In October 2018 EYExplore prepares a street photography workshop in Tokyo with Siegfried Hansen. Read on the story of how Siegfried started his photography career and what advice he has for budding photographers.
You have a great eye for form and color. How did you develop your distinctive style? Did it happen gradually or was it there from early on?
I did not have a formal academic training in art or photography. However, during the last 18 years of daily practice and extensive studies of photo literature, I developed my own style and techniques how to best see and frame graphical compositions. Thus, realizing situations many others may not be aware of and capturing them within seconds became second nature.
Obviously, a photographic memory does help. There are many things you learn by training and discipline, but overall you should internalize both theory and technique to a point that you can fully concentrate on the moment when taking pictures.
Walk us through a bit of your work flow. How do you approach shooting in the streets? Is there a method to your work?
For me street photography is the top shot that can be shown alone. A strong composition which makes you smile or astonished. If you need more than one picture to describe the special situation then it is reportage. So, street photography has a little bit of all reportage, documentation, art and composition! For me, street photography is an attitude, it is not about money. It is about being out there and doing your thing; it is like driving on a Harley on route 66. You can`t describe this feeling, you have to do it, to feel it!
How do you decide on your medium (e.g. digital vs film or color vs monochrome)?
There isn’t really a big difference. B&W pictures tend to have a stronger visual impact then color pictures. I don’t plan in advance which means I want to use, it is pure intuition. Later, in post treatment I would decide which coloring technique would reflect best the moment and my emotions.
At the beginning 2002 I started to take pictures on film. But then I started to switch to digital cameras because it was good for my creative seeing. I could see the results immediately. I like that, and it was good for my development.
Which photographers inspire you? Do you have any street photography mentors?
In the beginning I was heavily inspired by André Kertész & Henri Cartier Bresson. Later by artists such as Ernst Haas & Ray K. Metzker.
Painters such as Edward Hopper, Mondrian, and Lyonel Feininger definitely helped me to develop my own graphic style, especially the straightness and mirroring aspect which can be found in my work.
We understand you started out in street photography during a trip to Tokyo. How did that happen? What was it about this city that inspired you?
About 18 years ago, I was a “typical” snap shot photographer. Then I visited an exhibition of André Kertész and his pictures completely changed my way of looking at my environment. Since that day in 2002, wherever I go, I carry my camera with me.
When it comes to learning / teaching street photography, what would you say is the best approach? What is your philosophy?
Life passes before our eyes in three dimensions. As a street photographer you aim at capturing special moments and to eternalize them on a two-dimensional media. Outstanding pictures would include a “fourth dimension” and “the artist’s essence.”
What advice do you have for aspiring street photographers?
Well, first to have a camera with you wherever you go. Be intuitive, don’t plan. Take a first shot fast not to lose what attracted you. Situations change in a split second. You can try to take other shots later to optimize the composition.
Be prepared at any time, be attentive. I find it very helpful to walk through neighborhoods over and over again to get very familiar with the area.
It is very important to consider street photography as something that you do for pleasure and personal enjoyment. Nevertheless, I have the goal to create that one picture that stands out telling the story. However, I think that today’s trend heads toward creating series of pictures or a photo reportage.
As a street photographer you would require a lot of experience and time to create a “signature” out of single images. I often leave the photos aside in some folder for weeks or months before taking a closer look at them. This allows me to gain an emotional distance and different approach.
Siegfried will be in Tokyo in October 2018 for a street photography workshop. Inquire early for more details.