Julia Coddington | Sydney

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

I am fortunate to live in a beautiful place just south of Sydney, Australia on the coast.  Not the greatest place for a crazy street photographer because of the lack of people, but otherwise I think it’s paradise.  I try to scratch a living being a landscape architect in a small place and travel as much as I can with my partner.  

I have always owned a camera, and like lots of kids of my generation had a polaroid camera and a little Kodak instamatic 110 format pocket camera with those little blue disposable flash bulbs.  They were so cool! In the 80s I lived in Indonesia for a while and armed with an Olympus OM10 enjoyed wandering the streets taking photos. My three kids then became the focus of my photos until I was allowed back out of the house to rediscover life! (I’m kidding).

In 2008 I got my first iPhone and this was when I really got hooked after discovering I could discreetly take candid, stealth photos of random people in the street. Since 2012 I’ve been able to travel more and have discovered the joy of street photography in the process.

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You are a street photographer. What fascinates you capturing life in the streets?
I’m sure all street photographers find human beings endlessly fascinating. I just love watching people and their interactions, gestures, movements and emotions. Using street photography to capture those interactions - those special human ‘moments’ is like the icing on the cake. 

Street photography is a very addictive past time. The addiction runs deep for most street photographers because they are on an endless quest to capture that perfect moment. The other addictive aspect of street photography is the meditative, almost ‘fugue’ like state you reach when you get into the ‘zone’. So part of the fascination of  street photography and capturing life on the streets is also around the street photographer’s ability to meld into the street or the scene. I have a slight advantage because I am a small, non threatening, middle aged woman and for this reason am invisible. Wearing my ‘invisibility cloak’ I can become part of a scene. I can listen to what is happening and anticipate what people are about to do.  No one really notices me or pays attention and this gives me confidence and (an ever so slight) sense of power.

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You submitted a body of work called “Out of the blue”.  Tell us a bit about it.
My style of street photography is inspired by the Australian environment - the strong light and colours, and of course the blue sky which is ever present. I like to create photos without clutter and which are distinctive for their colours, shapes and movement. We don’t have interesting old buildings and coloured backgrounds or walls where I live so I use the stark blue of the sky to create a backdrop against which colourful shapes float or stand out. 

Can you describe what you’re looking for in your composition? 
Compositionally I strive for clean, crisp photos without clutter or mess.  Colour and movement are also elements I like to capture. But these are often not enough and I also try to include gestures, emotions and something quirky in my photos.  The best street photographs also have layers with their subjects well spaced. This is what I aim to achieve in the my compositions but is it of course always very, very difficult to capture the perfect shot.

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Are you more of a walk and watch or a wait and see kind of street photographer? 
Both. It really depends on the situation.  If I find an interesting scene where something is happening, or about to happen - I wait, watch and insert myself into it - listening and observing closely. If nothing is happening, I move on or in some situations chase after a subject or a scene.

What's your favourite focal lengths and can you explain us why? 
I shoot wide.  My favourite focal length is the 18mm (28mm equivalent).  Although more and more I am using a 14mm (21mm equivalent) because it allows me to get in very close to the subject.  I occasionally use a 23mm (35mm equivalent) although this is often too tight for me.  If I am shooting portraits or a gig, I will use a 23mm or 50mm.

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What tips or advice would you give a photographer who is starting with street photography?
Most people starting out in street photography are afraid to get close to people or are worried about a person’s reaction if they’ve discovered you’ve taken their photo.  Know your rights as a photographer. In most countries taking photos of people in public spaces is perfectly legal. If someone asks you what you’re doing, explain what street photography is about and the importance of it. Be proud to be a street photographer. If we didn’t exist, those wonderful moments of life on the streets would never be captured.

As a woman street photographer you have a huge advantage because you are less of a threat.  Use this advantage.  Don’t be afraid. Have confidence and courage.  

Read and learn as much as you can about street photography, and look at the work of the masters to understand what makes a street photograph great. And listen to podcasts! You can learn so much from them. But most importantly get out and shoot a lot, and experiment a lot!  Don’t just take photos of people walking towards you. Try all sorts of different angles, look for the light and where the light is, for gestures, emotion, colour and movement.

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How important is traveling for you as a photographer?
It is very important because it gets my street photography juices flowing. Being in a different environment forces me to stretch myself. We all get ‘stuck’ in our own environments, always photographing the same thing. I love taking photos here, with the blue sky in the background, but I also want to push myself and put myself into situations that are unfamiliar. 

Traveling is also a wonderful way to meet and connect with other street photographers. If I could afford to travel all the time, I would! 

Beside your work as a photographer you teach workshops. What can people expect joining your workshops?
I am quite an active street photographer and move around a lot to get the best angle, crouch down low and get in very close to the subject. I love teaching others how it’s possible to do this - encouraging students to get close and help them feel comfortable working in close proximity to their subjects so they gain confidence and courage. Students practice getting into the middle of a scene and working it. They also learn about my approach to shooting colour, light and movement and about ways to produce strong images.

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Can you tell us anything about the photography scene in Australia? Are there any female photographers you can recommend?
Street photography is a relatively new and unknown genre of photography in Australia.  It is a small community and quite disconnected - largely because of geography. In January, my friend and fellow street photographer Rebecca Wiltshire and I cofounded the ‘unexposed collective’.  We called it a ‘collective’ as a reaction to the traditional male dominated collective. Unexposed is inclusive of all people but we only feature the work of Australian women and non binary street photographers. The aim is to connect street photographers in this country and build community.  So far the response has been great and we’re realising how many wonderful women and NB street photographers there are here. The following people are producing work which is primarily street photography focused: Amal Tofiali Bleed, Catherine Matthys, Deb Field, Kimboid, Libby Holmsen, Linda MacLean, Martine Lanser, Rachael Willis, Rebecca Wiltshire, Simone Fisher, Teresa Pitcher - among others - but please check out the work of all unexposed collective photographers on the Instagram feed and Facebook group page.

If you had the chance to go on a photowalk with a famous street photographer. Who would it be? 
There are so many I would love to do a photowalk with. - such a hard choice.  Dan Ginn recently asked this question on Facebook.  My answer: Michelle Groskopf.

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Julia is teaching a workshop "Getting Closer" at Street Photo Milan Thursday May 3 - from 2 to 6 pm. Get more infos clicking here.

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Website: http://www.juliacoddington.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/juliacoddington/
Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/juliacoddington/