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Learn From Experience: Benedetta Ristori

Benedetta Ristori is a freelance photographer currently based in Italy. 

Her work is focused on the tension between a form and the space it takes and where it’s contained by.

Daily objects or common landscapes that are apparently meaningless, for the artist are symbols of connection between interiority and materiality.

The outside world is faced and represented through suspended atmospheres, bringing the viewer into a space less and timeless experience.

Working in both staged and spontaneous photography.

The vision is always consistent, combining meticulously location, colors and composition, with a particular attention on subtraction and reduction to the essential.

In 2014 she was interviewed by the magazine Vanity Fair in the Emerging Photographers section.

Around 2015 Benedetta was one of the finalists of the ‘Next Photographer Award’ by D&AD in partnership with Getty Images.

2016 one photo of her project “Lay Off” was the winner of the People category in the 16th Smithsonian Magazine photo contest.

The same year her project “Lay Off” is published by Vogue Italia, Ignant, Il Muro, Positive Magazine and others.

In 2015 she begin the series ‘East’ ended in 2018.

The project is published on VICE, It’s Nice That, Freunde Von Freunden, The Space Magazine, The Calvert Journal. 

2017 she was one of the 100 creatives chosen to represent the Lazio region in the annual initiative “Lazio Creativo 2017”.  

2018 she self-published her first book “East”, from the homonymous series.

2020 Ristori is one of the winners of “Refocus” by MiBact in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Photography and Triennale Milano.

Her work has been to illustrate articles in Bloomberg Businessweek, Forbes, Label Magazine, Document Journal and others. She has worked commercially for clients like Airbnb, Fendi, Nike, Action Aid International. 

Her projects are exposed in various international exhibitions.

What are the rules of your photographic work?

I don’t follow any real rules. My work mainly focuses on representing a sensation and telling a story; the approach is instinctive and depends a lot on the person / place on the other side of the camera.

The only rule I can try to follow is to have a free and open mind and try to completely tune into what I am photographing.

Is there a particular combination of techniques and tools that you think makes the difference?

I think the difference is made by the vision.

It doesn’t matter what kind of medium or instrument you are using, it can be a smartphone or an analog medium format camera, but without an idea I don’t think there is any difference.

Very often I’m asked what camera or film I use, but I think you have to work based on the material you have and create your own visual path.

Tell us about an experience that definitely changed the way you work and made you grow.

I believe I am in a constant moment of growth and change.

Everything that happens in personal life is automatically reflected in the photographic work.

This is why I think a turning point was when I became more confident and focused on my personal projects without thinking about what others were doing, focusing exclusively on what is important for me to express.

Was there ever a difficult situation? How did you react? Tell us.

I can say that I have never found myself in a difficult situation during my shootings.

The one that comes to mind may be while I was taking pictures of my project “East” during the winter months (in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia) and the snow was very high and has been a problem is to arrive in many locations so much so that I had to exclude some of them because they were unattainable.

Another small difficulty was with a broken film inside the camera, containing very important shots of a project, but luckily I was able to save more than half of the shots.

My reaction in these situations is initially discouragement but I always try to move forward quickly without being influenced too much.

Especially when I am on a project for several weeks and I cannot put it in crisis due to an unexpected difficulty.

How do you relate to the environment and the subjects you portray?

As mentioned before I try to tune into the subject and the space I am going to photograph.

For me it is very important to represent the context and environment in which a subject is contained.

After a practical research for the place or people I want to portray, I try to have an instinctive and free approach, without imposing restrictions on movement and action to the photographed person.

I like to find balance in what I have in front of me without changing it, and I always talk to the subjects to understand if what we are going to tell is actually part of them and if they feel comfortable.

Tell us about your equipment, what kind of cameras do you shoot with?

I mostly use a Pentax Mx for my 35mm and a Mamiya Rz67 for my medium format.

How do you relate to your customers? Do you choose them or do you let chance bring them to you?

I am contacted directly by customers.

If there is no direct contact, I am contacted by the creative agencies or photo editors responsible for the project that will be assigned to me.

Do you think there is a perfect age to start being a photographer?

No. As I see it, photography is a journey and can begin at any age.

Starting at an older age can be synonymous with awareness, obviously if you want to pursue a career in photography it is better to start earlier but I would never put age limits on an artistic work.

What have been the consequences of COVID19 in your work?

The biggest impact was related to the inability to travel.

In 2020 I was supposed to leave abroad to continue some projects but it wasn’t possible.

I had to stop, and this can be frustrating when you want to pursue a project.

The positive side was that I had to photographically face the territory in which I live.

Are there any books you would recommend?

“Desert Cantos” by Richard Misrach, “Fotografien 1991 – 1995” by Laurenz Berges and “She” by Lise Sarfati.

What stimulates your creativity, what inspires you?

The freedom to explore and learn about unknown places and untold stories inspires me a lot.

I think it is crucial for my creative process to have the possibility to enter and immerse myself totally in the reality that I am going to photograph.

Benedetta Ristori

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Learn From Experience: Irene Cruz

Irene Cruz is a DOP photographer and video artist.

She is fully engaged in photography in various fields: video art, film, as well as teaching.

