires a totally different way of shooting the streets, so I'm a bit strange anyway. ;-)

What do you find is the hardest challenge when taking pictures?
Street photography in general is a real challenge, it's so not easy to do. I'm always trying to catch the eye. To me that's the door the someone's soul. Eyes are strong and powerful. They can tell you a lot and nothing at all at the same time. But while I'm looking for that, I also don't want to interfere in that particular moment. I want the moment that I push the button to be as pure as possible. When I succeed, people see me, but not really. In this split second they look at me, and the next second they forgotten all about me already.

Why did you choose to photograph in black & white?
I just love black and white photography. Though it was not really a choice, I just didn't took a shot yet where colors would add something extra into the picture. At the moment colors in my pictures are just not important to me.

What advice would you give to someone who would like to start with street photography?
Make sure that it is really is what you want to do. Be friends with your camera, be one with it. Taking good street photo's needs a certain devotion. You need to step over some personal boundries. Loose the fear of getting closer to people or stepping into a scene as soon as possible. Fear will be seen in your end result. People will not kill you for taking a photograph. Stay close to yourself, shoot what YOU want to shoot. Don't shoot what others are shooting, and when you do make sure you do it better. Shoot from your soul, shoot from your guts. Never stop learning and be open for useful criticism. It will bring you to a next level.

Was there a photographer or any style of photography that influenced your work or inspired you?
Consciously and unconsciously I'm influenced and inspired by a lot of photographers. I could not really give you a name. I'm absorbing a few thousands street photo's a week. From the big masters and the smaller ones. I'm pretty sure that has an impact on my daily shooting. But what I can say is that I just love the work of Vivian Maier deeply to give you a name of a big master. But other masters to me are for example my Facebook friends from New York Mark Brown and Melissa Breyer.

Tell us a little bit about the photography scene in Holland. Are there any female photographers you could recommend?
For sure there are a lot of female photographers in the Netherlands, but I have to say that I'm only focused on street photography. Street photography is a man's world in the Netherlands. I really could not give you any Dutch name of a female street photographer. I don't know any who's really devoted to street photography. I hope someone's out there and will respond to this, I would really love to meet and see the work of other dutch female street photographers.

Here you can find more about Sandra's work:
Website: www.sandrajonkers.com        
Facebook: www.facebook.com/sandra.jonkers.14

Héléne Veilleux | France

Hello Héléne, tell us a little bit about yourself and when did you first become interested in photography?
In my case it was a kind of inverse movement. I started as a photo model in 2011 and quickly moved to the other side of the camera. As an introvert and very shy person I discovered that photography could be a powerful language to explore my own obsessions.

You’re a former software engineer. Since 2015 you are working as a pro photographer. What made you decide you were ready to dive into the career of a full time photographer?
As often in life that choice is a subtle blend of good timing, opportunities and probably a huge amount of unconsciousness. Moving to a full time career was in my case the only solution I could imagine to really focus on my body of work, before I used to photography “on the run”, now I had time to construct and think my subjects, it is a long process but I hope it will make a big difference at the end.

You submitted your project „38th Parallel north“ - a stroll in one of the most closed worlds capitals: Pyongyang in North Korea. How did the idea came up for this project?
Lately I became very interested in the way states put in the scene public’s space, how architecture can be a major political act. Pyongyang is in my opinion the perfect example of a “theater” city, a place where every monument, every views are thought and constructed to serve the “fiction of state”. Even citizens are obviously urged to stay in their roles in this authoritarian play. So when I had finally the opportunity to visit North Korea I did.

I knew that, as a foreigner, I will not have access to the reality of the country so I choose to focus my photoset on that simple idea:  what a country is willing to show tells a lot of what a country really want to hide. What’s behind the too clean avenues, the giant ever smiling statues, that are the unspoken question which lied in “38th parallel north” ...

What did you experience while shooting this series? Where there obstacles or problems while shooting the images?
I was travelling with a small group of foreigners and we just had a very brief talk about photography rules before crossing the border between DPRK and China, the biggest NO NO was to take any subjects related to army or police. Beyond that nobody checked my pictures at any times … no big frill I am afraid.

The photographs of „38th parallel north“ look like a series of postcard images. You rarely see street life - was it difficult to get into contact with habitants of Pyongyang?

It’s probably one of the things which stroke me the first while visiting the capital, it’s definitely look like an empty shell. There is no that typical and busy street life you can encountered in most Asian cities. This emptiness add to the whole “unreality” I felt along my stay in DPRK.

What is your personal perception after shooting this project?
I probably left the country with more questions that I had at the arrival. But I am really aware that, as a foreigner, I had access to only a tiny and distorted fraction of it. As a curious person I want to go back and see more …

You said you have a major attraction for the ex soviet countries as the esthetic core of your work which is mostly influenced by the Tarkovsky movie „Stalker“. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

I cannot really explain why I developed this attraction for the eastern Europe and Russian “world” and aesthetics, nothing in my personal background or family tree are related with those cultures but I guess it something “generational”, I was only 11 years old when the USSR collapsed but I still have vivid memory of it, especially the destruction of the berlin’s wall and the Tschenobyl incident.

What type of photography do you enjoy most and why?

I crave for photojournalism even if it’s not my “world”, I am news feed addict and I am especially interested in nowadays conflicts and war zones photography and photographers.

Do you research and plan a project or is it that you wait and see what your work brings up?
I used to read a lot before travelling, checking websites, contacting people , trying to grab some useful sentences and cultural knowledge… I usually have one or two main ideas in my pocket when landing to the location nevertheless I don’t mind changing my plans if I had too...

Do you have any upcoming projects that you’d like to share with our readers?
In few weeks I will move for a long term stay in sputh caucasusarea in order to complete a body of work I started this year focusing of the various fates of post soviet countries and how they deal whith their dark past.

Here you can find more about Hélene's work:

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MICHELLE GUILLERMIN | Washington D.C.

Hello Michelle, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how you got into photography?

Photography is a second career for me.  After graduation from university, I pursued a career of business consulting, implementing bank mergers and acquisitions.  I am a Certified Public Accountant, so I also held roles as Chief Financial Officer at a number of organizations.

Photography was a serious hobby for me, that has fortunately transitioned into paying work with print and web publications and corporate reports, allowing me to pursue the side of photography that interests me and find a public outlets for that work also

Your primary focus in photography is on wildlife, especially East African wildlife. How did this come up?

As a child, I grew up watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and Flipper on television.  Those programs really were the origin of my love of wildlife. 

In 1989, I took a leave of absence from my consulting job and traveled around the world with $3000, a backpack and a camera.  During that adventure, I spent two months in Kenya and fell in love with the country and the people.  Before the trip, I picked up Peter Beard’s book, The End of the Game, which graphically demonstrated the loss of habitat and the impact it was having on East African wildlife, primarily elephants.

Over the next many years, I traveled extensively, but primarily went to Asia.  I would photograph as a tourist and traveler, but again, didn’t really focus on my craft.  Finally, in 2006, I joined a safari to a conservation area in Kenya that has made significant contributions in protecting rhinos.  It all came together for me on that trip – the book I’d read in 1989 and learning what these wonderful people were doing to ensure endangered animals had a safe area in which to live and breed.  Some of my photos were included in marketing materials for the conservancy – and I haven’t stopped since.

You submitted a series of photographs with elephants from your latest trip to Africa. Can you tell us a little bit about the background behind this series?

This was a very special trip for me.  I have kept in touch with one of my Masaai guides in Amboseli National Park, which is one of the best places in the world to see happy, healthy elephants.  As I FaceTimed (yes, with a traditional Masaai!) with him, he mentioned that he was involved in creating a new conservation area – the primary wildlife corridor between Amboseli and Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Elephants move great distances on a regular basis, along paths that they have followed for centuries.  When we humans build a road or a town across these paths, all kinds of bad things can happen, none of which generally end well for the elephants.  This new conservancy was created to ensure that elephants could move safely between the park and the mountain, and at the same time, address the very real economic impact on the people that lived in the area.

We were the first people to go into the area specifically to photograph.  We witnessed hundreds of healthy, safe elephants in a very intimate manner.  It gave me great hope for the protection of this species.

I guess a huge problem is primarily poaching and the conflict of human/ wildlife and habitat conservation. Can you explain us a bit about the current status?

It’s a good news/bad news situation.  There are a tremendous number of very talented, dedicated and SMART people working to protect the animals and create safe habitats for them, recognizing that local communities can’t just stop farming or herding just so the elephants are protected.  If an elephant raids their garden, or a lion eats their cow, their family goes hungry.  These communities, NGO’s and local Kenyan leaders are working together to address all the issues in a comprehensive way and are making great strides.

At the same time, poaching has increased to epidemic proportions.  Elephants, rhinos, lions and pangolins are prized in certain cultures for their body parts, rather than as a living, thriving creature.  The cultures tend to have a significant amount of money they can use to enlist locals to kill animals and provide the horns, paws, tusks and other pieces of the animals to be sold as aphrodisiacs.

