Eldar Khamitov (aka Eldalieee) is an American street photographer based in New York City. Focus of Eldar’s work is narrative through candid images of people in the streets on New York City and all over the world. His primary goal is to capture mood of each scene or character, and create a story that has a timeless quality. Eldar is a founder of a Timeless Streets Collective of international photographers that features best work of fellow artists through social media thus connecting talents around the world. His inspirations in photography are Vivian Maier, Harry Gruyaert, Diane Arbus, and Danny Lyon. Besides photography, Eldar loves traveling, color black, and dogs.
What are the rules of your photographic work?
I don’t have many rules around photography but to name a few those would be:
– I always carry my camera with me – even if it’s groceries shopping, because you never know when you see something that is worth capturing.
– I try to be as discrete and candid as possible when I shoot.
– Also, I try to get as close as possible without being discovered by the object – only in rare cases I will engage in conversation, and only if being unnoticed isn’t going to work out.
– I also tend to shoot very deliberately and not randomly which means I will only shoot something that I have a story in my head about – it can be a situation, an interesting object, etc, but has to be something that I can describe as a story.
Is there a particular combination of techniques and tools that you think makes the difference?
This is an interesting question. I would say, always have your camera with you, always be charged and have extra battery and memory cards on you, and always shoot in RAW + JPEG. At least, these are some things that I use in my work.
Tell us about an experience that definitely changed the way you work and made you grow.
Attending Eric Kim’s photography workshop back in 2017 impacted my work in several ways:
1. I got more confident in getting closer to objects and situations that interest me – prior to that, I was more scared and needed a confidence boost
2. I learnt that I should focus more on what interests me rather than think about how my work will be perceived by other people – this independence makes a huge difference and frees you up as a creator
3. I also discovered that even when a bunch of photographs take a picture of the same object or situation, the end result is going to be different – different angle and different point of view is what makes photography exciting as it is a self-expression tool and reflection of each photographer’s thought process and personality.
4. I also learnt how not to be too aggressive and sometimes not get too close – i was observing some students jumping in people’s faces to a point when it was very rude and offensive to the object, and the end results were not great either.
Was there ever a difficult situation? How did you react? Tell us.
I am lucky as I never got in a fight or a conflict with the object – there was once an uncomfortable situation with the guy I photographed in New Orleans who approached me very aggressively but I was able to handle the situation and pretended I deleted the image. There are people who do not like to be photographed and I respect that and try to handle situations with a smile – mostly it works, in rare cases I can delete the image. It also matters where we shoot as street photographers because in some countries you cannot shoot as freely as in others and you have to do some research before you travel to make sure that you won’t get into uncomfortable situations.
How do you relate to the environment and the subjects you portray?
I relate to subjects with respect to their boundaries, and yet I try to get close to the subject of interest and take a few snaps in a candid manner but from different angles. I feel like, as photographers, we almost fall in love with the subject for a few minutes because we basically pull them out of the crowd with our eyes and find something fascinating about them and worth photographing.
I also have to be very present to the environment I am in so that I can take care of my own safety as well – for example, one should be more mindful when shooting in the dark, or when traveling to other countries where reaction to street photography is not as chilled as in other countries, US for example.
I also ask you to share a bonus trick among your secret techniques.
Good question. I don’t have secret techniques. I can say that it’s always a psychological challenge to get closer to the objects and overcome fear. Confidence comes with more practice.
Tell us about your equipment, what kind of cameras do you shoot with?
I shoot on an old digital Canon T4i, nothing fancy. My main lens is a 40 mm prime lense. I recently purchased Canon SL3 – a very light budget camera which gives me the same options as my old camera but is small, light and has wi-fi connection that allows me to share images much faster. I still hope to buy Leica someday though.
Are there any books you would recommend?
I buy many photography books to get inspiration from. At the moment, I would say, buy Alex Webb’s The Suffering of Light. A great work by the great master.
What stimulates your creativity, what inspires you?
As any person, I have ups and downs with inspiration. In the periods when I was down, I was worried that I won’t take any good shots anymore. But what I learnt from those periods is that it matters not to push yourself all the time, and to take those breaks to regenerate energy. It’s important to stay quiet if there is nothing to say rather than trying to produce something uninspired. And when this period passes and you feel energy to create, this is when great shots come out. But carry your camera with you anyways, because you never know haha.