Her works have been presented at festivals as well as individual and group fairs or exhibitions around the world, such as the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, the Circle of Fine Arts or the Palace of Cibeles in Madrid, La KunstHalle or Tempelhof in Berlin, Project Art Space in New York, the MUA3 in Alicante or the Da2 4 de Salamanca.

She currently resides in Berlin, where she takes advantage of the proximity to nature and northern light to incorporate them into her works.

She studied Advertising and PR, and Audiovisual Communication (UCM, Madrid, 2010).

Then completed the international master’s degree EFTI, (Conceptual Photography and Artistic Creation, 2011).

In 2013, she took a specialized course on cinematic narrative lighting at the same center.

She has won awards such as the Banco Santander Foundation’s Photo-Detail Accesit in 2010, the 2nd AENA Foundation Photography Award, the first prize at the II CFC-Iberdrola Photography Competition in 2014, and the 2014 Videoarte Best Piece Award by the international platform Elmur.net.

She has participated in the Photoespaña festival uninterruptedly since 2012 in various galleries and centers.

She combines her career in contemporary art, with teaching (at various specialized universities and schools in Mexico, Spain, UK, Germany and Switzerland) and her work as director of photography and colorist.

As DOP two feature films “Diana” (Fiction, Alejo Moreno, 2018) and “Proven Facts” (TBD, 2020).

Can be highlighted although she has also made video clips, campaigns (the last one she has directed for Levi’s), pieces of video art (highlighting her work at the Deutsche Oper 2014-2016), short documentaries…

Since 2019 she has been part of the AEC (Spanish Association of Directors and Directors of Photography) and CIMA since 2018 (Association of Women Filmmakers and Audiovisual Media). In Berlin she is part of the stammtisch Women in Cinema Berlin organization as well as an active member of The Women+ Film Network Berlin.

Statement

My work manifests mystery, intimacy. It declares the human being as part of nature and attests to its integration into the landscape…. The landscape that can be seen in my images always has an emotional role.

I am interested in working away from personalization, close to representing universal emotions and feelings, hence the absence of faces in general.

Photography is for me it’s a native language. From a very young age I communicate through it as my personal connection to the environment. I understand art as a quest, a therapy and a tool that leads me to constant spiritual and professional transformation. My work is always a mirror of my inner universe, of my position in front of the world, and a reflection of what I have to live in every moment of my life.

The most distinctive feature of my work is light.

I look for the limits of dusk and dawn, my light is blue, cold. I have always felt a great attraction for the dim and intimate, subtle, serene lighting that surrounds the stage. I create from the “liminal” (from both sides of a border or threshold);

I mean, being between day and night, tranquility and restlessness.

I move and explore the place that exists between the different polarities because for me there are no limits.

There are roads, bridges…

And in the end: Nature always wins, it’s everything.

Hey Emiliano! Thank you for this interview and for giving me the opportunity to share what I do with your beautiful Berliner community!

What are the rules of your photographic work?

The only rule when I create is that it has to flow, everything that I create emerges from my deep truth.

All my work comes from within, from the inner-places that I discover through my photography.

I have used photography from a very early age as a means of self-introspection, it is a way of life for me, I could somehow compare it to a therapy.

Is there a particular combination of techniques and tools that you think makes the difference?

I always love to explore different mediums and techniques. Right now I’m much more into film photography. I’ve recently acquired a Hasselblad which forces me to look at things differently and makes me stick to the language of square format. Something that has never attracted me and that I am now exploring.

I don’t think that any technique makes a difference, I think the important thing is to innovate, to try new things that can make your work evolve, and really express and contribute to your genuine way of looking at the world. This way we can inspire others, make them reflect, or simply enjoy our work and share with them our creative process.

Tell us about an experience that definitely changed the way you work and made you grow.

I started working professionally in movies as a DOP and some cinematographic influence clearly can be perceived in my work ever since.

My first feature movie “Diana” was a challenge, I explored another way of seeing light, I started to paint with color reflections, which really improved my perception and it’s clearly been reflected in my personal work.

Was there ever a difficult situation? How did you react? Tell us.

There have been many difficult situations, this profession is full of challenges.

Without going any further: this 2020 in which I have hardly been able to make exhibitions, all the art fairs have been cancelled…

It has been a challenge to adapt the whole art market to the internet, to take advantage of other kinds of online possibilities… and to connect more with my followers and students on social networks instead of personally.

To quote I’d say: “The only possible adaptation to these times is innovation, doing things differently, coming together and looking for solutions in a dialogue and not in a constant fight. The only useful reaction is to reflect and redirect.”

How do you relate to the environment and the subjects you portray?

Both the choice of spaces and the people who are photographed in my work are of big importance. The atmosphere of the photograph has to be conveyed as a whole.

For me the landscape or the place that is chosen always have an emotional reason. The two of them have to be in harmony.

I also ask you to share a bonus trick among your secret techniques.

When I get creatively blocked, I always have a notebook where I automatically write how I feel, or if I don’t feel like it, I open any book (literary or art) and write about the first picture I randomly see or continue the text of the first sentence I read.

That brings out the monster that was blocking me. I hope it helps someone else!

Tell us about your equipment, what kind of cameras do you shoot with?