The number of wild animals is decreasing rapidly due to the poaching and human/wildlife conflict.  Much is being done to educate those who want animal parts

What do you find is the hardest challenge taking wildlife pictures?

Fortunately, I enjoy it so much, it took a minute to think about whether there were challenges at all.  My biggest challenge is finding the time to get to Africa for a couple weeks of dedicated shooting.

When I finally get there, wildlife photography is largely opportunistic.  You can plan a shot, find your place to wait, and the animal never does exactly what you hoped it would do.  So, getting a shot with the right background, the right behavior and in the right light is pretty exciting.

On the flip side, the unexpected moments, and resulting shots are so special.

Were there obstacles or dangerous situations while shooting the pictures?

This trip we were very well behaved.   I took two people who had never been to Africa, and who really didn’t understand animal behavior.  I felt responsibility to keep them safe, so I made sure we didn’t get into situations that could have ended badly.

I’m a little less careful when I’m out on my own and have been charged by both elephants and rhinos.  Fortunately, I was in a truck that could move fast enough to escape.  But, safety should be your number one concern when dealing with wildlife.  I read an interview recently with a man who grew up in the bush, and knows exactly how to manage difficult wildlife situations.  Just a few weeks ago, he was walking in the bush and happened upon a mother elephant and calf – he was thrown across the ground and almost trampled.  Thankfully, I have never come close to that, but always keep the inherent danger in the back of my mind.

What do you think might be a reason that there are just a few female wildlife photographers?

Oh my goodness, that question could take years to answer!  There are all the social reasons that women are not in many male professions – some by choice, some because they weren’t permitted to join. In many ways, the wildlife photography path starts with science education, which typically hasn’t attracted as many women as men. I see that many of the really talented wildlife photographers also serve as guides.  They are highly educated in animal behavior and biology, as well as the habitat.  I am starting to see more women graduate from these programs and becoming guides and rangers – and hope that will turn the trend to more female wildlife photographers. 

What demands do you have on your camera equipment? And what equipment would you suggest in shooting wildlife?

I’m a Nikon girl all the way.  Fortunately, the cameras are well built and take quite a bit of knocking about.  But the dust, oh my goodness, its dusty!  And, the best photos always seem to require rolling around in the dirt a little bit.  Annually, I ship everything to Nikon for a good take-apart and cleaning.

Long lenses are essential.  I generally have two cameras set up and ready to shoot.  One with a zoom lens, reaching 400mm and one with an ultra-wide angle lens (my favorite is a 10-20mm zoom, but also have lots of fun with a fisheye 10.5mm).  I’m fortunate in that I primarily shoot in private conservancies, which allow us to drive off-road and get very close to the animals.  I find that even though I can zoom to 400mm, most of my shots are taken between 150-200mm.  Aperture isn’t quite as important with the long lenses to capture the depth of field that you wish, but I generally open my lenses up as wide as makes sense.

Would I love a 400mm 2.8 prime lens?  Oh yes, absolutely!  But, I’m a firm believer that it is the person behind the equipment, not the equipment that makes a shot, so, while I dream, I’ve found that two zoom lenses can do the trick!

What is the biggest compliment you could be given for your pictures?

If someone said that my photos influenced them to take an active role in protecting wildlife, I would declare success!

You can find more about Michelles Photography on her Website, Facebook and Instagram.

 

 

Alexandra Bochkareva | St. Petersburg, Russia

Hello Alexandra and thank you for submitting your beautiful Portrait series. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into photography?
Hello, Nicole! Thank you too for your interest to my works :) I was born and grown up in Tashkent (Uzbekistan), now I live in Saint-Petersburg (Russia). From my early childhood I fell in love with art through drawing and painting. In the period of study years and work I forgot about it for few years, but after giving birth to my daughter I started it again with a help of my dad's "Zenith", my first shots were made on film.

How did it come that you mostly shoot portraits of redheaded and freckled girls?
I'm freckled myself, but it wasn't the reason from the very beginning as many peoply ask me. I just started to notice that redheads are unique for me - pale skin, bushy eyelashes, freckles, bright eyes – these all are very importrtant details of my portraits. My first freckled model was my sister, I love this type of appearance, so I’ve started to shoot redheads more than others.

In another interview you said that the models Polina and Alice, you work with, are kind of muses. What makes it so special to work with them?
Alice is  the fox, which worked with us :).  This was one of the most difficult and amazing shootings for me. It was very cold and windy weather, Alice didn’t want to play more than 5 minutes, but I tried to do my best, they (Polly & Alice) were very inspiring.

Your images are very well composed. How did you cultivate your sense of composition?
Thank you :) I even do not know, maybe this sense came with practice of drawing. I try to shoot from different angles, to select the most appropriate point of shooting – it helps me.

Do you have any advice for taking portraits?
Love what you do, don’t be afraid to experiment and get critique from viewers. Learn and practice today, tomorrow and ever!

What do you enjoy most of being a photographer?
I like that through photography I can express my own point of view about beauty, I work and collaborate with different interesting people, I build my own fairy-tale brick by brick. And it’s wonderful.

Do you have any role models that your photography is directed towards?
This year I have work a lot with Polina (Polina Partsevskaya, model, St-Petersburg). But I don’t think that I direct something special for her, vice versa, she's just one of the few who is emotionally and visually fits the most my ideas

Tell us a bit about the photography scene in Russia. Is there any work of female photographers you can recommend?
I can only say about the portraitists, because this genre is interesting for me. I like very much the works of Ulduz Bakhtiozina and Katerina Plotnikova, they are very inspiring.

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ALEXIA ZÚÑIGA | Mexico City

Hello Alexia, when did you first become interested in photography?
I've always been interested in images. I used to paint a lot when I was a child. At family events,  parties or birthdays, I was always played with the camera and took pictures.

You submitted photos of your project „A common day“, which is an approach to four third age transsexuals in Mexico City. How did you come up with the idea and how did you realize this project?
I used to work for the Secretaría de Salud (The Health Ministery) in México. When I was watching news about health in Mexico, I came across topics related to problems of elderly people. Questions came up like am I prepared to have a good life when I turn 60 or 70 years old? Do I have guarantees to have a good quality of life? Do I have it now?

So, I started looking at minorities. My question was: if their present life is complicated, how is their future going to be?

How are transsexuals accepted in daily life in Mexico?
This is a problem in Mexico. World’s life expectancy has constantly increased during the last seven decades. Nevertheless, the transsexual community faces an average of below 60 years. Transsexual have a big problem with their health: they don´t get medical support. Many of the surgeries are made in secret places or they don´t have a medical follow-up when they are taking hormones. Baring all this in mind and knowing that México is no 2 on the list of countries (since 2015) for homofobic crimes worldwide. Brazil is first.

So in México, for example, it is almost impossible to find transgender over 60 years old. They don´t have official records.

LINK:
http://www.proceso.com.mx/403935/mexico-segundo-lugar-mundial-en-crimenes-por-homofobia

Can you tell us a little bit about the interaction between you and your models - Did you give any directions?
I gave no particular directions but we have to have a closer relation - I have to know their stories. It is necessary to listen before taking pictures. I´m always looking for that moment when I could have empathy with them, and when that happens, that shows us the way, a “direction” that we have to follow.

What did your models say when they saw the pictures of the project? Did they feel to be captured the way they see themselves?

Once one girl told to me:  “do you know that I have to look more girly than you? I can´t carry, for example, my cellphone in my trousers... my behavior has to be more prudent and rational on the street”.

They are always worried (like us) about how they look when they go out. But, after a while, after years, after the wrinkles, there is a moment when they see what they are, something that cannot be hiden anymore, that is age. When they let me get into their houses I can see that process - their places are their stories.

At the beginning, I always had the impression that they know they are showing me more than they expected. They realized that neither me nor them have control how they or we look. They recognize themselves without masks and that could be amazing and revealing. In my case, is truly revealing myself into them.

What is your intention with „ A common day“? Is there a plan to exhibit?
Now I´m in Brazil doing my MA at the Federal University of Bahia, so I plan to finish the project here by comparing differences and similarities of the transsexual communities in Mexico and Brazil. Next year I will exhibit in Brazil and México in December. I would also like to make a book of this project.

Do you need a particular mood to be able to photograph?
It´s just to have questions (and I always have questions).  When questions don´t have answers, I look in other directions: films, photos, conversations with friends.... then something happens and I start to take a lot of photos, trying to answer my questions.

So there is my mood. Have questions without answers.

Tell us a little bit about the photography scene in Mexico. Is there any work of female photographers you can recommend?
I think that México in the history of photography has always visual questions. There are a lot of female photographers doing fantastic woks: Gladys Serrano, Dolores Medel, Sonia Carolinain Mexico and in Brazil Mayra Lins for instance... they are photographers that are always questioning our context. And it is amazing how their photos give us more questions.

