Featured Street Photographer – Peter Waters

Peter on his Leica : “In camera speak it says “I’m the camera of Cartier-Bresson, Eggleston, Winogrand, Capa, Arbus and built to take photos of significance – make it meaningful and don’t f*** it up”. Welcome to another jam packed edition of MSP’s “Featured Street Photographer”. Hmmm, maybe I need a more catchy title for the series?

Why Street Photography?

I enjoy the “practice” very much. What I mean by that is the technical challenge of judging the fall of light, focus, exposure and POV. The sense of anticipation. Trying to blend in, to observe without being observed. Soaking up the vibe of the street with all your senses alert. And the making of an image – the elation of capturing and viewing a frame that excites you. It happens so rarely but I find it highly addictive.

Street photography takes a lot of persistence with an extremely disproportionate and serendipitous payoff from one day to the next. There’s also the occasional interaction with a complete stranger you have just photographed. You share a little of your lives which imparts meaning and context to the photograph, and the moment becomes unforgettable.

What Got You “Into” Street Photography?

There were a number of influences. It was around early 2014, I remember heading into the city with a project in mind – to capture all the quirky architecture of the CBD, block by block. As riveting as that sounded, two good friends of mine, Peter Murray and Steve Bowater were shooting street and it became quite clear how much more engaging their work was. Around that time I saw Cheryl Dunn’s excellent documentary Everybody Street and I was hooked.

Best Tip?

The most useful advice I have received is to get closer to subjects and harder still, try to capture multiple layers/points of interest, for example filling the fore/mid/background with interesting content. If you’re busted, smile, thank your protagonist, offer to show them the image and always be respectful. Apologies, I think that makes 3 tips.

Favourite “Go To” spot?

Not really a spot, more a time and place – the Anzac Day pre-march preparations in Flinders St – perhaps it’s the emotion of the day but our shared humanity is revealed.

Gear?

I shoot with a chrome Leica M 240 and 35mm Sumilux. People often mistake it for a quaint old film camera and therefore harmless. I will be laughed at for saying this, but I like the sound the shutter makes. In camera speak it says “i’m the camera of Cartier-Bresson, Eggleston, Winogrand, Capa, Arbus and built to take photos of significance – make it meaningful and don’t f*** it up”.

In all seriousness, I have invested heavily in this setup and while I love the full frame compactness, haptics and simple purity of the design, I also feel a responsibility to put it to good use. To the question of cost, it’s considered ‘normal’ for people to buy a new car and lose the value of a Leica kit in depreciation in just a couple of years. I’d happily put up with an older car and have my Leica.

Final Thoughts?

I have an aversion to the “Google Street View” variety of street photography (although even Google Street View has been appropriated for art!) and I become a little disheartened when people say this is street photography because the photo was taken in the street or of the street.

We have a higher calling, in my view, to strive not just for images that document our present day, but images that also engage our audience with some element of emotion, humour, juxtaposition, theatre, incongruity, intellect or insight.

 

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Peter : “Anzac Day brings together a broad demographic, including a nonchalant smoking man” Leica Camera AG Leica M Noctilux-M 1:0.95/50 ASPH. ƒ/4.0 50.0 mm 1/4000 800 Flash (off, did not fire)

Great line of moving cars, combined with a beautiful colour palette in this image. The parallel lines of the motorcade is accentuated by the gutter in the lower light left hand side of the image.

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Peter : “This image has a poignancy for me that for whatever reason does not seem to resonate that well with others, but I think it’s one of my more meaningful images – Manhattan the island.” Leica Camera AG Leica M Summicron-M 1:2/35 ASPH. ƒ/16.0 35.0 mm 1/350 400 Flash (off, did not fire)

Getting close to the subject really helps this image. The subject looking out at the city from behind the fencing evokes a clear sense of being left out, or hopelessness. The hoody, by covering up the subject’s features, almost has a religious tone to it – kind of like on old time monk?

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Peter : “Despite differences in wealth, race, creed, color, and age we’re all hurtling along in the same carriage” Apple iPhone 6 iPhone 6 back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 ƒ/2.2 4.2 mm 1/17 250 Flash (off, did not fire)

The best camera is always the one you have with you… Peter has used his iPhone to capture a wonderful image. I love the contrast between the two subjects on either side of the aisle. The tiny reflections in the left subject’s sunglasses adds detail and interest. I agree with Peter that the complete contrast in gender, age, and race of the two subjects creates an intriguing tone to the image.

The absence of distractions in the background of the image helps the viewer focus on the subjects in the foreground.

And just for fun, here are two more of Peter’s images which I found on his flickr stream which are pretty cool :

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Leica Camera AG Leica M Summilux-M 1:1.4/35 ASPH. ƒ/1.7 35.0 mm 1/1500 200 Flash (off, did not fire)

The short depth of field of the 35mm lens at 1.4 helps bring focus to the subject in the bottom left corner. I love the leading lines of the lanterns / baubly things leading down into the centre of the image. The way the subject has been captured looking down towards her feet, gives a reflective mood, when combined with the mystery of the lanterns.

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Leica Camera AG Leica M Noctilux-M 1:0.95/50 ASPH. ƒ/16.0 50.0 mm 1/15 800 Flash (off, did not fire)

I love this shot, just because of the style. Reminiscent of one of my all time favourite street photographers Ho Fan – who I can never get enough of! The highlight for me in this image is the reflection of light coming off the subject’s hat. The lack of sharp focus is also working in this image, giving it a ethereal feel, almost like it is people walking the streets of heaven?

Thanks for spending some time with MSP, Peter. You can find Peter on the interwebs here :

https://flic.kr/ps/31Gx5r

 

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