I own a lot of cameras, but my top 5 are:

Are there any books you would recommend?

Books for inspiration: 

What stimulates your creativity, what inspires you?

I usually don’t know exactly where that thing they call inspiration comes from.

It always catches you when you are already working (as the great Picasso used to say).

It can be an experience, a sequence, an instant, a phrase, an emotion, a fragment of a poem, a colour…

When I look for it, I like to find it above all through books. I read a lot of philosophy; Simmel, Ritter, Schopenhauer, Spinoza, Heidelberg, Sennett, are some of my favorites.

I also go to the cinema: I really like Terrence Malick, Lars von Trier.

Especially Malick, he is a great influence, he has a very interesting cinematographic language, I find it fascinating.

As for photographers, I really like the work of Mayumi Hosokura, Francesca Woodman, Arno Rafael Minkkinen… I could keep going forever.

Irene Cruz

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Learn From Experience: Alexandre Wawrzyniak

What are the rules of your photographic work?

The main rule that I apply to my work is always putting the main subject in the middle of the more minimalist background possible. Often, simplest things are the more efficient.

Tell us about an experience that definitely changed the way you work and made you grow.

My work has completely changed until the day I began playing with shadows. I live in a small town so street photo was complicated compared with people coming from big cities such as NYC, San Francisco or Tokyo, so shadows made it possible to give character to photos that hasn’t before.

I also ask you to share a bonus trick among your secret techniques.

It’s always complicated to dare approaching a subject in the street so I’ve adopted a method that permit to people who I shoot not to feel concerned by my photo. I always begin choosing a background, then I position myself before the subjects to come. In this way, the subjects are passing on my photo and not the contrary.

Tell us about your equipment, what kind of cameras do you shoot with?

I have a Fuji XT3 ; I’m a Fuji fan, I love the way you can work with those cameras . I especially use XF35mm F1/4 and XF23mm F2 as camera lens in the street and for my personal photos such as taking pictures of my kids. My favorite lens is 7artisans 35mm F1.2 that delivers incomparable pictures

Are there any books you would recommend?

I’ve never read photography books, but I read a lot of photo material tests. I hardly recommend Jonas Rask’s blog, there you can find really good tests made by one of my favorite  photographers.

What stimulates your creativity, what inspires you?

Everything stimulates my creativity in photography ! I almost like every style. I prefer street photography but I also like landscape photos, animals, minimalism and macro, that’s why I have 3 Instagram accounts ! Unfortunately  I haven’t enough time to make them evolve as I would like.

As far as my inspiration, when I see the incredible work of some photographers, it motivates me to be always more creative!

Alexandre Wawrzyniak

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Learn From Experience: Leanne Staples

What are the rules of your photographic work?

I do not have any hard & fast rules. My intention is to always follow my intuition and to experiment and find new methods of shooting and processing photos. I get bored easily if I don’t change things up.

When it comes to shooting street photography, my number one rule for myself or others who take my workshops, is RESPECT.
If you don’t have respect for people this is a real problem and you shouldn’t be shooting street photography.

As well, I have no expectations of what I want to capture. I like to forget about everything that’s going on in my life and observe what’s going on around me. To be in the moment and not to attempt to have control over it.

Life, and therefore photography, is often more interesting than a Hollywood film. You just can’t make some of it up.

So you need to be aware to capture the moment.

Is there a particular combination of techniques and tools that you think makes the difference?

It really depends on the kind of work that I am doing.
For street photography, I am constantly experimenting with new shooting techniques both in camera settings and subjects.

I have a handful of techniques that I use depending on the situation. One of my favorites is what I call lift and shoot. It is exactly what it sounds like. I think there’s much to be said for the element of chance in photography. It is about making your luck.

Tell us about an experience that definitely changed the way you work and made you grow.

A number of years ago, before the internet and social media, I had thought that I wanted to become an architectural photographer.

I have always been fascinated with some of the characteristics of buildings.

The problem was that people kept walking into my shot. One day I lost my patience and I continued to shoot buildings with people passing by. I did not study photography formally. So when someone saw these photos of buildings with people in them, they said “cool street photography.” My response was, what’s street photography?

I call that my happy accident.

That experience opened the door for me and I haven’t looked back.

Was there ever a difficult situation? How did you react? Tell us.

I once had a private workshop with a man who proclaimed that he knew everything about street photography and he really just wanted me to take him to different neighborhoods.

He took one shot of a man who immediately noticed him and the man was upset.

But instead of stopping shooting, he continued to take photos of the man.

I have never experienced this before when the man put up his fist and was ready to fight. That was for me a very difficult situation.

I felt somewhat responsible even though I had no idea beforehand that my customer would act in this manner.

How do you relate to the environment and the subjects you portray?

I shoot in all four seasons and in most weather with the exception of extreme weather conditions.

I also shoot in many different neighborhoods in New York City. Each neighborhood has its different physical characteristics and the people in each of them are all somewhat different.

So I will choose to shoot in color or monochrome based on the neighborhood and I will also choose the style that I choose to capture the subjects based on these details.

I always take into consideration the customs of the people and show respect to them. 

I also ask you to share a bonus trick among your secret techniques.

In my workshops I find that people spend too much time reviewing their photos when shooting.