Are you already planning other photographic projects?
I started one in Brazil: 2024. A fictional documentary that tries to question how information on the internet is generated and consumed. The aim of this work is to create images that speak of this darkness like a physical phenomenon and like an unrest of disinformation, in some way, exhibit the fear that causes the uncertainty. You can see part of the project here.

Annika Kreikenbohm | Hannover, Germany

Hello Annika, tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how you got into photography?
Hi Nicole! Thank you for the opportunity for this interview! I am 28 years old and a self-taught photographer from Hannover, Germany. Also, I am currently doing my PhD in astrophysics in Würzburg for which I study the extreme regions around black holes in the center of galaxies.
As for photography, I was fascinated by photos for as long as I can remember. I got my first reflex camera for christmas when I was 15. It was an analog one and I remember throwing away many rolls of film while learning how to handle it. I was just not very successful getting the correct exposure. Nevertheless, I tried to learn as much about photography as possible by studying the work of famous photographers. Until 2011 I had never shown my photos to anyone else but my friends and family. When I went to Spain for a traineeship in 2011 I explored the country through my camera lens and started my photography blog.

You are a self-taught photographer and working currently on your PHD in astrophysics. Both seems to be different worlds. What does photography mean to you?
Yes, these disciplines do seem very contradictory. But if you think about the motivation for pursuing these passions they are not that different anymore. Both astrophysics and photography are ways to discover our universe and communicate with eachother. While science tackles the problem from an analytical and rather exterior point of view, photography is able to explore the emotional and interior side of our world.
 
In astrophysics, we deal with very fundamental questions like "where do we come from?" or "how did and will the universe evolve?". It is curiosity that drives us. Science gives us the wonderful opportunity to explain our observations of the world. I think there is a misconception about science: many people regard the natural laws of physics as some kind of hard truth. But in my opinion it is a tool to design a concept of our world. It is actually a very creative process. The concept not only describes the things that we see but also allows us to discover new phenomena. We then come up with experiments to test these concepts.
 
For me photography is very similar. I am curious to observe the world that I live in. Like many others I started doing street photography. But photography is much more than observation. For me it is also a tool to express. My background as physicist certainly shaped my perception of the surrounding. Like in my series "space warp", which puts reflections in cars in the context of Einstein's theory of General Relativity. Lately, I am using photography to study. In my first big project "The world of thoughts" I interviewed a number of people about their way of thinking and portraited them within these worlds. It was a wonderful project about learning how the minds of other people are set. Those projects are my own little experiments and telescopes.
 
So both my passion for astrophysics and photography are driven by the same engine: curiosity and the urge to communicate our observations to other people.

Your submitted amazing photos of your project „elements of capoeira“. How did you get the idea for this project?
Capoeira is brazilian martial arts which is a mash up of different cultures and people from Africa and Brazil. This mix of influences created a very unique style among martial arts. It is very artistic and may seem like dancing sometimes. I wanted to capture these movements. When I got the opportunity to work with stroboscopic lights the idea for this project was just around the corner. 

What would you like to express with your images of the project?
First and for most I wanted to express the beauty of Capoeira movements. The project itself was a study. What kind of shapes are hidden in the movements of Capoeira? Most of the movements you see are attacks in the form of kicks or hooks. But because of the almost playful execution in Capoeira they appear as part of a dance. Music is in deed a very important part of the Capoeira culture. Because of this influence it is often described as a mixture between martial arts and dance: a battle dance. This symbiosis is something that I wanted to show.

The images of „elements of capoeira“ are very well composed. Can you tell us a little bit about the set up?
The set up itself was very simple. Besides the camera and the Capoerista there was just one source of light that was able to produce stroboscopic flashes. Typically, Capoeira is played by two participants. It is like a conversation between both Capoeiristas in which every movement is closely intertwined with one another. But I wanted to study the movements in the most basic form. Thus, the isolated set up of the Capoeirista in front of a black background.

What was the most challenging part of taking the shots?
Definitely the technical set up. It took us a long time to find the correct orientation and viewing angle of the camera with respect to the layer in which the movement took place. This was of course different for every single movement. And not every kind of movement was suitable. In order to avoid too much overlay the motion had to take place rather perpendicular to the camera. Furthermore, every movement has its own speed. So, we had to adjust the number of flashes per second. These ranged from five to thirty flashes per second. And you can imagine that these were quite challenging conditions for the Capoeiristas to perform. It was a wonderful group of Capoeristas who put a lot of effort and free time into the project as well. I am very thankful for that!

How would you describe your photography?
I am still in the process of learning and experimenting. Hence, it is hard for me to assign a certain style to my photos. Lately, my work has become quite conceptual which is certainly influenced by my work as a scientist. When working on big projects I spend much time on the planning and preparation of the image. However, in the moment of shooting everything is very intuitive. Usually the final photo has gone through an evolution from what I had planned. But other projects are about observations in the streets. The common aspect of my photography might be, that I try to isolate an everyday topic or item and then sometimes put it in a new context. Our perception of the world is heavily influenced by habit. Changing the context can change your experience.

Was there a photographer or type of photography that influenced your work or inspired you?
The very first and greatest inspiration was Henry Cartier-Bresson. He is the master and I support his theory of the decisive moment. Then there are many other professional and amateur-photographers which inspire me like Thomaz Farkas, Steve Curry, Vivian Maiers or Lauren Demaison to name a few. Another important photographer is James Balog. While Cartier-Bresson taught me to observe, James Balog and his project "Extreme Ice Survey" inspired me to use photography to raise awareness. It demonstrates that photography and art in general is not just a tool to produce beautiful things. But it can play an active role in shaping the world we live in by raising awareness of problems and solution. So philosophy, science and politics are all inspirations for my work.

Are there any plans for upcoming projects?
Besides finishing the PhD there are a number of projects I'd like to pursue in the future. Two I am very excited to start working on. One is more of a technical experiment to portrait people in a cubistic way. For the other project I'd like to investigate the different kinds of self-control. On top of that, I'd like to try some projects in documentary photography.     

Thanks a lot for the interview and good luck with your PhD.
Thanks again for the opportunity!

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Laura Domrose | Istanbul

How did you get involved into street photography?
I have been interested in photography without any specific focus or category for over 40 years. I never really focused on one particular style or category as I just enjoy taking what attracts my eye. I think that since moving to Istanbul over 15 years ago, I just seemed to fall into that category as most of my shots seem to comprise of, well, the street life of Istanbul. So, I decided that I was more compelled to shoot street scenes to capture the constant flux of this city. I actually enjoy photographing everything. Unfortunately, It seems that photographers have to pick and choose a category, so I choose to focus on Street Photography.

Can you talk about the relation between the city of Istanbul and its people?
The city of Istanbul is an amazing city of contrasts and contradictions. Istanbul is constantly changing - for better and for worse, and this creates a continuous element - almost overwhelming at times - of intrigue. I find many opportunities to capture the ironies of these contradictions and intricate layers. Istanbul is a mass in motion in a sense. Waves of people trying to get to their destination move, while others already at their destination remain to watch the flow.


Can you feel a change of daily life in Istanbul after latest bomb attacks?
I was actually surprised that there was a noticeable change, since I have always thought of the Turks as resilient. This country has seen so much and they will get through this as they have always done. I was here during the devastating earthquake in 1999 and the Gezi Park protests in 2013, and have witnessed this resilience, but this time it feels a bit unnerving at seeing a frightened people. I know that people want to return to normalcy soon.

Where do you find your best subjects?
The majority of my images are from meanderings in many different areas of Istanbul, where I try to capture the many layers of overlapping complexities. I return to the same areas of the city often to find that places no longer exist or are morphing into something completely different. This myriad of activity compels me to try and capture the process in its entirety. The best subjects are everywhere here.

Most of your photographs are in B&W. Why?
I shoot in both color and black and white, but the textures of the city often have more feeling in black and white. I feel it captures the grittiness and urban mystique of the city and its people better.

Do you shoot daily?
I try to shoot daily. I see so much on my way to and from work so I usually can't help but shoot daily! I sometimes like to give myself 'photo assignments' or tasks to keep my eyes alert. It's very easy to find photographic subjects in Istanbul so I like to be prepared to capture the moments - which are often very fleeting moments.

What advice would you give to someone who starts with street photography?
Shoot lots and don't hold back. Look for lines and angles and textures - or details- that most people would walk right past. Be ready for anything and just have fun with it.

If you had the chance to go on a photowalk with a famous photographer. Who would it be and why?
I just love the boldness of Vivian Maier. It's sad that her wok wasn't discovered when she was alive and wasn't able to see a lot of what she had shot. I connect a lot with her work. She would've had a great time in the digital world. Well, at least she would've been able to see more of her images.
 
What and who inspires you?
In terms of photography, walking around in cities inspires me most. I like trying to find the hidden gems. Other photographers inspire me and help me learn more about my own style and images.

