Please tell us a bit about you, and how you found photography.
I started quite late – a few years ago, while already in my 40s. I never thought I had any “artistic” talent, I am much more analytical by nature. Winter is my least favorite season. A few years ago I came across a 365 day challenge, and I started it to keep me from being bored. I surprised myself by sticking to it – one of few people that lasted until the very end. My photos were pure garbage, but eventually that resulted in me finding ways to teach myself about photography (books, videos, forums, etc.). I am entirely self-taught, and still eager to learn more every day. I started doing landscape shots, and interesting signs or graffiti. After some of that, I realized that I found photos with people in them to be much more interesting. A friend introduced me to a group of local photographers who shot “street” – something I didn’t really understand was its own genre. That all resulted in me focusing on street almost exclusively ever since.
You seem to have started out with mostly black and white but have migrated to color, why?
I used to process a lot in black and white, but lately I have been into color. I still do B&W, and will likely do more in winter. Summer seems to lend itself to color. I also used to avoid color because I thought it was more difficult. I have a friend who is a great photographer and he told me to learn color and not to use black and white as a “crutch”, since you can cover up issues by converting to B&W. My LCD screens used to be in B&W, but I have switched back to color. I know that some people think B&W is more suited for street, but I really do enjoy color as well.
And lately you have been using flash?
I started using flash last year. I really like the effect on a bright summer day because it makes the colors pop and helps lift some strong shadows. It also presents new challenges – it’s much more difficult to shoot in stealth mode when using flash. I’ve recently started taking some portraits, which I never used to do. Sometimes I see somebody so fabulous and I know I can’t get off a stealthy shot with flash like I would want, so I ask now instead of missing the shot.
You have been exploring Coney Island with your recent series, can you tell us about the project?
Coney Island is truly my “happy place”. I go there all year round. It’s been nicknamed “The People’s Playground” with good reason. You find all ages, ethnicities and body types at Coney Island. A short walk will put you in Brighton Beach, home to a large Russian community that I also enjoy.
In the summer, there is so much joy with people at the beach and on the amusement rides. It makes for endless photo opportunities. I’ve been shooting at the shoreline lately – people swimming, exercising, and enjoying the beach. The boardwalk is great too – there are dance parties on weekends in the summer that are always fun to watch.
In the winter, I love the isolation and sense of loneliness. In Brighton Beach, the older Russian community congregates on the boardwalk benches all year round – often dressed to be seen (furs, pearls, etc.). I also know several members of the Coney Island Polar Bears, who swim on the winter weekends. I even went to a Polar Bear wedding this summer.
Do you feel being a woman affects your work?
I think it has advantages and disadvantages, like everything. One advantage is that I take shots that my male peers won’t even attempt – especially of children and women. With children, I make it obvious or ask the parents first, just so people don’t think I am doing something creepy. I know men that won’t even try doing that.
On the downside, I have had a few occasions where people tried to intimidate me. That probably would not have happened the same way to a man. You always have to use common sense, but I don’t scare that easily!
We often see pairs or couples, or groups of couples in your work, can you say anything about that?
I love watching the interaction between people – friends, lovers, siblings, etc. I have definitely become more attracted to shooting multiple people together and watching the dynamic between them. On the beach, I’ve been shooting a lot of families, or siblings playing together. I’m extra happy when I spot twins!