In street photography it is easy to miss many opportunities while looking at the photos just captured.

I either ask people to turn off the display at the back of the camera and/or suggest that they try out shooting film for a bit to see how that changes their shooting style.

When we begin a workshop, we spend 15 minutes on camera settings so that we can forget about them and instead focus all of our attention on seeing and shooting.

Tell us about your equipment, what kind of cameras do you shoot with?

I use a few different Fuji cameras, a Ricoh and also a number of film cameras.

Always wide angle for street photography unless I am doing abstract street a la Saul Leiter.

How do you relate to your customers? Do you choose them or do you let chance bring them to you?

Customers choose me.

They either register for group workshops or they contact me for private workshops. My workshops are always personalized to suit the level and the needs of the customer. I do not have a cookie cutter approach to them and I often have repeat customers and they always discover something new.

Do you think there is a perfect age to start being a photographer?What have been the consequences of COVID19 in your work?

I’ve had customers as young as 8 years of age and many preteen and teenage students.

When they are 8 and 9 years of age it’s more about exploring the world and seeing what’s possible. I think that the younger the better.

Starting with pointing out things that look interesting and only helping with the camera if they need it.

Though they seem to need help with using a camera. The younger the better.

My business was severely affected by the pandemic as about 85% of my business is from the EU, UK and Australia. I do hope that 2021 will be a better year for eradicating the virus and a return to travel.

Are there any books you would recommend?

There are so many great books.
Perhaps one of my absolute favorite books in terms of reading rather than picture books, is Daido Moriyama’s How I Take Photographs.

I really like his straight ahead, no nonsense approach to shooting street photography.

What stimulates your creativity, what inspires you?

I am very fortunate to live in New York City. It is a city that has always stimulated all kinds of creativity for me. I am almost always inspired to shoot. I am fascinated with the world around me and there’s always something new to discover.

For many years now, my motto is a quote from Marcel Proust: “The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands but in seeing with new eyes.

” There’s always something new to see and shoot, even when I return to the same neighborhoods over and over again.

Leanne Staples

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Learn From Experience: Mariya Todorova

My name is Mariya, I’m originally from Bulgaria, but at the moment I’m based in Luxembourg. I’m originally working as a Graphic Designer, but I’ve always liked to take photos. I specifically fell in love with Analogue photography around five years ago.

I love to take photos in the cities I usually live in, when I travel and I also like to take portraits, but unfortunately this year I haven’t been able to take as many portraits as I’d like, since we get hit by a worldwide pandemic…

Since I’m working as a designer and have experience with web design, few years ago I’ve decided to combine my love for analogue photography and what I do for a living and I’ve created a website dedicated to analogue photography – www.analogueunited.com 

On the website I publish the work of people from all over the world, we also have a blog section and instagram account.

I’m currently renewing the website and I’m planning to develop it further and add more people on it.

What are the rules of your photographic work?

I’m not sure if there are specific rules that I follow.

Sometimes I have an idea how I want the photo to look like, sometimes it is just a feeling and just being present in the moment.

Is there a particular combination of techniques and tools that you think makes the difference?
I’m not a fan of heavily editing a film photo. Sometimes I change the exposure, or the contrast, but that’s about it.

Since I shoot on film, I like to take photos with the camera itself and let the camera, lens a certain film and the light to do their magic.


A technique that I use is, trying to take the photos at a specific time of the day, which of course it’s not always possible, but as a lot of photographers, I love the light during golden hour.

Tell us about an experience that definitely changed the way you work and made you grow.
At the moment I’m working on creating my own photo prints, which is completely new to me and I’m really excited to start doing it.

It’s definitely not that easy and you need time until you perfect your colours on the print, but it’s really exciting to learn and I’m considering it as a next step in my film photography journey.

At some point, I’d really like to do an exhibition with my photos, but that is a next step for me.

Was there ever a difficult situation? How did you react? Tell us.

I don’t work professionally as a Photographer, nor I work with clients, so I don’t remember a specific situation where I had some difficulties. Maybe something I find difficult is to ask strangers on the street if I can take their portrait.

I always feel embarrassed to do it, but the times I had the courage to do it, it turned out great.

Note to myself: Do this more often 🙂

How do you relate to the environment and the subjects you portray?

Before I take a photo I usually observe the object or the scenery.

Really often when I’m just taking a walk around the city, I get inspired by something and I want to snap a photo of it.

I also ask you to share a bonus trick among your secret techniques.

Usually like to take just one photo of a certain object, or scenery. I know that a lot of photographers won’t agree with me, but that’s how I like to do it.

Maybe an exception will be when I’m taking portraits of someone, but even there I do 3 to 5 shots and that’s it. I don’t like to have one roll just with the same portraits. Analogue is not like digital photography, where you take 100 photos of the same thing and you don’t really care how many you did.


I’m not sure if this will be useful to anyone, but just take your time when you are taking a photo. Look closely at what you are taking a photo of, select your composition, be sure to nail that focus (sometimes that’s tricky I know, especially to someone like me, that needs to wear glasses :D) and then take the photo.

Tell us about your equipment, what kind of cameras do you shoot with?

At the moment I’m using 8 or 9 cameras, or at least I’m trying to use all of them.