Irene Hälley | Zaragoza, Spain

Hello Irene, thank you for submitting your work. Tell us a little but about yourself.

Hello! Thank you for giving me the chance to do this interview. I’m a 21 years old self-taught portrait and lifestyle photographer from Zaragoza, Spain.

How did you get into photography?

Someday, I found a slow motion video made by some guys. I was impressed with the image quality, so I started researching which kind of camera they used and found out that for that work different photographers used the same kind of cameras. I realized that I wanted to do the same.

What does photography mean to you?

Disconnection and expression. I don’t think about anything else when I have a camera in my hands. I just capture moments, feelings... I would say that sometimes I try to tell a story through a single shot.

Most of your work are portraits… What do you like about photographing people?

I think that portraying people can somehow show the essence of each person. I like to see that essence when I photograph them; how they express themselves, how they talk, what they like, how they feel... I try to capture all these things when they’re in front of my camera. I love that.

Your portraits are characterized by their very minimal composition. How did you come up with it?
Well... actually there is no composition - nothing is prepared. Everything is natural, totally improvised. I focus on the subject and there are only few cases where I try to include more elements if they help me to achieve a better atmosphere in the scene.

Do you think simplicity is often more important than complexity?
I usually prefer simplicity, but I’ve seen very complex work that compositionally and conceptually I find very interesting.

Was there a photographer or type of photography that influenced your work or inspired you?
Of course. There are so many photographers around the world that inspire me in many ways. Artistically and visually I am very interested in the work by Rebeca Cygnus; the poetry of her images are magical. In terms of editing style and portrait, photographers like André Josselin, Robert Marcillas, Irene Rudnyk, Azulclaritocasiblanco, Pollography, Marta Bevacqua, Ezgi Polat, Alessio Albi, Miss Complejo... Their work inspires me a lot.

Can you tell us a little bit about the photography scene in Spain?
We have excellent photographers here. There’s no doubt that. A lot of young people are learning by themselves and doing incredible stuff in diffrent areas of photography. We have nothing to envy about foreign artists, but it would be great to have the same photography culture that other countries have.

What is the biggest compliment you could be given for your pictures?
When the viewer feels what I wanted to express and introduces himself into the image in the way I felt at the moment I took the photo.  That’s the biggest compliment it could be given. That is the final purpose behing all my work.

Amy Kanka Valadarsky | California, USA

Hello Amy, tell our readers a little bit about yourself.

If you had asked me this question four years ago, I would have replied I am a software engineer, three years ago the response would have changed to “Goldsmith“, now I dare say I am an artist.

I am an only child; my mom was a highschool teacher and my dad an engineer. Growing up in a home where education and pragmatism were kings, the only relevant career path for me seemed to be medicine, engineering, or law. For a short period I entertained some thoughts about architecture, but these were cut in the bud by remarks like "and how will you make a living?"...I was always good at math (I would better be with my mom a math teacher ...) therefore studying Computer Science was the easy path to take, a path I followed for the next 25+ years. One day, in my late forties, I realized home runs smoothly, children have grown up, and my life centers for 20 hours a day, 7 days a week around emails, meetings, and flights around the globe. It was at this point that I decided I want something more, and registered for an online class of jewelry design. This class led to 3 years of Goldsmith studies...and the rest of the story continues in the next answer ...

When did you first become interested in photography as a mode of expression?

In order to sell my jewelry online, I had to photograph it. Very quickly I realized my photos were not good enough, and the ones taken by experienced photographers, were technically great...but were not a true expression of me. I started to shoot obsessively, determined to improve technically as well as capture the essence of my pieces, not just their details.

For my 50th birthday by husband booked us on a photo art trip to Venice, Italy. This was the first time I experienced the world as seen through the lens ... and I fell in love.

Your submitted photos of your project „Misthaven“. How and when did you get the idea for this project?

I think it is a bit the other way around, the idea found me...As you can see from my work, nature was always at the core of my art. I took me a while to realize that when I photograph nature, I am looking for reflections of my internal world rather than beautiful flowers. The same realization struck me when I was shooting nude models. While everyone was looking for the best angle to capture the models, I was looking for images expressing the excitement and fear of being fully exposed. When I was processing the images from this shot, the story was staring me in the face. This was the beginning of „Misthaven“, my enchanted forest.

Your images are very poignant and well composed. Do you first look for a framework for the composition or do you use your instinct?

A little bit of both. When I select a particular angle, I work by instinct, but once I find it, I start composing the image shifting positions slightly until the frame and especially the light are right. In „Misthaven“, I discovered how the square format crop can further strengthen the composition.

Why did you choose to photograph in B&W?

I always shoot in color. At first, I look at the images, and I am captivated by the color. It is only later, when I start piecing the images into a story, that the color becomes a distraction. It draws attention to itself, focusing the eye on the physical rather than the symbolic. That’s when I start looking for the right way to translate the image into B&W.

How did you cultivate your sense of composition?

I have no doubt that some of it is the imprint of the very classic education I received, traveling with my parents throughout Europe. When others visited amusement parks, I was spending hours in the greatest museums of London, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Athens getting acquainted with Rembrandt, Rubens and the Impressionists. Van Gogh was my dad’s favorite artist, Rembrandt was my mom‘s.

Since I became interested in photography, I am immersing myself in the work of the best photographers I can find. This goes very well with my obsession of books ... I have a mini library of photography books now.

On your website, you can find a lot of inspiring quotes. In which way have poetry or paintings influenced your photography?

I think the biggest influence paintings had on me is in the understanding of how light can turn the most mundane setting into pure poetry. Rembrandt’s portraits, Van Gogh „Potato Eaters“ and Monet’s haystacks are some of the most beautiful images I have ever seen.

As for poetry, about a year ago, when I was preparing for my first trip to Japan, I encountered the Haiku form of poetry and became a big fan of its simplicity and depth. I am far from being able to achieve this clarity in my imagery yet, but this is something to strive for.

What do you enjoy most about being a photographer?

The freedom to experience the world on my terms and at the same time getting to know myself better.

The luxury of getting up in the morning, see the sun shining through the morning mist, forget all the things on my to-do list grab the camera and lose myself in the light. A couple of hours later, the to-do list is still there, but I am a much happier person.

How do you see your photography evolving over the next years?

I hope I will never stop learning, never stop experimenting. I want to look back at the work I have done in the last 6 month and feel this is my best work yet, and the next one will be even better. I think at some point, color will reappear in my images, but for now it is waiting patiently in the shadows.

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Dina Dubrovskaya | Saransk, Russia

Hi Dina, thank you for submitting your work. Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
Hi, thanks for having me! I am 25 years old and I am a self-taught portrait and documentary photographer from Saransk, Russia.

When did you first become interested in photography?
I started taking photographs about six years ago, when I was at university - I was really into self-portraits at the time. I guess that’s when I got interested and started looking at works of different photographers trying to recreate something I liked in my own pictures.  

What does photography mean to you?
Photography is a perfect way to tell stories. I have a long way to go before I learn to tell a story with a single portrait.

In your project „Instant yearbook" you are photographing the pupils of small village schools in the region of Mordovia. How did you come up with this idea?
I live in Mordovia which is a region located in Central Russia and my family initially comes from one of Mordvinian villages. When I was a child I used to spend every summer living in this village and I could see how different life was there. When I got older I didn’t visit so often, but every time I came I felt inspired to show what I saw, to transform my love for this place into something tangible. Then once I got a chance to visit the local school and look inside this little isolated world and see its few inhabitants. The kids were amazing – open and funny, bright and rebellious. That’s when I had the idea of visiting more villages and more village schools, taking portraits of the pupils.  

Can u explain us how different life is in small villages in Russia compared to big cities?
I am not going to talk about economic side of the question, I am just not a person to do it. In villages you more than ever feel the importance of human relationships, the history of the place and of the country is more palpable, everything is more naked and raw – these are important things for which I keep coming back to villages.

How does village schools differ from schools located in cities? In your description you wrote that some of the schools will be closed to the lack of students.
Yes, unfortunately it’s true – several schools I’ve visited are going to be shut down because there aren’t enough pupils. This is something happening all over Russia, not only here in Mordovia. Some of the schools I’ve photographed are really tiny having only about 30 kids as their students. I find that it creates a special atmosphere which I appreciate when I come to photograph. Everybody knows each other, older kids help first-graders, teachers are your next-door neighbors – they are all in this together. They always take pride in what they have and what they create and I feel so honored to be allowed into this little world.

Was it challenging taking portraits of children? Did you give the kids any direction?
I love working with kids and teenagers and I’m so used to it now that I am afraid I will have more troubles taking photos of adults J I usually try to photograph the kids exactly as I find them, though from time to time I suggest a place which is better lit. I talk to children a lot while I work, usually about their school life in general, about their interests, pets and friends. I tell them to smile if they want to and some of them do, but some (especially boys) prefer looking serious and businesslike. This always makes me smile.  

