first of all, congratulations! You are one of the 10 finalists of the third exibart street contest in Best Single Photo category.
Thank you very much for choosing my photo.
Can you tell us something about yourself and about the finalist picture?
I am a Hamburg-based street- and documentary photographer. I like to be out and about on the streets -, being a part of the crowd, involved and spontaneous rather than concentrated on equipment.
I started photographing 5 years ago as I became a member of a local photography club. I`ve tried my way through all genres of photography, only to fall in love with the most feared one: Street Photography. I love people and sharing their energy on the street. I can capture stories wherever I am, at every hour, at any time and in all weather. But special is also the community among the street photographers. I am connected with many via Instagram and have joined – partly just because of the great exchange on this platform – various great groups like the Streetcollective Hamburg, Expressivestreet, 24 hours Projekt, and Womenstreetphotographers.
The picture you have chosen belongs to one of my first long-term projects “Heimat Wilhelmsburg” (“Homeland Wilhelmsburg”), in the context of which I photograph the Hamburg district Wilhelmsburg. With this long-term project I participated in 2021 in the master class with Andreas Herzau, in the process of which this picture was taken and became part of the final exhibition. It shows the people of Wilhelmsburg relaxing at a warm summer day in 2021 at the dike of the river Elbe island Wilhelmsburg.
How would you define your photographic style?
I always have a hard time with this question, because I don’t want to or couldn’t limit myself to a certain style and type of street photography. I echo with Joel Meyerowitz, who once described his street photography as jazz: jazz is wild and on the edge of legal as (nearly) everything is allowed. Maybe one day I will summarize my very own style as a mix of everything that pleases me.
Have you ever studied at a photography school or are you a self-taught artist?
I actually taught myself everything or had it taught to me by listening and watching other photographers. At the beginning I learned enormously from my colleagues at the local photographers club, followed by workshops with Siegfried Hansen, Martin U Waltz, online courses (Magnum) given by Joel Meyerowitz or Alec Soth. A long-term development for sure was the Masterclass2021 of Andreas Herzau which accompanied us for a year. I am all in when it comes to “learning by doing”!
Who are the Masters of Photography who inspired you most in your photographic works?
My first street photography workshop was held by Siegfried Hansen in Hamburg. I love not only his clear graphic captures, but also his way of teaching and mentoring. On YouTube I follow Sean Tucker, who had taught me to „protect the highlights“ and „embrace the shadows“. At Magnum I was impressed by the work of Joel Meyerowitz and how he describes Urban Photography as Jazz. He might be in his eighties by now, but never lost his passion and joy to share his knowledge whenever you send him a question. Whilst working on my first project, I learned very much from the Videos and Workshops of Alec Soth: “The photographer and his „own emotional approach“ places this level on what he sees (or wants to see) outside”. Out of a documentary perspective I admire the work of Suzanne Stein about the homeless people in NYC.
Do you ever do Street Photography with your smartphone?
Always had and always will. I do not believe you need a high-end camera to capture your “street moments”. I always carry my smartphone with me, which gives me the opportunity to switch from passerby to photographer at any time – or to be both at the same time at any given moment.
“Some cities, like NY or Venice, feel easier to take photos due to the architecture or their extraordinary people, but its way hard to find “that one thing” not captured before. Taking photos in my hometown village Delingsdorf is the hardest to me, as it’s more of a scavenger hunt than motives popping up all around you.”
Analog and digital photography. Do you see these as alternatives to one another or the same thing?
Black and white and color. Two different worlds. You decided to go color. Why? Do you ever shoot in Black and white?
Answering both questions, in general, I go with Sean Tucker: “Shoot, what makes you happy”.
Photographers give their audience an insight on how they view the world – a glimpse through our eyes! My reality takes place in color and in the year 2022 – black and white and analog refer to the past.
Do you think Street Photography has a more documentary or more artistic value?
I am not only of the opinion, but have experienced myself that street photography has it both and the best ones I find in the intersection.
When you take photos, do you ever have a theme/project in mind?
Yes, as I am working on my long time and ongoing project: “Heimat Wilhelmsburg” / “Homeland Wilhelmsburg”. It is completely different to take photos with or without a project in mind. Without a project I literally let myself drift. I often find myself in a tunnel and kind of isolated from my surroundings. I still am part of the people around me, but become more as an observer. It’s very different when I am in Wilhelmsburg with my project in mind: I interact a lot with the people of Wilhelmsburg and dig deep in their community, whilst getting to understand whom I photograph.