One of my favorites is the classic Canon AV-1 with a 50mm lens, which I have since I started shooting film, few years ago and it’s still my favourite.

Another camera that I love is the Yashica Mat 124G. I love medium format and at the moment I’m trying to get better at it. Favourite film at the moment is Kodak Ektar 100, I just love the colours that this film has.

Are there any books you would recommend?

The book I’d like to recommend is called “The Photographer’s Playbook.” It consists of different Photography challenges which you can do.

They are all listed by different photographers and let you experiment with different techniques. If you’d like to challenge yourself as a photographer and try something new, I highly recommend it.

What stimulates your creativity, what inspires you?

I guess a lot of creative people will understand me when I say that sometimes you lose your inspiration and it takes time until you get it back. I get inspired by music, a beautiful movie, or a book.

Sometimes I get inspired by simply taking a stroll around the city, or in nature and I just start observing what’s around me and try to be in the present moment as possible, taking it all in, almost every time there will be something that will inspire me to take a photo. That’s why you should never forget to bring your camera with you, when you leave the house. 🙂

Mariya Todorova

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Learn From Experience: Barnana Hemoprava Sarkar

Barnana is a writer based out of Mumbai, India where she works with a women’s healthcare company.

She also works as a freelance reporter covering rural development stories. Her interest in photography stems from the need to document but at the same time as a practice of art.

Her work blurs the line between documentary and fine art photography.

What are the rules of your photographic work?

As a beginner I am yet to develop my own rules for my work.

But there are certain basic rules which I follow, such as always ensuring that the lines are right. They needn’t be perfect all the time but following certain patterns or lines when taking a picture can be reassuring and safe.

I want to make sure that I am not making any technical error – other than the slight bending of rules for creative purposes.

The second rule which I ardently is to always shoot in sunlight.

While we can always manipulate light indoors through massive screens or ring bulbs, there is nothing quite like the softness which natural light brings with it.

Of course, that is an unreliable method of photography because cloudy days are inevitable and then you don’t get the light you want but other than that, I always like to take pictures in sunlight.

The third and my most sacred rule is to always shoot alone.

I personally do not prefer working with a crew, don’t like to have anyone around me for handling the props or the lights.

I like to do everything on my own. That way even if I make a mistake I can quickly rectify it without being answerable to too many people. Most importantly it gives me the space to innovate which happens at the spur of a moment. 

Is there a particular combination of techniques and tools that you think makes the difference?

As I said, I am yet to discover a lot of things and I still play around a lot with softwares, camera settings, and everything around me or the subject.

There are, however, two or three things which I prefer working with but I am not sure if they make a huge difference in the larger picture.

When taking street photographs, I usually prefer the Auto mode because the street is constantly changing and there is a lot happening there.

As a beginner, I am yet to enter that set of mind where you can adjust the exposure mode according to your need and shoot the subject exactly as you want it to be.

It takes me close to 10 test shots to get the exposure mode right and even then more than often I will see the photograph completely white.

So I keep it in Auto mode when taking pictures of impulsive subjects such as street life.

On the other hand, if it is a staged photograph or a portrait I ensure that my camera is on Manual mode.

It is just about the comfort of the situation, as of now.

I don’t use Photoshop because I still don’t have the need to but I do use Lightroom, most of the time to only reduce the brightness.

Other than that I try my best to not edit my pictures but focus on taking a proper shot. 

Tell us about an experience that definitely changed the way you work and made you grow.

I don’t think there can ever be one experience that changes things for you and makes you grow. It is always a collective of tiny, unrecognized  moments which contribute the most in the changes you experience. Personally, for me, photography has been a part of my alter-ego.

Everyone knows me to be a writer, a poet, someone who will one day pen down the ultimate 21st century novel.

But all that is fantasy. And I know where that comes from.

I am a Literature student who for the longest time has worked as a Journalist. I write long-form features on rural development, women’s labourforce, the working class struggle.

Although I know my work has had an impact in the past, I know photography can enhance it. Because when you hear someone say something, I will probably stay with you for a day or two. But when you see something, it gets locked in your mind.

Working with people across spectrums of gender, class, and age, I strive to not only report but to show.

It’s not about either reading Martha Gelhorn or seeing Lee Miller’s photographs to understand the Second World War but to do both to fully experience the horrors of one of the worst acts of mankind.

Was there ever a difficult situation? How did you react? Tell us.

I don’t think I have reached a place where I faced a difficult situation. I am still quite young, and impulsive, and bold to experience true difficulty.

There have been bouts of depression when I didn’t work for months or had fits of rage but never anything life changing.

In photography, I try to read and learn as much as possible everyday. And everytime I read something I try to apply it.

For example, I recently read in a book by James Monaco, How to Read a Film, where he gave a detailed explanation on how Hitchcock shot that famous staircase scene in vertigo.

I read about it, took notes, and tried it at home. It worked! And I was elated.

So it is more about growing right now, I am sure there are a lot of difficult times ahead and very soon I will have to react in some way.

How do you relate to the environment and the subjects you portray?

I think the only relation between the environment and the subject is their constantly evolving nature. You cannot photograph the same thing in the same way twice;

the frame might be the same, what you include might also be the same but there is always the inevitability to time brushing through things.