What is your goal with this project?
I always send the photos to the schools so they can have something like a yearbook, which is especially important for schools that are going to be closed soon, I think. But I’d lie if I said this was the main goal of my project. For me it’s all about discovery - travelling to isolated places and meeting new exciting people.

Tell us a bit about the photography scene in Russia. Is there any work of female photographers you can recommend?
I admire Russian photographer Olya Ivanova who works a lot with documentary portraiture, she’s amazing!

Do you have any upcoming projects that you like to share with our readers?
I am going to continue with “instant yearbook” for a while, but I’ve also been thinking about going back to my village and working on a bigger project there. Hopefully it’ll work out.

Venelina Preininger | Tokyo

Hello Venelina, thanks for submitting your work to women in photography. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into photography?
Thank you for your positive response and for this interview invitation. Photography has always been very present in my life. My father was a photography lover and I was used to seeing developed film rolls, pictures and photo albums as I was growing up. I always felt there is something magical in the transformation of moments into pictures. Another influence has been my grandmother, she was a great storyteller and was always showing pictures when speaking about all those fascinating events and people from the past. So to me photographs were part of the family life yet something magical that transcends the limits of time. Later in life, I felt the need to create my stories in a way that overcome different language barriers. So photography was an intuitive and natural medium for that.

What does photography mean to you?
Photography is a way to create, express, feel and communicate. It allows me to see and appreciate the gifts of life. In a way I take more from life through photography and I can give more back through the photographs that I create. I feel free yet connected to myself when photographing.

You worked for over 10 years in finance before you decided becoming a full time photographer. What was the reason to dedicate your life to your passion?
I guess over the years I have learned to trust life and my own intuition. Thus, I simply followed my inner voice. Looking back, I see how naturally the dots connected and converged into the person that I am today. I have read recently the following sentence: In art, as in love intuition is enough. I would say, in life intuition has proven to be the right guide and my intuition has led me to photography.

You are actually from Bulgaria and have lived in many places like Geneva, Zurich and London. Currently you are based in Tokyo. Do you feel that places have an influence to your photography?  For example - is there a different vibe in Tokyo, where you are currently living?
Living in different cultures has taught me adaptivness and openness. In that sense, I embrace the visual and emotional vibe of each culture and location and that impacts my work. It is a discovery of the world around me and at the same time a discovery of who I am from an altered angle. I see a different reality, photograph different subjects and often I create differently. For example, in Europe I was photographing mainly landscapes, in Asia I work predominantly with portraiture, street and conceptual photography. Then, some of the projects grew organically as visual tales - Tokyo challenged me and helped me to grow as a visual artist. I also invested time learning about Japanese photography and this has influenced me without any doubt.

Congratulations for winning the Silver Prize of the Fine Arts Photography Awards 2015 for your project GRACE. Can you tell us a little bit about it? How did the idea come up to that project?
Thank you very much! Coming from the world of finance I was used to see driven alpha female behaviour. Even in more female dominated fields such as fashion, design, marketing etc. women in the western world are business minded and determined. Arriving in Japan I was surprised and fascinated with the dreamy allure of Japanese women. Despite the economic and technological advancement of the society women seemed to have kept the connection to their soft, mysterious and somehow ethereal nature. The title ‘Grace’ came naturally to me as I found Japanese women intrinsically graceful. The camera recorded their faces and expressions in an attempt to understand the secret for their mystifying charm.

Why did you choose shooting „Grace“ in B&W and in Tokyo?
I work a lot in black and white – it is my intuitive colour pallet in photgraphy. Stripping out colours helps me to focus on the key emotion or message that I aim to convey with my photographs. To me the image feels special and more impactful when in black and white.

Do you think it’s important to take part at Photography Awards? And do you think it has an influence to the career of a photographer?
Photography in itself is a wide field in some areas such distinctions are more valued than in others. In general, industry recognition from leading institutions, organisations and competitions can open lots of doors. Distinctions and awards also give a signal for the value to art lovers interested in acquiring a photograph.

What is your opinion regarding film vs. digital photogaphy?
A good photograph is a good photograph irrespective of the medium used to create it. So my focus lies in the creation of strong, evocative and compelling photographs. That said, I use both digital and film cameras. I like the versatility, speed and opportunities the digital camera offers.

At the same time, I love analog cameras. It feels differently when shooting film – there is a sense for mindfulness, slowing down. In a way experiencing the magic on each step of the process –hearing the sound the camera produces when pressing the shutter, winding the film, developing it, touching the images. It is special ....more tactile and somehow relational.

Above all, I love printed photographs more than photographs on screens. I try to print as much as possible both my digital and analog work.

What type of photography do you enjoy most and why?
To me a strong, compelling and evocative photograph is always inspiring and impactful – irrespective of its style, colour pallet or subject.

Do you shoot daily?
I do shoot nearly every day and rarely leave home without a camera.

Do you research and plan a project or is it that you wait and see what your work brings up?
Most of the time the projects emerge from my work, from what I see as a repeating element, from an idea, from what attracts or interests me. I try not to rationalise when shooting, I follow my instincts and enjoy working freely on the projects. That said, because I am mindful of the idea or concept I read on the topic, ask people on how they perceive it and depending on the topic I might do in depth research. In other instances I know from the outset what I aim to produce and look for the opportunity to realise it. When working on commercial collaborations planning and working towards a clear goal is a must. 

Which photographers have influenced your thinking and photography? Are there currently female photographers you like?
I had the privilege to work under the guidance of Magnum photographers Jacob Aue Sobol and David Alan Harvey - they helped me to grow as a visual artist for which I am very grateful. 

In terms of female photographers find remarkable the work of Diane Arbus, Cindy Sherman, Olivia Arthur, Caroline Drake, Cristina Garcia Rodero, Alessandra Sanguinetti, Kounrtney Roy and many others.

What and who inspires you?
Life! Love for life!

What are your next plans?
I am working on my new series and preparing an upcoming exhibition. 

Thank you for your time Nicole! All my respect for your passion and dedication to women in photography! I look forward to discovering the work of many inspiring female photographers through ‘Women in Photogrpahy’!

Nicola Miles | Brighton

Nicola, tell us a little bit of yourself and how you got into photography?
Hello, I’m an easy-going woman who lives in Brighton, it’s been home for around 20 years now, i’m lucky enough to live between the sea and the Sussex Downs.
In 2009 i travelled for a while, taking a pocket camera with me. I spent a good amount of time playing around with it, realizing what could be done, i haven’t looked back since. A short while later i took an inspiring course which led me onwards.

Are you a full-time photographer or would you describe yourself as a serious enthusiast?
I’m a part-time photographer & definitely an enthusiast. There’s so much to discover, i’d like to do it more often though, I’m working on it.

When you are shooting, how much is instinctual vs. planned?
The only thing that is planned is where i’ll go, everything else comes instinctively or with a stroke of luck.

How did you cultivate your sense of composition?
This is what interests me the most, getting what i see into the frame. I think you can tell when it’s my work, there’s a continuous pattern running through the composition in my pictures & usually a lot of space placed around the subjects. I guess i cultivated it with practice, knowing what i liked and didn’t like, then, taking more time over a shot. I look forward to my composition evolving as time passes.

You have a strong body of work from your travels to Myanmar. Tell us a little bit about it.
There have been two visits now, just about to head back for a third. Each time i visit a different area, there’s a lot of walking involved. I’m drawn to the country very much for myriad reasons; for photography reasons - the light in that part of the world is quite wonderful and i have a lot of fun. I’ve been shooting alone and with a small group of other photographers. I’ll do the same when i head back this time.

Did you feel a special inspiration while shooting in Myanmar?
I do, yes. It’s a beautiful country, the people i meet there are great, there’s an open-ness. I feel welcomed. The sunshine and warmth help too.

Is there a photographer or a type of photography that influenced your work?
A few Brighton photographers that i know have an influence, carefully watching what they produce, having an idea of where it might come from. I especially love documentary style and have just discovered Tiksi by Evgenia Arbugaeva, it makes me want to never sit around, get out there. Influence comes from artists like Narelle Autio & Alex Webb too, their great use of rich color. Here far away by Pentti Sammallahti was the first photo book i bought, beautiful, i remember that having an affect on me.  

Would you like to share a little bit about your upcoming project you plan in your hometown in Brighton?
Right now it’s a work in progress inside of my head, possibly to do with the suburbs where i live. There is a coastal project too that i will work on for years, slowly. There is a real pull for me to have a project nearer to home so i can be closer to the subject in many ways, rather than flying off to a faraway land.  

Lauren Welles | New York City

HI LAUREN, first of all congratulations for winning the 3rd prize of this year's Miami Street Photography Festival for one of your Coney Island photos and the Juror’s award in the Center For Fine Art Photography’s “Simply” Contest! How do you feel about that?
Thank you! It felt great to be recognized for something that I love to do. I enjoyed the proverbial 15 minutes.

