“I consider the camera to be a tool to sharpen my senses for my environment and forces me to focus on details. I built up some kind of relationship to the strangers I photograph. By taking a picture of someone, he turns into a friend. Browsing through my portfolio feels like paging through an old high school yearbook. Of course this might not be a mutual experience, but to me street photography has the potential to partly replace the anonymity in public with a certain intimacy.”
Fabian Schreyer (born in 1983) is a street photographer currently based in Augsburg (Germany). When it comes to photography, he’s self-taught – “on the streets”. Fabian Schreyer is a founding member of “The Street Collective”.
Artist statement: “A good photograph should provoke a reaction. Be it laughter, shock, consternation, pity, sympathy or whatsoever, it should tell us something about our fellow-men and thereby about ourselves.”
Fabian Schreyer, what was your most memorable moment shooting pictures out on the streets?
A Moroccan fisherman I met in Essaouira, who insisted on inviting me to his place for lunch. He didn’t even have chairs in his shabby home, so we ended up sitting on the floor of his small living-/bedroom eating freshly caught fish with his seven-year old daughter.
Why did you become a photographer? And why street photography?
Let’s say a distinct visual sense combined with a bad memory. I have a certain disability to remember important events in my life that were not photographed.
What does photography mean to you and what do you want to say with your pictures?
Primarily I consider the camera to be a tool to sharpen my senses for my environment and forces me to focus on details. I built up some kind of relationship to the strangers I photograph. By taking a picture of someone, he turns into a friend. Browsing through my portfolio feels like paging through an old high school yearbook. Of course this might not be a mutual experience, but to me street photography has the potential to partly replace the anonymity in public with a certain intimacy.
First of all a good photograph should provoke a reaction. Be it laughter, shock, consternation, pity, sympathy or whatsoever, it should tell us something about our fellow-men and thereby about ourselves.
Which photographer has inspired you most?
What’s your favorite photography quote?
As I said previously, I have a bad memory. Therefore keeping quotes in mind really gives me a hard time. (laughs) But I like this one by Trent Parke:
I am forever chasing light. Light turns the ordinary into the magical.
How would you describe your photographic voice and creative process?
To me authenticity matters above all. I don’t like to arrange stuff or do lots of postprocessing and I shoot with available light only. I take what’s there and try to show it from my perspective. While I almost exclusively shoot alone, my approach varies depending on my emotional state. Sometimes I drift, sometimes I rush. I’m much more interested in the candid behavior of human beings and in aesthetics than in technology. I’d consider myself to be some kind of crossbreed of a flaneur, a voyeur and a philanthropist, who makes use of a camera to carry out his sociological studies.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic voice?
Your photographic voice is there all the time. There’s not much sense in going out in the streets with the intention to develop an individual style. Just go out shooting and chose the motifs and the approach you like. If you find yourself sticking to certain subjects or a certain approach for a while, someone might have a look at your work and recognize a distinct style or picture language. You will bring it to the surface automatically, if you just do your thing from the bottom of your heart. When people are able to draw conclusions from your pictures to your character, you’re on the right path.
What do you consider to be the axis of your work – technically and conceptually?
A 35mm prime lens is my preferred focal length for hitting the streets these days, which I usually do in the early mornings or late afternoons. I would consider my visual language to be more poetic (with a humorous touch) than provocative. At the moment I slightly favor black & white to color and in general I do only minor post procession and cropping. I like shadows and extreme light situations and there are many subjects I’m particularly attached to. Among those are for example newspaper readers, nuns, dolls, umbrellas etc.
What qualities and characteristics does a good street photographer need?
A good street photographer has to be an inconspicuous observer with lots of patience and sympathy for his subjects.
What does a photo need to be a great street shot?
Great street shots tell a short story about mankind that involves the viewer on an emotional level.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
I draw inspiration mostly from what I see and think while shooting or reviewing my own work and the work of other photographers.
What’s the biggest challenge shooting on the streets?
One of the challenges is to not constantly repeat oneself by finding ways of telling an old and often told story in a thrilling (new) way.
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
I try to keep it simple and carry as little equipment as possible with me. Therefore I’m shooting mainly with a Fujifilm Finepix X100 with a 35mm prime lens (sometimes with a Nikon SLR with a 17-55mm 2.8 lens).
What photography book would you recommend?
I do not collect photography books, but I liked for example some of the thoughts that Susan Sontag put on paper in “On Photography”.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a (professional) street photographer?
Recently I read a quote from Italian photographer Gianni Berengo Gardin about becoming a professional photographer, which I liked: “Vuoi fare il fotografo? Apri una drogheria, poi la domenica esci e vai a fare le foto che vuoi”. It says: “If you want to become a professional photographer, open a drugstore and on Sundays you go out shooting.” Same goes especially for street photography. If you want to keep your creative autonomy.