Street photographers Barbara van Schaik and Ximena Echague stand behind their views on art
This series pairs two artists exploring the same theme in street photography, examining their different takes on the subject.
How this series got started has a bit of a story. I have always been fascinated by the “Seventh Waves” series by Narelle Autio and Trent Parke. Their work is very different from one another, yet is similar in a sense of moodiness and surrealism, which I always look for, or try to include as an element in my own photographs.
I like challenges, so I thought of giving myself a challenge this summer — instead of strolling down streets and shooting, I borrowed an underwater camera (Canon Powershot S10, with underwater housing) from a friend, and started to play with this technique. In the beginning, I was just going to different beaches and piers in Hong Kong, but it wasn’t really working. They were just random shots of people underwater, and I felt something was lacking.
Coincidently, as a swimmer I was helping a friend to polish her swimming skills for a triathlon, and she mentioned the pier Wu Kai Sha, where she goes to every morning for her training practice. I tagged along one day, and I fell in love with the place, and the people. Since then, I started going there every day — to swim, to connect with people, and also to photograph.
People inspire me. Like Diane Arbus, “I wanted knowledge, not just to make a good photograph.” So for this series, with almost all of the photographs I make, I have interacted with the people there, and they have became so natural with me and my camera, that they don’t even notice when I actually click the shot. I want these photographs to be something more than just my perception of the world — to also remember who the people are, what they do, why they go swimming there, etc.
Black and white is always something that I see the world in, even though it’s in colour. It takes away the time effect and, somehow, it demolishes the presence of reality and takes me to my dreams and imagination. In general, black and white images are more emotionally impactful for me, and so I also want to capture images that hopefully make viewers feel the emotions that I left on the prints.
Michelle Rice Chan has a love of black and white. Each frame is her language to communicate about her emotions, ideas and beliefs. Her work has been exhibited in some of the major places in Hong Kong, including Hong Kong Arts Centre and Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. She currently is one of the founders of The Orange Moon Collective, and also a member of [DRKRMS] which is a photography platform for Asia’s best emerging photographers. Catch up with her on Instagram.
This is an ongoing project that I started a few years ago, when my children were growing up in Singapore, and the swimming pool was the place to be. With disposable cameras, I started photographing them under the water when they learned how to swim. Over fifteen years later, I was tempted again by this medium when looking for photo projects to do at home. About two years ago, we started boating with my family — so now every Sunday, if I’m in Singapore, we go out to sea. Every week that I’m there, I explore either the sea or local pools, diving in with a small underwater digital camera.
This study is based on the beauty on how different bodies react in water. Bodies are gracefully suspended in sea water, yet while in swimming pool waters, they tend to be more static. How people react and behave in the water is also a long case study.
As with all of my work, my subjects don’t pose, and I try to get the natural beauty of it. When boating, my subjects may be people from other boats swimming by, but mainly are my friends and family who are swimming, or just talking with me while floating. They know I have a camera with me, but since the camera is mostly underwater, they hardly realize when I photograph.
I work with different projects at once, all them are quite different, so the approach is not the same. When doing candid street, I need to anticipate the action, the area, and act fast. With the underwater project, I let the moment flow, I shoot when I imagine something interesting is happening underwater, and since I can’t focus with my eyes, I have to guess where the subjects will end up in the frame.
The camera I use is a simple point and shoot underwater camera, so it’s very slow. Depending on weather, light, and tides — some days the visibility underwater is very bad, so that I can only see the water and see no person, no matter how close the subject is. So those days are quite frustrating. It’s mostly trial and error, with more errors than right ones. However, when I get a nice artistic shot, I feel so happy! I really love this project for the reason that it keeps surprising me when I less expect it.
Silvia Hagge de Crespin was born and raised in Argentina. She’s been an avid traveller from her youth, and passionate about different cultures and languages. Even if she has been photographing for many years, she had a breakthrough after a workshop with Magnum photographer Nikos Economopoulos, the first of many more. She has a variety of different projects, but the approach is always the same. She tries to create artistic images of what is before her eyes, not forcing any situation, keeping it as natural as she found it. She has been living in Singapore for the past 20 years. Find her on Instagram
I continue to be intrigued by the playful and unexpected array of shapes, colors and shadows created by the natural juxtaposition of mirrored images. The city, with its wide variety of surfaces, is an environment conducive for this type of observation.
For the most part, the visual correlation emerging between the captured reflection and the subjects of my photographs is orchestrated by chance, not me. That is, I don’t seek a particular type of window or glass surface, nor do I take any steps in planning the shot. This ephemeral quality is precisely what draws me to street photography. A surprise within every image.
Most of my street portraits are of people behind windows. A distancing tactic which renders me almost invisible and thus helps me in capturing the ever so slight instance of a moment of self-reflection or — with a bit of luck — reverie.
I started making photographs that incorporate the help of store windows in 1998. I’m fascinated by the ability of glass to capture the inside of a space and the street simultaneously. I’m also drawn to and fascinated by color. I have made work for this series in New York, London, Atlanta, San Francisco, Miami, and New Orleans. I made five of these images in New York. The sixth, Retro Mission, I made in the Mission District of San Francisco.
I have just a few rules for this series. I am never in the frame. I shoot with color transparency film. I exhibit the photographs full frame.