Tell us a bit about the Coney Island project.
It started out, in the summer of 2013, as just a day at the beach.   I was out with my camera in New York City, and there were no people on the streets. The city can get pretty desolate in the summer, when everyone flees from the concrete jungle, so as not to forget what a tree looks like.  Feeling pretty lonely and uninspired, I decided to take the subway out to Coney Island, to put my feet in the water, be around people and feel the vibrancy of the place. It wasn’t so much about photography at that point; everyone photographs Coney Island and I didn’t think I’d see anything new. I just wanted to get out of the mood I was in.  Anyway, as soon as I arrived, I saw visual stories everywhere and I was able to frame them in ways that kept me interested.  I would go back a few times a month and a body of work started to develop. The project depicts the many cultures and the joie de vivre for which Coney Island is known.  In today’s society, fear, negativity and that “us vs. them” mentality get an inordinate amount of attention; it’s nice to be reminded of a different reality, where people from all different cultures come together to share in happy times. 

When did you first become interested in photography as a mode of expression?
Back in 2003, I was looking to change careers (to what, I had no idea), so I took six months off to travel and get a new perspective on things. I wanted to take pictures on my trip, so I figured I should learn how to use a camera before going. I enrolled in an into to photography class, and the love affair began. 

Is there a photographer or a type of photography that influenced your work or inspired you?
There are too many to list, but Cartier-Bresson’s work was my first and probably greatest influence (his geometric compositions, in particular). Then there’s Helen Levitt (I love kids).  The graceful movement and intimacy of Sylvia Plachy’s work inspires me, as does Koudelka's sort of melancholic romanticism.  And, more currently, Alain Laboile’s work; it captures an idyllic innocence and free spirit of childhood, which leaves me speechless.

You’re a former lawyer. What made you decide you were ready to dive into the career of a full time photographer?
For years I had been trying to leave, but I just couldn’t handle giving up my security; it seemed so irresponsible and terrifying. Then my health became a bit compromised and I intuitively knew that it was due to the work stress I was stoically harboring.  At that point it was more terrifying to stay where I was than to move forward.  I don’t know that I felt ready to dive into a full-time photography career, but I was definitely ready to leave my legal career.  Then, little by little, the photography fell into place.

Commercial photography is a totally different kind of photography than personal work. How do you handle the challenge in meeting the demands of clients? Was it difficult in the beginning?
The challenge of meeting the demands of clients is like any other job - I have to please someone else without compromising my own integrity.  But it also feels good to satisfy someone else’s needs when I'm doing something I enjoy (in contrast to much of my legal career).

I was nervous as hell on some of my first assignments. Then, like anything else, it got easier and I became more confident.  Being flexible and resourceful when working professionally is so important; something unexpected almost always occurs during a shoot. I still feel as though I’ll never learn it all, which can be scary, but that’s also what keeps it interesting.

What do you like about street photography? Do you think it helps being a female street photographer?
I love how there is a jumping off point from which to create a visual story. I’m not good at creating something visual from scratch; my blank canvas tends to stay blank. I need to see things to get ideas.  When I’m out in public, everything and everyone is stepping onto my canvas, so all I need to do is eliminate, or add, and then frame. 

As a female photographer, I sometimes think I'm not as threatening to strangers as a man might be, especially when photographing kids.  But whether you’re male or female, I think psychology plays a huge role in street photography. If you look at it like you’re doing something wrong, invading someone’s “privacy,” you’ll tense up, making it more likely for people to get upset with you.  But if you are truly interested in people and maintain a humanistic perspective, your energy will be positive, which can make all the difference.   That’s not to say people don’t get upset with me. But when they do, I try to respect their feelings, not take it personally and move on. 

How important is it to hear your inner voice as a photographer?
It’s the most important thing for me as a human being, let alone photographer! It’s an infallible compass. I think that’s what mid-life crises are all about—your inner voice goes from a whisper to a scream so that you can no longer ignore it. Mediocrity is inevitable if my heart isn’t in something, be it photography or anything else. 

As a photographer we all go through different stages. How do you deal with a creative block and what do you do against it?
I used to get really frustrated and frightened by it, thinking it would be permanent. But I’ve learned to trust more in what the moment is than what it isn’t and just allow things to run their course.  The block is often just a gestation period, though I usually don’t know that until it’s over.  

If I’m not feeling inspired, I’ll still take my camera around just to "stay in shape.”  I’m naturally curious about people.  So, if all I do is have a conversation with a stranger on the subway, I’ll still go home with a smile on my face. That helps me ride out the dry spells.  

How important is traveling for you? Is there a place in the world you would like to photograph?
It’s so important! I’ve always had a streak of wanderlust in me. I love experiencing different cultures. There are tons of places I’d like to visit. But I usually don’t know until I get somewhere, if I’m visually inspired.  I need to be interested in the other aspects of a place, the soul of it perhaps, in order for the visual attraction to be there. Based on that, I think I would enjoy photographing in parts of Eastern Europe, where my grandparents were from.  Before I knew how to photograph, I visited Hungary and Poland (I took pictures, but they were horrendous).  So many things felt familiar to me—the food, people’s demeanor, the look in their eyes.  I’d like to go back one day with my camera and explore. 

Website: http://www.laurenwelles.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/laurenwellesphotography
Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenwelles
Instragram: https://www.instagram.com/laurenwelles/
Blog: https://laurenwellesphotographyblog.wordpress.com

Angie McMonigal | Chicago

Hi Angie, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself? When did you first decide you wanted to become a photographer?
I currently live in Chicago and have for most of the last 15 years. Originally I’m from a small town in central Wisconsin but have always been drawn to big cities. I moved here shortly after college and shortly after that began photographing as a hobby. Things gradually took off from there.

I can’t say I ever fully consciously made the decision to become a photographer. I’ve always done it for the fun of it, because it’s something that I enjoy and am excited about. Over time opportunities have come up and I’ve pursued those. Not to say I don’t put a lot of work or thought into my photography but it’s been a very gradual evolution from hobby to profession.

What drew you to architecture as a subject of your work?
This has always been a tough question for me to answer. I don’t have the obvious connection to architecture that a lot of architectural photographers do with previous careers as architects or engineers. I think it simply stems from my love of big cities, the awe I feel wandering around the skyscrapers and the energy of a big city. Growing up in such a small town, the stark contrast has always been intriguing. I also love that there’s as much a science to architecture as there is an art form. My professional background before photography was scientifically based. So, I guess, I feel there’s some relatability to that dichotomy, the need to explore both sides of my personality.

Do you have a favorite architect? 
I have a few…. I adore the work of Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry and Santiago Calatrava. I recently discovered David Adjaye’s work, which is also inspiring. There are two Chicago architects I particularly admire as well, Jeanne Gang and Juan Moreno.

I love the sculptural form of so many of their designs. Their interesting use of lines and curves, their emphasis on taking the building or structures environment into consideration with each design

How did you cultivate your sense of composition?
I’ve been asked about this a lot lately and it’s another difficult question for me to put into words. It’s not really anything I’ve necessarily sought out to do. I haven’t studied books on composition and don’t consciously think about all the rules of composition when I’m out shooting….the rule of thirds, the golden ratio, leading lines, etc. I think it’s been more a matter of what feels right when framing a shot, trying different things and seeing what looks and feels right for each subject. Of course, much of what feels right ends up falling within those tried and true rules but it’s also about knowing when to break the rules. For example, I love symmetry and centering your subject has long been one of those compositional killers. But with the right subject it just works.

How do you prepare yourself before shooting a building?
On a typical day of shooting I tend to choose one building to focus on. This allows me to spend more time exploring the building and studying its intricacies. I’ll generally research whom the architect was and if there was anything that inspired the design. I do a Google image search to see what vantage points others have used and what seems to be a common approach to the building. While this might influence my initial approach and I may recreate something similar to what others have already done, I also use this as a means to push myself to see things in a new way and move beyond what seems to be the more obvious shot.

I don’t pre-plan my shots; I know many photographers that will sketch the shot they intend to make. I prefer to leave the specifics open to interpretation once on location, to walk around the building, study it, get a feel for how the light is interacting with the structure and go from there. So much of how I shoot depends on my mood, the weather and light. Regardless of whatever planning I do I can't always account for everything. I think it's good to leave some level of openness to the moment.

What are some of your methods to stay motivated, focused and expressive?
I find the best way to stay motivated is to just make the time to go out and shoot. Even if I may not be in the mood or feeling particularly inspired, just forcing myself to get out almost always gets me excited to be photographing. Studying other photographer’s work I find inspiring also helps. However, sometimes I just need a break to recharge, to read something unrelated to photography, go to concerts, just live life. We all need those breaks to connect with those in our lives and to experience things outside of photography. These experiences shape how we see the world and can bring about a renewed motivation.

