“An artist has a voice, but it’s constantly evolving, it’s a process in the making. It’s always too early to know who we are as an artist. Creativity is not predictability… It’s really the opposite.”
The constancy of change
For human beings, life means change. The constancy of change in an artists’ life is perhaps the only certainty that we are allowed to have. The street photographers interviewed for this project all agree on this: our art is changing, just as we are. It’s a continuous revolution for the artist.
Mike Lee summarizes this process of change this way: “To be brief, I am instinctive. I may often not get it right, but this is part of the learning process. What I saw three years ago, for example, isn’t what I am looking for now, and that — of course — will change in time. I also find images taken over the last past years that now fit with my current vision & narrative.”
Letting the door open to change
For some photographers, like Melissa Breyer, their vision has slowly refined over time, but change is always welcome:
“I don’t think I ever stop feeling creative, but I sometimes feel like I want to break out of certain themes I’ve been exploring for fear of becoming formulaic. But finding new ways of seeing is such an organic process; it can’t be forced. I am patient with myself and trust that I will fall into the themes that are natural for my progression. Every little step I take might be creative, but the path is winding and passive. Sometimes I’ll go for very long walks and not take a shot, and that’s fine because the experience was no less meaningful. I am quite content of where I am today, but I am always hoping for something new – a small change – that will keep me curious and interested.”
Embracing challenge as a way of life
Earlier in his life, Rohit Vohra was shooting everything. Now he’s thinking about what’s next: “Can I do something differently?” He looks for joy, as he is not self-motivated. He needs to challenge himself by setting new constraints to his creativity. “I don’t like being predictable and I don’t want to be a slave to a style. I like doing new things and experiment a lot, these days I am shooting a lot with flash. It’s an ongoing process... The experience is always unique. Despite working from one style to another, I believe I am able to see unicity in my work, though this is not what I am trying to achieve.”
Restoring our lost creativity
Rohit Vohra further reveals his own tactics to find inspiration and overcome any creativity blocks: “I read a lot, not just photo books, or essays. I read anything and everything. I am always asking myself questions, this really helps in creating mind maps and that often leads to new ideas and creativity. Yes, we all stop feeling creative at some point especially if one has been shooting for long. Different things work for different people. What works for me is taking a break, travelling, reading a nice book, or going out to shoot without a camera. Shooting without the camera enables us to see more and it’s a great exercise for the brain. One doesn’t feel the pressure of taking pictures when you step out without the camera. Sometimes a movie, a song or just great design will inspire you.”
Expanding one’s creative horizon
Arek Rataj and Martin U. Waltz have shared their interest in exploring new photography genres, beyond pure street photography. In Arek’s words: “There’s only so much that I can achieve through opportunistic and situational photography. The reality is that I am interested in capturing bigger stories, that are documentary in essence, and that I can orchestrate from start to finish.” For Martin, street photography has clear limitations. It is too reliant on chance, and there’s no certainty of output. “You need to want to love the process more than the result…” He’s currently interested in exploring urban and people photography with more staging and control, as well as documenting big stories but with a street photography vision, raw and authentic. Finally, Rammy Narula has started a new project: it’s no longer about people and places, and it’s all about light and creation of shapes and patterns through light. This is clearly a new direction for Rammy, putting human beings as secondary subjects.
Case study: Nima Taradji
Nima Taradji used to be a talented street photographer. But his evolution as a photographer took him beyond the narrow sphere of street photography to focus on intentional storytelling: the major difference, according to him, between pure street and documentary photography. For Nima, street is more of a tactic than a genre itself, and he uses his street photography skills to capture the real people and communities making up our world, especially those at risk of being forgotten. When looking at Nima’s street photography and documentary work, we recognize the same themes and patterns repeating themselves across genres (e.g., focus on hands to express individuality). And yet, his projects – whether political, social or cultural – are as different from one another as the people making them. The people themselves determine the visual feel and style of the series, as does Nima’s point of view, subtly overlaid onto the 15-20 frames that will become his final story.
- Photographers and artists experience constant change, giving birth to new artistic directions throughout their life. Their vision and voice change as well with time.
- Some photographers have narrowed down their vision enough to be content where they are, while others thrive on new sources of challenges or new projects to pursue
- Finding ongoing inspiration sometimes requires to take a beginner’s mind, looking at the world as if we were seeing for the very first time through reading books or practicing photography without a camera for example
- Some photographers are also looking beyond pure street photography for their next challenge, looking to explore new visual genres such as documentary photography
- Change is to be embraced, not feared. It’s always too soon to determine who we are as an artist. Creativity is the contrary of predictability.