USA

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.

 

 

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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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
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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.

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

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.