Do you think there are ethical limits in street photography? Do you think it’s possible to shoot everything and everybody? What is your approach in street photography?
Absolutely! I only capture people in situations I would be ok with, if somebody else would take a photo of me. I do not ask, but always smile at the people afterwards and often I show them the photo and have a little chat. I send them their photo via mail or Instagram, if they want to and delete it, if they are not happy with it. In the past I did not capture homeless people. Today I do so, but I ask if that is fine with them. These people often want to be seen. Suzanne Stein does great in doing so.
What kind of equipment do you use and what role, in your opinion, does equipment have in street photography?
My camera has to be quick, without noise and easy to use. I love my Leica Q2 and my iPhone.
If you had to choose one lens that you would have to be using for the rest of your life, which one would that be and why?
As I love to be in the crowd and feel the energy of the situation, I like my 28 and do not need more.
“At Magnum I was impressed by the work of Joel Meyerowitz and how he describes Urban Photography as Jazz. He might be in his eighties by now, but never lost his passion and joy to share his knowledge whenever you send him a question.”
After shooting, what actions do you take in terms of processing and editing?
I love “tidy” photos: not too much chaos, but different layers and clean lines. I often crop the edges to cut out any unimportant details and look for a straight perspective. As I like to protect my highlights, I sometimes have to relight my photos. I process with the easy to handle tools of Snapseed and with Lightroom.
Are you currently working on any project?
Yes, I work on my ongoing Project about the people in Hamburg-Wilhelmsburg.
Wilhelmsburg is an island. It is surrounded and flown through by the water of the river Elbe. Wilhelmsburg is only 12 minutes by ferry from the central ferry terminal „Landungsbrücken“ in the city of Hamburg and yet so far away from the Hamburg cliché. A romance of dykes, canals, allotments and diverse architecture meets an industrial reality with the noise and dirt of the port, trucks exhausting fumes, garbage and vandalism.
Today, Wilhelmsburg is home to people with different traditions who, supported by mutual respect, have found their “Homeland (far away from Home in) Wilhelmsburg”. The streets are lively and there is a lively cultural scene. The gray of the blocks serves as the basis for the ever-changing colorful graffiti and is interspersed with the green of the parks and allotment gardens.
I would love to show my photos of Wilhelmburg, Hamburg in Williamsburg, NYC one day.
Which are your favorite photography books?
I can not tell. My bookshelf is overflowing with brilliant (illustrated) books by famous, befriended or collective photographers that I could never just choose one. They all influenced or inspired me in their own special way.
Is there a country or a city that you like to photograph more than others?
Not really. Some cities, like NY or Venice, feel easier to take photos due to the architecture or their extraordinary people, but its way hard to find “that one thing” not captured before. Taking photos in my hometown village Delingsdorf is the hardest to me, as it’s more of a scavenger hunt than motives popping up all around you.
What advice would you give to someone who is starting to do street photography?
SHOOT WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY !
If you want to start – just start! Go out! And then keep on taking pictures. Show them around and talk about it. And also learn from the photos of other street photographers. Start wherever you feel comfortable and then take little steps out of your comfort zone from time to time. You’ll be amazed by what you’ll find…
Thank you Britta!
BRITTA KOHL-BOAS BIOGRAPHY
I am a self taught Hamburg-based street photographer. I like to be out and about in the streets, being a part of the crowd, involved and spontaneous rather than concentrated on equipment. I capture in colours, because my reality is colourful. I am inspired by Joel Meyerovitz, Alec Soth and Siegfried Hansen. I am member of Fotoclub Ahrensburg, Streetcollective Hamburg, Progressivestreet, Masterclass 2021 of Andreas Herzau and Hamburg-Ambassador of 24hoursorg. I organized the 24hours.org-Exhibition 2021 in Hamburg. My longtime project is a documentary about Wilhelmsburg/Germany.
My photos had been awarded at Vienna International Photographen award 2021, Blende 2021, Urban 2021 photo awards, Womenstreetphotographers 2022, World Master of Photography Award 2022, Exibart Street Contest 2022, Urban22Photoawards (ongoing) and LuganoPhotodays 22 (ongoing). They had been exhibited in several exhibitions in Hamburg, New York and Therean and had been published online ( ELBVERTIEFUNG / ZEIT) and printed in the magazines SOUL_OF_STREET, PHOTOGRAPHIE and DVF-Journal.