I set off without expectation. I don’t have a plan, other than a vague route I may follow. I’m on an expedition of seeing. Who knows what I’ll find on a given day? My goal is to capture the merger of what’s going on inside a space and what’s happening on the street. Serendipity plays an important role in my ability to see and record something beautiful and fleeting in the bat of an eye. My prints depict what I saw. They’re not montages of images that I made later at the computer using Photoshop.
I really love Hunt for the Right Shoe. There was a big sale at Sigerson Morrison in Soho. Women were hoarding piles of shoes in corners so that they could try them on. It was nuts. I made about seven frames. That’s the best one. This work continues to speak to both consumerism and the complexity of life in urban centers. Also, it simply celebrates the glory of color.
Double Exposure takes to the streets indoors, on an international gallery tour with your docents Karina Brys and Kristin Van den Eede.
“As every street photographer knows, this art can be practiced almost anywhere. A public place, people — and you’re set. Among my favorite environments are museums. Of course, the art interests me, but it is an especially wonderful place for photography. When a sign at the entrance forbids photography, I’m suddenly much less eager to go in. Luckily in this smartphone age, that happens less and less. It’s amazing how often the viewers blend in with the surrounding art, and some museums offer a splendid atmosphere.”
Karina Brys is from Antwerp, Belgium, and developed a passion for street photography while spending six months in China in 2003. She enjoys shooting in many European cities, and a particular favorite destination is Spain.
“I’ve always enjoyed going to museums; there’s something slightly magical about them. You walk in, and it can be anything. You can walk out disappointed, bored, dazzled, intrigued, or all of these things at the same time. For me, going to a museum is also an important part of how I discover cities. I love travelling, especially to big cities, and at some point this sort of merged with my interest in street photography.
Museumgoers are always quiet and composed, yet also incredibly expressive and amusing. They are so preoccupied with what they see that I manage to become entirely invisible, and that’s how I prefer to take pictures. On top of that, I also want to capture that childlike sense of awe that some — most — people experience when they look at something interesting in a museum. It’s completely guileless and I love it. I like to think that it’s a moment of introspection when these people’s polished surface falls away and you see their true self: vulnerable, thoughtful, captivated, and also essentially very much alone.”
Kristin Van den Eede is from Ghent, Belgium. Getting lost in the urban jungle is a true passion of hers, and she is either constantly taking pictures, or thinking about taking them. By day, she is a language teacher, translator and proofreader, but almost all her spare time is devoted to photography.
This Double Exposure looks at two different ways of interpreting a bus theme.
Marie Fontecave tells about her series “Bus Stop.”
I was visiting Limoges, a small village in central France well known for its porcelain production. When I arrived at the bus stop there, I saw through the window a boy who who seemed upset, as if overwhelmed.
There was a beautiful afternoon light, I had my camera with me and took the photo. This was the first of the series (above). Right away, I liked this idea and the abstract aesthetic. I continued taking more photos at different locations over the course of my stay. It wasn’t until perhaps eight years later, a friend of mine suggested that I exhibit my essay at a small festival.
I took the first photos at the end of my stay in Limoges. When I returned there a second time, the glass on these bus stops had been replaced by clear glass, taking away all the charm of the series and the grain that was indispensable to its coherence. It bugged me, so I went on a search to find a bus stop that had this famous glass, and found it nearby a school. That’s where I shot the rest of the series.
I’m always drawn to photos taken with what I call “filters,”(windows, curtains, plastic,) which offer playful adventures, visions rich with illusion, but which could also make you feel unsettled.
If the people are without faces, it is so I wouldn’t be seen. I remain behind glass — “incognito” — the spectator of their attitudes. That’s what always interests me, the way they sit, waiting. A bus stop, it’s a place of passage, one doesn’t hang out there. One stops…immobilized. Some remain standing, others sit down. They wait for the bus that will bring them home, to their work, or elsewhere. We don’t know where they are going. We can only imagine their stories. That is the reason why this theme can seem somewhat abstract.
Marie Fontecave is from Bordeaux, France. She got her first digital camera in 2003, her constant companion ever since, and was immediately drawn the most to the “school of vision” of the street genre. She is always looking for intimate, personal ways to express images of this “infinite, improbable, surreal, yet always human street.”
Claire Atkinson tells about her “Manchester 42″ bus series, 2012-present.
Ever since I can remember I’ve taken pictures anywhere I go. On the bus, in the post office, at the supermarket, and even in the doctor’s waiting room.
When I injured my knee several years ago, I needed a temporary fix to carry on taking pictures without all the walking. I made a conscious decision to start taking pictures on the bus. It proved an easy way to get my street photography fix without aggravating my knee.
I specifically chose an interesting bus route between East Didsbury and Manchester Piccadilly, because it trails from suburbia to the heart of the city and you see all types of living — trendy neighborhoods, suburban streets, student villages, to a mile of popular Asian restaurants, and into the city.
Once every two minutes a double decker bus will drag itself up the busiest bus corridor in Europe. Being a passenger was described as “chaotic, unpleasant and stressful” by the local transport committee.
Sometimes I would go on the route three or four times in a row, sharing the space with an interesting variety of people. Pampered students, suits, retired people, families on day trips, school kids, drunks, local legends. The chaos on the bus forced my gaze outwards, the only way to ignore the owner of the thigh pressed up against my leg and block out Rihanna being blasting from tinny iphone speakers at maximum volume.
Claire Atkinson is from Manchester, England where she works as a freelance photographer.