What drew you to street photography initially?
The shortest answer is that beauty and magic can be found everywhere as soon as you go out of the house. Next to that, I always consider myself an absolute beginner and street photography is my best teacher to learn and grow as a photographer and as a person.
You have to deal with the unexpected and you need to make split second decisions that deal with technical aspects (shutter speed), aesthetics (framing) and dealing with your fellow humans. I am still experiencing fear as I put my camera in front of somebody in let’s say, a supermarket. Because of this fear I have missed many opportunities. At one point I realized that experiencing fear is one of the best signals for a good photographic moment. You have to dive in.
On your Flickr profile, you mention that you have an interest in the “total scope of things” and this makes developing a singular style a challenge. I’ve felt the same way before, after all, the world is a place of great variety. Do you feel like the “richness in people and culture” can truly be captured and documented in photography?
I’m very much like a sponge, I want to absorb, understand and appreciate everything. My broad interest is a talent and enriching but also it is tiring and lacking consistency. But to answer your question: Of course! Taken in consideration that there is music, poetry, history and so on to document fully it takes one good photograph to capture truly. I live in Rotterdam which is a city with people of so many different nationalities. They all bring something into the rich mix and I sincerely love that about this town. It gives interesting contrasts and color on so many levels. (Also in black and white.)
You have a way with light! I love the way you use it to make images seem more intimate. How do you do it? What do you look for in lighting?
I am always sensitive and aware of shadow and light. It is that what can make or break an image and more so turn the ordinary in something extraordinary. First of all, it is a matter of always having your camera with you. When the light is special immediately alarm bells go off in my mind trying to use the opportunity to photograph. And I use an electronic viewfinder so I can actually see what I will be shooting. Tilting your camera a little bit up or down can have a drastic change in contrast and light. I really explore those possibilities and try to frame from an angle that gives the most beautiful light.
Do you have any tips for people who are new to street photography?
Like I said earlier, the best tip is to always have a camera with you. The best pictures I ever took are all made on film with an Olympus Mju II. It fitted perfectly in my pocket and when a photographic moment occurred I was able to capture it. It is such a horrible feeling when you have to say to yourself; oooohhh I wish I had my camera with me… You can never capture that moment again.
And I think it is best to have a very broad definition of ‘street’ photography. For me the street can be inside, outside, in cities, villages and in nature. It is a state of mind. To be able to see beyond the mundane.
In addition, I am an auditory person and I love the art of field recording which has many similarities with street photography. Only with sound you can not leave anything outside of the frame and you have to able to capture for long periods of time. Besides having a photographic eye I invite everybody to develop a photographic ear. If you are interested you can check out my release ‘The Sounds of Hokkaido‘ on ‘Greenfield Recordings.’ In the added pdf you can also find some extra images.
To see more of Robert’s work, please visit his Flickr page.