As the environment evolves, so does the subject.

For example, Steve McCurry’s Afghan Girl is one of the most beautiful examples of how time can affect a subject, and thus the photograph.

It also depends on how time affects you as a photographer, do you still see the subject in the same way as you did and do you still live in the same environment that you lived in years ago?

The relationship really is with time, I think.

I also ask you to share a bonus trick among your secret techniques.

I don’t have any secret techniques but I would suggest everyone to take at least 50 photographs in a day. It can be anything, a chair, a dress, a strand of hair.

Just take as many pictures as you can.

It helps you hold your camera better and makes you more comfortable with it, it will also help sharpen your eye and teach you where to look.

Tell us about your equipment, what kind of cameras do you shoot with?

As of now I am using a basic level DSLR, Nikon’s D3500. It’s my first DSLR. I use two lenses, 18-50 mm and 70-300 mm.

Are there any books you would recommend?

I really enjoyed reading some books – they are both on films and photography.

One is James Monaco’s ‘How to Read a Film’, which I have mentioned earlier, and the other is On Directing Film David Mamet.

For my personal project, I am currently reading a book by Frances Borzello ‘Seeing Ourselves: Women’s Self-Portraits’.

Next on my list is Geoffrey Batchen’s ‘Each Wild Idea’.

What stimulates your creativity, what inspires you?

Life. I don’t think anything else can be as inspiring.

Life throws a lot of things at us, it recently hit me with my father’s ill-health and that is quite the struggle.

But when it was pushing me down and making things harder, it also made sure that I did everything I did best.

I think that is where the stimuli lies.

My creativity is a response to what Life is telling me or doing to me.

Barnana Hemoprava Sarkar

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Learn From Experience: Chetan Verma

I am a street photographer based out of Gurgaon, India. Back in 2011, I got myself a new DSLR to primarily click pictures of my new born baby. But it was when I took the camera out on the streets, sometime in 2016, that I discovered this whole new love for photography. Since then I have been regularly capturing streets.

What are the rules of your photographic work?

Art has no rules, else it will risk becoming science!

I am a learner, and at this moment I really have no rules.

I shoot what catches my attention, and I shoot a lot whenever I go out with my camera.

I am a software engineer by profession and mostly I only get weekends to shoot, so I try and make the most of it.

Photography is my hobby and passion.

Is there a particular combination of techniques and tools that you think makes the difference?

As I said, I am still learning. I shoot streets. From whatever I have learnt until now, the two most important tools in street photography are the ability to observe – being aware of the surroundings.

Second is the ability to look a few seconds, at times even minutes in future, and then have patience to see if it unfolds and when it does, not to miss that moment.

Tell us about an experience that definitely changed the way you work and made you grow.

Practice is that one thing. The key is to shoot as much as possible, and follow and read some of the master’s of photography. Read about how they shoot, how to they see, how they frame.

The key is to understand this fact – If you practice something every day, or at least as often as possible, there is no chance you will not get better at that.

Was there ever a difficult situation? How did you react? Tell us.

In the initial days, I would get frustrated often. I would go out and then return with all bad photos – sometimes exposure was not right, camera shake, missing the decisive moment, bad framing, or just not being able to figure out the right subject – everything that can go wrong for a Photographer used to go wrong with me.

What kept me afloat was this love for Photography. Even a single good photo from 500 shots I took would make me very happy.

As I practiced more, I got to know my camera better and my observation improved. I approach Photography as a student – it’s a never ending process, and there are no limits.

How do you relate to the environment and the subjects you portray?

I mostly shoot streets, and it’s important to understand and observe your environment. It’s also important to blend in (be invisible) as much as possible and be neutral.

I also ask you to share a bonus trick among your secret techniques.

I cannot emphasize it more – keep practicing and it will make you better. This applies to not just photography, but any field in life. 

I also have learnt that it’s important to go to the same place again and again. Never think that you have exhausted all the possibilities of making a new frame in a place you have visited many times. In fact, take it up as a challenge, that I will try to compose the shot in a way I have never done before.

Tell us about your equipment, what kind of cameras do you shoot with?

At present I have a Nikon D750 and the 24-120mm kit lens. This is all I have.

How do you relate to your customers? Do you choose them or do you let chance bring them to you?

I never have yet got any offer to make money from it till now.

Do you think there is a perfect age to start being a photographer?

I do not think so age is a boundary for learning and being good at anything. It’s all about are you really passionate.

What have been the consequences of COVID19 in your work?

I have shot more since March of 2020 than I ever had. This also allowed me experience the city like never before – less crowded, masked faces.

Are there any books you would recommend?

I am not much of a reader, though I have read this wonderful eBook by Erim Kim – 100 lessons from the Masters of Street Photography.

I frequently view pictures by some great names in street photography – Henri Cartier-Bresson, Bruce Gilden and many others.

Among the contemporary street photographers from India, Navin Vatsa and Vineet Vohra are among the best, and I regularly follow them on Instagram.

What stimulates your creativity, what inspires you?

What I absolutely love about street photography is that it is raw and unadulterated. I can’t control anything – and yet I have to freeze those decisive moments. It is like this play where I am standing in the middle, and the actors are all doing their job.

