"A picture is taken at 1/125 sec. What do you know of a photographer's work? One hundred pictures? Let's say One hundred and twenty five. Well, that's a body of work. That comes to, all told, one second. The life of a photographer." - William Klein.
I wouldn't declare myself the greatest of Street Photographers, i'm not sure i would even call my work that even, most street photography i see these days seems to based in humour, mine tends to be more human observation, which i guess if you're going by the true definition then ok, it is!? Anyway, up until recently i wasn't even doing it, i hadn't properly dabbled in the art for about 17+ years when i was being force fed Henri Cartier-Bresson and having to write endless amounts of essays about his work while shooting on black and white film and spending hours in the darkroom...... that was until my photography/art lecturer put me off photography and art altogether for some years, buts thats another story.
In 2012 i had somehow, most likely in the event of trying to do something other than photograph Interiors taken a few photos around Shoreditch and found myself trying to get to grips with the subject that i actually once enjoyed. Dont ever be fooled in thinking that Street Photography is easy, it's an entirely different discipline to shooting Interiors, to vision an event thats not yet happened but might and sticking a camera in someones face is challenging and thats where i struggled, shooting close up especially when someone knows they are being photographed, so i adopted the far away approach reminiscent of Bresson-what i mean by that is i feel quite often he gives you a feeling of being there rather than being involved, its less confrontational or in your face. A 70-200 lens and a safe distance thats what i adopted and it was working, i felt comfortable and no one knew i was photographing them. I still feel the below shot is one of my best photos ever, it's the one most people comment on, most people want a print of, funnily most people think wasn't shot in England and i shot it from a distance of maybe 15 feet away. I felt i was getting somewhere.
Now, this might be contentious but i believe the only person who can inspire you to do anything is you, i have never particularly looked at someone and been inspired by (if i have then its rare), i don't find athletes inspirational or "celebrities" for that matter. I've had some incredibly tough moments in my life and the only person that inspired me to get through them and to where i am now was myself. In photography i was always a massive fan of Ansel Adams so much that i went to Snake River, stood below the Tetons and trod the ground in Yosemite, i also admire greatly Andreas Gursky and even Bresson (despite the best efforts of those teachers) but i've never been inspired by them or any photographer. 2012, Tate Modern, London: William Klein + Daido Moriyama and the viewing of what i still consider one of the finest exhibitions ive seen the Tate do, let alone one of the finest photography exhibitions. Five hours we were in that exhibit, and I will say this from the off, while i respect Moriyamas work it leaves me cold on the whole. I was however transfixed and in total admiration of Kleins body of work, his blatant walk in amongst a crowd and shoot attitude, his warmth for his subjects, the thought that goes into the compositions, he was to paraphrase many wiser critics than myself, a real innovator and revolutionist of the medium of street photography and if anyone has come close to inspiring me its been William Klein.
Since that exhibition i've immersed myself in his work and words, the rub off: others have noted a change in my work. I'm more brazen, i will get up close, hope to provoke a reaction and while i still feel uncomfortable and still shoot largely with the 70-200, positionally i will be smack in front of you not hiding in the shadows or behind a bush on a grassy knoll (it wasn't me). Below are two shots recently taken and that i am most proud of. With regards to the crowd shot i saw what was about to happen i got right in front of everyone and fired the shots-hoping that the camera would provoke (similar story with the Chinatown newspaper woman). I think the results speak for themselves. I get a real sense of joy particularly from the crowd scene theres so much going on, from the angry frown at the front to the girl in the top left craning to get in the photo...... it is, in my mind, the closest i will get to a "Klein style shot" and by that i don't mean its as good as or i'm comparing myself to, its up close, personal and it was thanks to his work that got me to do it.
Inspiration? Maybe. Motivation? Definitely.
Note: if you would like to know more about William Klein then i would recommend this BBC interview into the man behind the camera: