Patrycja M. is a 27 year old street photographer and blogger based in Berlin. She started her photography journey in late 2019. On her website „With P.M in Berlin“, she posts interviews with Berlin’s residents about current issues within the city.
What are the rules of your photographic work?
My work does not really have rules as it is an on-going process. I always try to express my vision of Berlin through it. I tend to feel very isolated, so I try to showcase this feeling in my work – it is seldom for me to have more than one subject in the frame. You can also see, that I tend to have darker tones, particular in the very beginning. Nowadays I try to experiment more with color while keeping the heavier tone in my photography.
Is there a particular combination of techniques and tools that you think makes the difference?
Storytelling. I think due to all the fancy color grading and edits people tend to overlook it. I know I did when I started. I am still struggling with it to be honest. Most photographers that I admire are master storytellers. A great example is Mateusz Żurowski – I absolutely adore his work.
Tell us about an experience that definitely changed the way you work and made you grow.
Overcoming anxiety. I struggle with this a lot, more so at the beginning. Even though I try to be a passive observer there is still some level of interaction when taking photographs of people. You don’t know how the other side may react. It is hard to compose when you can’t focus and sweat profusely, seemingly without reason. But the more I did it, the more I realized: unless you’re rude about it, nobody really cares what you do on the streets. Then, about 6 months ago, I asked someone directly to take their portrait then and there for the first time. They agreed with a smile. It gave me the confidence push to stop caring so much and just do my thing. I think my work improved since that encounter. Most reactions I get are sincere curiosity. So I spent a lot of time talking to random people – of course keeping a distance 😉
Was there ever a difficult situation? How did you react? Tell us.
Not really. Most of the time it’s just technical issues, like a broken tripod. Nothing dramatic.
How do you relate to the environment and the subjects you portray?
It depends what I am shooting for. There are a lot of various perspectives and levels of interaction one can choose to have with their subject. For street work, I always try to keep a distance to my subjects. I like being a passive observer. It helps me to detach myself from the actual action and takes some of my anxiety away of shooting strangers. It also helps for more authentic documentation of everyday life in Berlin – I am not changing the action of the people, I am merely watching and capturing their little moments in a chosen environment. I would like to do more portraits in the future though, after the lockdown.
I also ask you to share a bonus trick among your secret techniques.
I am not sure if its a trick, but I always try to shoot a little bit over my ideal frame. In that way I still can crop and adjust the angle if something looks wrong. It Is easier to crop in post than realizing that everything is weirdly cut and you can do nothing about it. Especially in street photography it can be challenging to frame on the spot, since things like lightning and subjects change constantly. Also, in the beginning, most people don’t have the right feel for a photo in camera vs on a bigger monitor. So potentially great photographs can be wasted in the worst case.
Tell us about your equipment, what kind of cameras do you shoot with?
Since the lockdown in April I am casually shooting with my Nikon D3500 almost exclusively. It’s an amateur beginner camera. I actually made the mistake 5 year ago to buy expensive gear, that I couldn’t really use and then did not shot anything for the next 3 years out of frustration. I am ready to upgrade in the near future, but it showed me the importance of getting to know your gear and the limitation that it has. I know exactly how my camera works in various situations and lightning conditions. I know what I need for my work when I decide to buy an advanced camera.
I think beginners hang up on expensive equipment too much, thinking they get better results. In a way it is true, but you don’t need a 2000 EUR camera if you don’t know half the features it offers. It’s just wasted money. Learn the rules of composition and the exposure triangle first. Shoot a lot for a couple of months. Upgrade when you know what you need. Mediocre photos on a great camera are still mediocre photos, just sharper.
How do you relate to your customers? Do you choose them or do you let chance bring them to you?
Due to the situation I don’t actively search for customers per se. I’ve been shooting on the streets for over a year now, 10 months of it in quarantine, really. I am planing to focus more on portraits in the future. Right now, I am in the process of evolving my website and connect people through that. So, in a way my guests are my customers. I hope we can all actively work together after the lockdown ends, to revive the scene.
Do you think there is a perfect age to start being a photographer?
There is no such thing as a perfect age when it comes to photography. It’s not a sport. It does not depends on your mobility to such an extent. Everyone can learn anything by doing it often or even everyday. I think more important is the attitude. Do you want to do it professionally? Do you want to focus on the artistic aspect or go full commercial? Or is it just a stress reliever? No matter the answer, as long as you are willing to learn and better yourself, you will evolve. The worst thing can be arrogance – nobody can know everything about something. Even after 20 years. But if you’re willing to put the work you will see the results.
What have been the consequences of COVID19 in your work?
As I do exclusively street photography now I did not face any hardships. I am able to photograph the city in a completely new situation, so more than not I am actually fascinated with the distinct city dynamic right now. The differences of the districts are interesting. I think the lockdown multiplied the visual differences because every district seems to respond in its own way. Charlottenburg and Mitte seem to be ghost towns. Friedrichshain was booming with people the last time I went there. So for me it is like Christmas. Masked people everywhere.
But financially it’s been a disaster for a lot of artists. My desire to expand into other genres also fell flat because of the restrictions. For people who were doing it professionally for years… It really hit them hard. I hope they can all recover relatively fast. It would be a shame if we’d lose a large part of the community.
Are there any books you would recommend?
The first one that comes to my mind is Hollywood by David Thomson. Most of the photos stem from the Kobal collection. It takes you on a ride through Hollywood’s history with iconic behind the scenes photographs.
What stimulates your creativity, what inspires you?
Good conversations – be it with friends, interview guests or strangers – and new ideas that just pop up in my head randomly. I am a make-a-list type of person. Everyday I wake up, drink my coffee and write in my planner. It keeps me going when I have a creative burn-out. All my ideas are in one place ready to grab as needed. Music and album covers also play a great influence on me, when it comes to the mood and color palette of my work.