This thought of observing life as it is, and then capturing some moments from it that makes me and my audience go wow, and the sense of accomplishment in that very feeling – that is what keeps me going.

Chetan Verma

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Learn From Experience: Karin Majoka

Hello, my name is Karin Majoka and I am a 27-year-old autodidact artist based in Germany. I have a background in psychology and currently work as a psychotherapist in training – but art and photography have always been a big part of my life.

While my current focus lays on film photography, the artistic medium form me is just an extension of the mind regardless if it is by using a camera, a brush, a pencil, a computer or something else. I mostly shoot 35mm and medium format film, which I process in my own darkroom.

In 2020 I also started a YouTube channel since I felt like there was an underrepresentation of female film photographers and because

I wanted to document my journey and experiences all around analog photography.

What are the rules of your photographic work?

The only rules in photography are the rules of physics!

No, I am just joking, I think the most important rules I try to follow, are the rules of moral and humanity: Treating the people and the space around me when I photograph with deep respect.

Since street photography is one of my biggest interests, I try to make it a rule to reflect on myself and my intentions when taking photos.

My goals are to understand what is around me by taking photos of it – without harming or disrespecting anybody, which is why a constant feedback loop with myself when taking photos on the streets is important.

Some photographers might even go a step further by saying that a number one rule is not to interfere or ‘manipulate’ your photos in any way, be it on location or later in editing.

I am not one of those people because I don’t see myself as a neutral bystander or documentary photographer per se, but I see myself more as a creator.

Want to translate my imagination onto a canvas or onto my film, which is why I think it is even necessary sometimes to bring all the elements in line.

I don’t manipulate my images in post other than cleaning up some dust specs and straightening some lines, but I don’t hesitate to actively engage with my surroundings when shooting.

Is there a particular combination of techniques and tools that you think makes the difference?

I think tools are exactly what the name suggests: tools.

Cameras are tools and that’s how I like to see them.

Regarding technique I think there is no way around it than to simply learn the techniques that you might need for your type of photography.

For street photography it might be something like learning zone focusing or focusing by feel, while for portrait photography it might be something like lighting techniques.

Some combinations of tools and techniques might be more popular than others such as combining rangefinder cameras with zone focusing in street photography or combining longer lenses with advanced lightning techniques in portrait photography.

But I don’t think that is a necessity, but sometimes breaking with these combinations can make your images even more interesting.

Instead, what I really think makes a difference is to really know your tools and your techniques well, regardless of what tools and techniques that might be.

I would rather shoot with a camera that I know by heart than with a camera that might be technically better, but I have no experience in using.

Take the time to learn your tools and your techniques inside out and then you will be able to make conscious decisions to why it might also make sense to choose unusual combinations.

Tell us about an experience that definitely changed the way you work and made you grow.

I am only 1,60m tall, so growing stopped a long time ago for me. Jokes aside: a very formative experience for me was when I developed my own film for the very first time. I have shot a couple of rolls of film before and was fascinated by it but somehow never hooked.

The day I developed my first roll of black and white film and later enlarged my first image in the darkroom really blew my mind.

Suddenly this whole world of film photography opened up for me and I saw all those infinite new possibilities to shape my photographic vision.

Therefore, I would say learning about the analog process and falling head over heels for film photography on that winter day in 2017 surely lead me to where I am today.

Was there ever a difficult situation? How did you react? Tell us.

Luckily for me there has only been one really difficult situation so far, where a man on the street yelled at me for taking a photo of him.

It was during a photo walk where I met two other street photographers in Hamburg.

We walked over a flea market and I snapped a quick shot of two men that were talking to each other over one of the flea market’s tables, making hand gestures that I found quite interesting.

Out of nowhere he suddenly ran after me and quite aggressively forced me to delete the picture – which I obviously couldn’t because I shot it on film.

It was almost a comical situation, since right at that moment I was talking to those other two photographers about our experiences on the streets and while they have had several incidences where people confronted them on the street, I told them I did not have a single one – right in the second this happened.

Now, in hindsight I think there might have been something else going on that I did not comprehend at that time, those men maybe doing something illegal and feeling threatened by me taking a photo of them.

The situation ended in the way that he followed us for some time, took a photo of me on his phone before finally walking away. Even though this was not a nice experience I still feel like I learned something from it:

Photography is a balancing act. Despite my intentions being good and me trying to be as respectful as possible, human boundaries are still subjective.

Sometimes my photographic vision will clash with other people’s personal space and comfort zone.

Photography therefore is a balancing act with a thin line in choosing whether stepping into somebodies’ personal space can be justified by following the human need of artistic stimulation.

Oh, and funnily enough this was only an average photo that I would have never posted anywhere anyway.

How do you relate to the environment and the subjects you portray?

It depends on what I want to achieve:

When I want to capture a specific moment just as it is, I try to stay in the background and take the shot without interacting or interfering with the situation.

If I want to create a new moment, I try to step into the situation, interact, maybe even talk to people to see how a prior moment shapes into a new one when I press the shutter.

However, I think photography is not one-sided, even in documentary photography or landscape photography where the photographer might try to appear absent, I don’t think this is fully achievable. Absence is impossible, because everything runs through a subjective filter of the person taking the photo.