What was one of your biggest lessons learned since starting your practice?
To tune out the opinions of others and to shoot what and how I want, to edit the way that works for me. A few years ago I think there was a lot of insecurity about whether my images were any good and I was taking criticism/advice far too personally. Not to mention all these conflicting opinions from one person to the next; I felt nothing but confused and it showed in my work. I decided to stop asking for input and to just shoot what was fun for me. If it resonated with people, fantastic; but first and foremost I needed to be creating something that resonated with me. 

At the end of the day only I know what my intentions are when creating each image, only I know what I want to say through my work and what I want the final result to look and feel like. 

There’s nothing wrong with seeking constructive criticism from those you trust, whose work you admire and respect, but, ultimately, you need to decide if it makes sense with your final vision.

What advice would you give to photographers wanting to work in the world of architecture?There are numerous ways to approach photographing architecture, or any subject for that matter. Figure out what you most enjoy about photographing architecture. Do it for yourself, for the fun of it, develop your unique way of seeing your subjects and become very good at it. Having some level of consistency is key but don’t forget to play and experiment and try new things. From genres to techniques, you never know how it might influence future work.

What do you think - why are not many female architectural photographers around?
I’d say there aren’t a lot of female photographers in any genre compared to men. I don’t really know why. Maybe because so many photographers interested in architectural photography have a background as an architect or engineer, which are both heavily dominated male fields.

You have shot a lot of buildings over the past years - do you have a favorite?
Two of my favorites are the Frank Gehry designed Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angles and the Santiago Calatrava designed Milwaukee Art Museum. There are endless photographic possibilities with both.

Sara Nicomedi | London

Sara, tell us a little bit of yourself and how you got into photography?
I started my studies at the National Academy of Dance in Rome to become a professional dancer until I realized that rigid rules and smelly dance halls were not for me.

After many years of strictness I needed to feel free again. I started studying Art and Photography and found myself on the streets with my camera. Five years ago I moved to London where I got in touch with street photography.

You shoot mainly in color, digital and film. What is your opinion on film vs digital?
I use my digital camera a lot for the obvious reason we all know, but I also like to shoot on film. I always carry with me a disposable camera or a compact Yashica. I dedicate a different energy and emphasis to a picture that I take with film because I know it’s precious. 

Film is a material with substance, even if the picture is not “perfect, it has something to tell you, to evoke you. With digital we need to be more careful to don’t over-produce soulless images.

You have a very strong body of work from your trip to India last year. Tell us a little bit about it.
Travelling is necessary for me. My trip to India was the first outside Europe where I travelled alone. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do that, despite my initial fears. I have never felt so much joy and satisfaction. One of the best and most important decisions I ever made in my life.

Did you feel a special inspiration while shooting in India? 
Street photography is a challenge we do with ourself, there is no communication with the subject, in some way it reflects perfectly our individualistic society and our culture. India opened my eyes to a different way to photograph.

It gave me the opportunity to talk a lot with people. I opened my heart and mind, my curiosity and my need to communicate increased. I enjoyed the human side of shooting in India.

Is there a photographer or type of photography that influenced your work or inspired you?
One of the first books I bought years ago were „William Eggleston’s Guide“, „The Last resort“ of Martin Parr and Photie Man of Tom Wood. I think they were my first inspirations. I also like to look at film photographs from the 70’ and the 90’ and love the current projects of Alessandra Sanguinetti, Caroline Drake and Alec Soth.

What would be the best compliment you can get from the viewers of your pictures?
I like to see the body language of the viewer when they see my pictures. This can be a smile, a frown or a whiff - these are all good signs. It means that I am communicating something. Pure reactions from the inside are much more honest than words.

What are your next plans?
I’ m organizing a trip to South America where I would like to do something similar I’ve done in India. I also would like to continue a project I started about Italy. My country is in ruins and we are not doing anything to change things. We are just waiting for something to happen, I would like to document this immobility.

What is your favorite picture of your India Portfolio and why? Can you write a little bit about the story behind that shot? 
My favorite photo is the one where a man cleans the path. It was taken in Varanasi, which is the holiest city in India. Day by day Hindus follow their rituals along the steps or in the Ganges, where they also cremate bodies of their deceased loved ones. 

When I took that shot, it was early in the morning, foggy and the atmosphere was very mystic. The man was sweeping the dust which might have been the ashes of the deaths. I could strongly breathe death, religion and devotion. I got very emotional while watching the man. This image will always remember me of the essence of India.

Website: www.saranicomediphotography.com

Sally Davies | New York City

You moved from Canada to New York’s East Village in 1983, which has been a very rough area during that time. How did it feel for you as a young woman, coming from a small town from Canada? 
I started leaving my hometown when I was a teenager. Rural Canada in the 70s was the middle of nowhere. I moved to the East Village in 1983. It was a creepy, dangerous broken drug war zone. By the time I arrived here, life had moved on the greener pastures and what remained were drugs, a bunch of rag tag artists looking to rebuild, and mostly burnt out buildings. Nothing about this place looked like where I was from... but oddly, it felt exactly the same... the middle of nowhere. The old was almost over and the new hadn't figured itself out yet.

There were no cars to speak of, unless they were burning on the side of the road. It wasn’t densely populated (too scary for most) and even the scale of the buildings was low, sharing a big sky. It was impossible not to photograph. 

Not sure why exactly, but we all knew things were changing here…and there was a sense of urgency…to document your experience. 

Can you describe how the area has changed since then?
Gentrification is pretty much the same, no matter where it happens. Artists move in to dangerous fringe neighborhoods because of the cheap rents. Restaurants and bars open up, then rich people start coming there because its cool. Then the developers buy up all the real estate and make everything nice and shiny and expensive. Then the artists and poor people can’t afford to live there anymore and leave in search of the next forgotten poor area. It works for a brief cross over period, when both sides are still there but ultimately the artists leave and there remains only rich people in shiny buildings, and its all over but the crying.

You’ve actually been a painter, what has brought you into photography? What does photography mean to you? 
My father gave me my first 35mm camera when I was a teenager in the 70s. I’ve been shooting since then. I didn’t know back then, that I could “be” a photographer, so I just always shot while doing other things. That relationship with photography continued through my college experience as well. I was a painting major, and spent the 80s and 90s in nyc exhibiting my paintings at OK Harris Gallery then at Gracie Mansion in the east village. Photography was something I did by myself, for myself. No one gave a shit about my photos and that was an amazing opportunity to get out there and shoot, unfettered with no plan. Somewhere around 2006 I decided to stop painting entirely and only photograph. That was when I began to shoot every day, on purpose.

Do you carry your camera with you all the time? Do you think it is important for a photographer to shoot everyday?  
Indeed I do carry my camera with me everywhere I go. And if I forget I have my phone camera.  The minute you don’t have it, is the minute you wish you did. That will be a missed shot, and you can’t go back. Once its missed, its missed.  

I don’t know what other photographers should do, but I shoot every day.  Perhaps its because I live in New York City, and its a 24/7 situation out there, but I have never gone out and come home with nothing.  

How would you describe your photography? 
My work is the result of an ongoing relationship with New York City that started over 30 years ago. I’ve been called a street photographer, but I don’t see myself in that formal tradition. I’m not interested in a big situation. I’m looking for  the small, the every day… for the tiniest slice of the giant pie. I am looking for the emotional footprint. The things that are broken…that's the glue that holds us together.

You are a full time photographer. Many photographers struggle to make a living as a full time photographer. In an interview you said once „I don't have a plan B.“ So tell us,  is there a secret how it works? And do you have any advice for young women who want to become a full time photographer?
I struggle just like everyone else. I used to work at a magazine shooting cosmetics, and that supported my street habit. But that job ended as the magazine world started to fold, and I have been only shooting street since then. My work reaches a lot of people, and I am getting well known these days, but that does not guarantee photo sales. I think it's good to have a “real” job to pay your bills. Then you can obsess on your photography without the pressure of selling it.  

Lots of photographers who try to make a living out of it start to compromise with their work - to get a show or being published. Have you ever been in that situation? Or is this a no go - cause you just do the work you feel and want to do?
One night in the 80’s,  years ago, I was at a fancy restaurant. Andy Warhol and I had a 2 minute conversation in the bathroom. He said, “Decide what you want to do and get really really good at that one thing. Don’t chase what you think will be the next big thing because there are already people great at it, waiting for their turn. Better to stay put, get super good at your own thing and wait. When it arrives you will be ready and be the best.”  

What advice would you give young photographers to get a gallery show or being published. Should they apply to galleries or send work to publishers? Or do you think this is a waste of time, cause the tendency nowadays is getting discovered? 
The world is changing quickly, and that includes the art world and photography too. What I would have told someone 10 years ago, is not what I would tell them now. I’m not sure there is a clear path anymore to one prize.  

That said, it certainly never hurts to get your work in front of art dealers and gallerists, providing they are the right reps for your work. Ask yourself, do they understand what you are doing?  Do they have the appropriate collectors for the type of work you do? Do they already have artists in their stable doing similar work?  

