Toktam Tayefeh | Mamaroneck, New York

Hello Toktam, thanks a lot for submitting your work to Women in Photography. Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
Thank you Nicole for giving me the opportunity. I am an artist since I can remember myself and academically since 1993.  I’ve recently moved to NY from California and it is a real wish came true kinda event. I love changes, learning more about new things and explore as much as I can. To me art and anything creative is the magnetic field and the major source of connection. 

You studied Fine Art and Interior Decorating. But photography is your everyday love. Can u explain to us what photography means to you? 
Since 2005 that I officially started shooting, photography brought me a sense of alertness specially because I love street photography. 

This habit of having my camera with me everyday made me feel ready to really see my surroundings and stay focused.  I have one subject in my mind, life!  It can be anything that makes me stop and click.  Painting is still my first passion but it needs longer period of time for me to get my images internally because all I create is from my imagination. Photography is almost instant and It’s providing me with new feelings and connections that usually help me develop my painting ideas furthermore.  so basically photography helped me with my paintings as well. 

Beside fashion and concert photography, street photography is your main subject. What fascinates you about shooting in the streets?
In streets things are happening in every single moment in a different levels of society at once and they are overlapping each other, it's a great symphony without any conductor. I just wanna grab a note and see if I can hear it well enough to make my own harmony off of it. 

People are fascinating, the way they pass each other or sit in their solitudes plus each city has it differently. Figures, emotions,light, lines, shapes and shadows in any cityscape are just endless sources . It's an infinite world of visual tenderness in a place like NYC, for example. To me it's like poetry. 

You live in Westchester County and you are 3-4 days a week in NYC. Do you think you see the city from a different view as a non resident and can you explain our readers about the special vibe in the city? 
Yes, I think I do see the difference. Westchester county has certain peacefulness and intimacy, it offers a sense of life in small beautiful villages close to harbors where I live.  I don't deal with the rush that is existing in NYC, so I enjoy watching people move around in a fast paced when I walk there.  I see the exhaustion, the naps in subway trains and people occupied by revisiting their thoughts and do their things. Different neighborhoods and different cultures in one city make it all so fun. I usually drive to NYC which is like my Cali lifestyle, then I am out of my car and I feel totally alive in a different way! City vibe is my stimuli.

Is there a favorite place in NYC to shoot street photography?
Hard to choose one particular place for me as a favorite location, the whole big apple is my favorite place. I love areas that are less touristy though, there you can capture the authentic truth about how things really are.

Are you more of a walk and watch or a wait and see kind of street photographer?
Definitely walk and watch/shoot constantly.  I literally hunt my moments down, and that gives me so much energy to shoot more when I know I got it.  I move to adjust myself to what I am witnessing,  sometimes I wait a sec for the composition to feel right but everything is how it was in that moment. Hours of walking and shooting even if I stop to drink a cup of coffee, I am still shooting.  My adrenaline rush is when I know I got a few shots right that I will have fun editing them at home.

The work you submitted are moments and sequences of the nightlife in NY. What fascinates you taking pictures at night? 
The whole night is magical in NY city.  People are more relaxed and they are ready to have fun, you hear happy screams and laughters, so many hugs and greetings. People hand in hand walking, hundreds of selfies happen and you witness it all. Then you see unfortunate people sitting in corners and this opposite side of life strikes you to feel so many things while experiencing the reality of lives of some people. I am into all the things that can move me. It’s how I connect with the world as a person when I see lives of hundreds in front of me through my camera. 

Nightlife in NY also has so many varieties and that gives me the chance to move to different areas and explore different kind of crowds. 

Most of your street work is in Black & White - Why did you choose to photograph in black & white?
Colors are beautiful and I sometimes use them for some shots but I believe in the power of black and white and also the intensity of it gives me so much space to fuse in my own feelings. It's blunt and it's so raw.  Less distractions in black and white and there is more direct contact with the subject. 

What is your everyday camera and do you think camera equipment matters?
First is the knowledgeable photographer, how that person behind a camera reacts and interacts in life would effect the shot, then a camera can help with translating a moment to a real photo. The quality of the photos a photographer needs to have will determine which camera would be a good match.  What a little camera with less options can do is to freeze the moment without disturbing anything and lately they are reliable and have good qualities. For street photography, I have a Ricoh gr iii and my iphone. 

For portraits, concerts and fashion where I need more details in my photos I use my Canon 5D Mark III.  I think if you know what you want there are options to choose from but the most important thing is to have a sense of visual language. It is a direct relationship which starts with the mind, talent and intuition of the person using the device, and a proper device is helping the photographer gets the job done. 

Is there a photographer or type of photography that influenced your work or inspired you?
I love all masters in photography in general, all of them. There are so many I admire like Bill Brandt for distorted nudes he created, Micheal Klein, Garry Winogrand, Robert Frank and so many more for their contribution to photography as fine art.  I am inspired by photographers of our time as well,  magnum photographers are my favorites for example.    

What was the best photo you never took?
Great question!  Photo of my son when he came to this world.