I always feel some sort of connection and relatedness between the things I photograph and myself. It’s hard to describe but regardless of what I take a photo of it always and inevitably also contains a small part of myself.

I also ask you to share a bonus trick among your secret techniques.

I don’t think I have any bonus tricks or secret techniques.

But one little mind trick that helped me in those situations where I overthink or don’t take a shot because I might be too scared (especially on the street) is to just do it.

It might sound contradictive, but the second I catch myself hesitating to take a shot out of fear I tell myself to stop thinking and just take the shot.

You can only regret what you have not done.

Tell us about your equipment, what kind of cameras do you shoot with?

I almost exclusively shoot film, therefore only use film cameras.

I use different cameras for different situations, depending on what I need.

When doing street photography, I have to be fast which is why I mainly use my Leica M6 with a 35mm lens.

I know that camera inside out and can operate it almost blindly, which is why it serves the purpose for me to react without thinking.

When doing more slowed down work as for example when taking urban landscape or portrait shots I mostly use my Bronica ETRSi for that little extra bit of image quality and when I don’t have any intent to particularly go out and shoot, I carry a camera with me anyways just to be prepared at all times.

The Yashica T4 does that job for me, because it’s small and light enough to live in the pocket of my jacket at all times.

But as I said before, I also think it can be a good challenge to step outside of that comfort zone from time to time and break with those stereotypical camera-combinations for specific situations.

I have also used my Bronica for street photography, the Yashica T4 for portraits, the M6 for landscapes and it has always been a valuable experience.

How do you relate to your customers? Do you choose them or do you let chance bring them to you?

I don’t know if customers is the right term in my case, since I do not sell anything besides a handful of my prints.What could be a better suiting term is maybe ‘audience’ or ‘community’ instead of customers, since this is what I would connect to my social media presence on Instagram and YouTube.

In that case I do not try to lure anybody and I do not advertise myself in any way, since I don’t see myself as a brand but just a regular human being that shares some thoughts and images on the internet.

However, I am glad about everybody who shows interest and engages with my work or me and feel a deep sense of community.

Exchanging thoughts and supporting each other has been incredibly inspirational and I am thankful to have met so many creative people that share the same passion as me.

Do you think there is a perfect age to start being a photographer?

Apart from the fact that I don’t believe in anything ‘perfect’ in general, I also don’t think there is a perfect age for anything – also not for photography.

Of course, there is this saying, ‘practice makes perfect’ and then one could argue that it’s better to have more time to practice and therefore it would be advisable to start with photography early on.

I don’t think that’s necessarily the case though because you can practice your vision and how you see the world without ever holding a camera in your hand.

Observing, analyzing, dismantling the world around you is far more important than knowing all the technical aspects about how a camera works – at least at the start.

If, at one point in your life, you stumble upon photography and think that this is the right tool of expressing yourself: do it! It’s never too late to start.

What have been the consequences of COVID19 in your work?

One major part of what I enjoy doing has always been street photography:

Going out, seeking for those ‘decisive moments’, catching those emotional situations between people on the streets and getting a glimpse of the dynamic that happens out there.

Due to the pandemic self-evidently the possibilities to do street photography are limited and getting close to people is the one thing that should be avoided during times like these.

Therefore, for me having one of my biggest passions on hold was the most noticeable difference in my work since last year.

However, I also tried to see this as a chance and use the current restrictions to explore new paths of photography, experiment and test boundaries of how I can still express myself visually.

Last year my work therefore shifted from street photography to a type of photography where I concentrate more on shapes, contrasts, compositions and human emotions without necessarily portraying humans in my work.

Urban landscapes, more minimalist compositions and details I see in my environment have therefore been my main subject of interest ever since the pandemic started.

Are there any books you would recommend?

A book I really appreciate is ‘Magnum Contact Sheets’.

It shows contact sheets by film photographers that are and were members of the photographic cooperation Magnum such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, Elliot Erwitt, Steve McCurry, Bruce Gilden, Alec Soth and many more.

You do not see an individual image by itself but get to see the whole contact sheet which means the whole film roll the photographer has taken.

I think this is a valuable source to learn about how talented photographers worked a scene and chose their final shots, besides the fact that you also get a crash course in historical events that were caught on film.

What stimulates your creativity, what inspires you?

I actually wrote my thesis at the end of my master’s degree in psychology about the topic of creativity – thus, this is a question that has been on my mind a lot ever since.

One of the definitions of creativity that stuck with me the most was by Robert Sternberg who said that creativity is the habit to do novel things over and over again, a way to routinely approach problems in a novel way.

That said, I also feel like things that are new stimulate my creativity: it could be something big like exploring a new city or getting to know new people, but it could also be something small like cooking a new dish I have never tried before, trying a film stock for the first time or paying attention to the small changes in my neighborhood.

Apart from that I also get a lot of inspiration by art in general (mostly painting but also movies), since stylistic elements are very similar to the ones used in photography, but still train my eye in a different way than looking at other photographs would.

I try to understand why certain pieces make me feel a certain way and try to grasp what it is that moves people so that I can maybe translate it into my own work as well.

Karin Majoka