I don’t think “all the eggs in one basket” is a smart career choice anymore. You must consider any and all options that are available to you. Social media…get online, get your work on different sites, they all have different viewers. Friend other photographers on Facebook. There are so many great ones on there, and most of them are helpful lovely people. Don’t be afraid to ask for opinions, ask for help etc. Get your work out there every day.  Don’t get discouraged if nothing happens…it usually won’t…But one day, it will. 

Do you think Social Media has influenced and changed the photography business? Is it easier now to get discovered or was it easier a couple of years ago?
I think “getting discovered” is easier now than in the old days. There are so many more opportunities to show the world your photos. The internet is amazing in that way. It is the great level playing field. The down side is that its available for everyone else too, so the competition is much fiercer. People are over saturated with images, so its important that you figure out what your trying to say, then say it well and often.

Can you tell us a bit about your „McDonalds Happy Meal Project“ which went viral in 2010, receiving over 1.5 million hits to date! Have you ever expected this hype? And since then did you ever had a Happy Meal again?
I have been a vegetarian since I was 15, so I was not eating any Happy Meals. Long story short – In 2010 I bought a Happy Meal and set it out on a plate in my apt to see if it would mold or rot. I photographed it every day for 6 months. No rot, no mold no nothing. It was featured on Refinery29 website and from there went viral. It's still in my apt and still looks pretty much the same as it did 5 years ago when I bought it. It will be 6 years old on April 10 2016. On the day it went viral, it was the most viewed story on the internet. It makes me laugh to think I may die and my legacy will be that burger.  

Are you currently working on a new project? Or is there a dream project which you would like to realize? 
I’m not really a project person. My photography is my daily story, my walk to the grocery store, my dog walk around the block or my bike ride somewhere.  

Your work is mostly from New York. Is there a place in the world where you would like to photograph?
I look forward to spending time somewhere else soon. Maybe LA. We’ll see if moonlight on a garbage bag is as heart breaking on the west coast, as it is on the Lower East Side.

Sally Davies is photographing NYC over 30 years. She achieved her first public recognition in New York in the 90s with her „Lucky Paintings“ and „Lucky Chairs“ exhibitions at New York’s OK Harris Gallery and Gracie Mansion Gallery in East Village. Her art has been featured on HBO’s „Sex in the City“ and are in the collections of Havard Business School, 9/11 Memorial Museum, Sarah Jessica Parker, Debra Winger and others.

In 2014, Sally's ”Lower East Side Photographs" were exhibited at the "Bernarducci Meisel Gallery" in New York City, with a 2nd solo exhibit “New York at Night” that followed on June 4, 2015.  In 2014 Sally received a citation from the city of New York for her ongoing interest in photographing the Lower East Side. She lives and works on the Lower East Side and continues photographing New York City.

Website: www.sallydaviesphoto.com

Elizabeth Char | Paris

How did you get involved with street photography?
Photography really came to me. A few years ago, while I had to endure a very tough treatment that really was putting me down. So to keep breathing and keep in touch with the world around me, I decided to go out every single day to take at least one photograph. That’s how Street Photography came into my life. Since then, I read up on it, went to exhibitions, met passionate people and life has become a lot more interesting and entertaining.

Is there a place you prefer for street photography?
I love Tokyo’s streets, as well as the small beaches in the south of France. And in Paris, of course, because I live there. I love wandering to any place where there is life, wherever I am.

When you are shooting, how much is instinctual vs. planned?
I shoot 99% by instinct. I love when I can feel and even sometimes anticipate situations.  People draw me in. It can be a wrinkled face, friends laughters, a touching gesture, a graceful young girl (even though it’s harder with young girls. They keep their head bent down over their mobile!). 

On your biography of your website you write that street photography is a kind of active meditation or therapy. What do you mean?
This is true. Going out and focusing on the street is an active form of meditation and a therapy. I’m totally there, here and now. All I have to do is to open my eyes and feel. All my troubles are left behind, at home. I can breathe. This therapy has a meaning and a goal. It has become a creative fulfillment I need to balance my life. Street Photography gives me joy and the opportunity to meet admirable people wherever I go.

Most of your work is from Paris. Do you feel that the mood of the city has changed in the past few years? 
I live in Paris. The atmosphere since, the 13th of November 2015, hasen’t changed much from what it has been over the last decade, but for the young people walking down the streets like automates, their heads bent down, and people who stopped talking to each other at the café terraces. There are more and more tourists and a lot of people speak languages I don’t understand. I love the diversity you can find here.

Which equipment do you use? And do you think gear really matters?
I use a Ricoh GR and a Nikon D610. I only use 28mm lenses. For me the camera doesn’t really matters. But having a good eye and an alert mind really do. Someone simply using a compact camera can shoot some very beautiful photographs while another one using a Leica costing thousands dollars will keep shooting poor ones.

Which three street photographers would you invite along to accompany you, and why?
What an amusing question! I would love to invite M. Daido Moriyama and more than three times! And also M. Anders Petersen and M. Harry Gruyaert. I would also love to see some photographers I already met in Japan and in other places. And of course, meet new talented photographers.

Tell me about women in photography. Does being a female street photographer help or hinder your art? Are there any female photographers who inspire you?
Women in Photography. Although Street Photography’s world is a very masculine one, the faithful friendship of a few female photographers mean a lot to me. I learn a lot watching their art evolving everyday. 

What tips or advice would you give a female photographer who is starting with street photography?
There’s only one thing I can tell: don’t be afraid, you are a woman and this is an advantage. People are more compliant with women. Go out, shoot and smile.

What is your favorite picture of yours and why? Can you write a little bit about the story behind that shot?
It’s very hard to answer this question. This woman I shot in Tokyo in April 2015 comes to my mind. She saw me shooting her and took it with humour. She got close to the camera and stuck her tongue out. I shoot. She doesn’t speak English but waved me to wait a little. She went to buy a little cake and offered it to me.  This is what Street Photography is also about, sharing little things and happy moments with others.

 

Website: http://www.elizabethcharphotography.com/
Tumblr: http://elizabeth-char-photography.tumblr.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ElizabethCharStreetWildSidePhotography

Melissa Breyer | Brooklyn N.Y.

Tell us, when did you first become interested in photography?
I’ve loved it ever since I was a kid with a kid’s camera, but wasn’t obsessive about it until later. I’ve been making art for as long as I can remember and I started my professional life as a painter after college. But at some point I gave up painting to become a writer. After that I got my first serious camera as an alternative way to keep making pictures and I’ve become increasingly wild about it ever since.

Are you a full-time photographer or would you describe yourself as a serious enthusiast?
I write to make a living; I live to make photographs. They are both wonderful ways to have a life. I really love writing, but I take photos or think about taking photos or dream about taking photos all day and night.

How would you describe your photography?
Primarily urban and candid. Somewhere on the edges of street photography but generally not as literal. I look for what the eyes see but that the brain doesn’t always register, so my photos can tend towards a little weird. 

Is there a photographer or type of photography that influenced your work or inspired you?
I didn’t start looking at other photographers until I was well into having my own style, but a love of literature and a background in painting allowed writers and painters to assume the role of muse. I’ve noted before that I can’t escape the wistfulness of Edith Wharton’s New York or Cormac McCarthy’s tension between beauty and bleakness; the urban voice of Junot Diaz, the lyrical sensuality of Pablo Neruda … they all play a role, along with so many others. Visually, I am drawn to the strange beauty and social quips of Hannah Höch’s collages, the light of Baroque masters, the graphic architecture of De Chirico, and although I know it’s cliché, the solitude of Edward Hopper’s subjects, to name a few.

When you are out shooting, how much is instinctual versus planned?
Almost 100 percent instinctual. I may have a mood that I’m in and want to seek out scenes to indulge it, but shooting in public is all about spontaneity for me; it’s hard to plan around that.

How did you cultivate your sense of composition?
I don’t really think about it. I just frame a scene so that it feels right to my sense of balance and movement. Some of my photos may look wonky since I never think about rules of composition, but I’m a little wonky so I’m ok with that.

What do you prefer b&W or color? And why?
Black and white is my default; I see compositions in tonal values and so black and white generally best conveys the initial perspective. But sometimes color clammors to play along too and when it does I may argue with it a bit, but I generally give in.

Do you think gear really matters?
A lot of photographers love to say that gear doesn’t matter, I don’t think it’s that black and white. An interesting photographer can make a beautiful photo with whatever he or she has on hand, but they can have much more flexibility with more sophisticated gear. That said, good gear isn’t going to make a bad photographer take good photos. I think the most important part is just having a camera that you know well and love a lot.

Do you have any upcoming projects that you’d like to share with our readers?
I am working on a series called The Watchwomen, but since I rely on random spontaneity it is coming along, um, very slowly. I plan on exploring a few exhibition possibilities in 2016 and there may be a book in the works, but nothing is for certain yet.

Do you have a favorite image of yours? And would you like to share the story behind it?
To be honest, they are all entwined with memory and picking a favorite would be impossible! They were all too much fun to make.