“I think street photography is more about experience and being alert. Of course, luck plays a very important role but you need to be well-prepared not to waste your chance.”
Dmitry Stepanenko (born in 1987) is a street photographer from the Ukraine. In his images he’s looking for “clean shots” and geometry. For Dmitry Stepanenko street photography is something that happens in the moment, without previous planing.
Have a look at the book “Heavy Colour” by Dmitry Stepanenko. It can be purchased on his website.
Interview with Dmitry Stepanenko
Dmitry, what was your most memorable moment shooting pictures out on the streets?
I remember one. I was shooting on the streets when some other photographer suddenly approached me and took an “in-your-face” (aka Bruce Gilden kind of photo) of myself and disappeared with a smile. That was quite memorable.
What does a good street photograph need in your opinion in order to stand out and get noticed? Especially keeping in mind the abundance of visual imagery in today’s society?
I think to be a good photographs among other things like good light, interesting composition etc. there should be either a unique moment or a unique vision of the photographer or their combination. How to get noticed? That’s a totally different question especially nowadays when many good photographers cannot get noticed just because they don’t have enough time to promote their work and unfortunately the opposite is true, too.
What reaction do you intend to provoke in people looking at your images?
As I mentioned before, for me the most important is an aesthetic pleasure. I want the same for the people who see my photographs.
What’s your strategy when you walk up close to people? Do you interact with them or take the shot and move on?
I almost never have uncomfortable situations while shooting street. People either think that I’m a tourist (a small camera and lots of actual tourists in London help) and take pictures of everything around me or that I am taking a picture of someone or something else and they just happened to pass by.
Sometimes just for fun I pretend that people “ruined” my pictures by getting into a frame. The important thing is to be confident and look indifferent, not to look at the person after taking a picture of him/her.
What’s the biggest challenge shooting on the streets?
For me the biggest difficulty is finding good light in London where is almost always cloudy.
You shoot both color and black and white? Do you have any preference and what does your decision depend on?
“Some photos can only be good in colour while others in black and white.”
Yes, I do. I started as almost pure black and white photographer being fond of the golden age of classic street photography. Nowadays I mostly shoot in colour as it adds another dimension to the photos, you need to be much more careful with it. It is a completely different approach and some photos can only be good in colour while others in black and white.
Nevertheless, if I see a scene that would look good in B&W I would still take a picture, I will not ignore it, I am just not looking for them on purpose.
What qualities and characteristics does a good street photographer need?
A good street photographer should be first of all visually literate (at minimum he/she should know the works of other photographers, be interested in paintings, films and any other forms of visual arts – the more the better). Good reaction and attention to details would not harm as well.
Street photography is very much about seizing the moment. Things usually happen unexpectedly. How do you train your eyes to “know” when a special moment is about to come?
I think it is more about experience and being alert. Of course, luck plays a very important role but you need to be well-prepared not to waste your chance.
Your pictures combine a lot of compositional elements: lines, shapes, shadows etc. How much of that is planned and how important is intuition and a quick hand to press the shutter button?
“All should happen almost instantaneously so one should be a quick thinker.”
Everything is important. Some things come with experience and you do them automatically without even thinking about them but you need to have a good eye and most importantly a good understanding what you want to get as an output before pressing the button. This all should happen almost instantaneously so one should be a quick thinker.
Last but not least, let’s switch roles: Which question would you have liked to be asked in this interview about your work that I didn’t ask? Please feel free to add it – as well as the answer.
Q: What is the role of the photo collectives in street photography these days?
A: I think that street collectives can help photographers to complete more common projects like photography exhibitions and publications and reach bigger audiences and goals such as promoting street photography in certain countries.
As for myself, I am a member of such a collectives: “The Street Collective” – an international street photography collective.
Check out my photography podcast – conversations with inspiring street photographers from around the globe sharing their secrets for creating amazing images. It’s mostly in German, but here are some episodes in English:
Valerie Jardin: “Street Photography – Creative Vision Behind The Lens”
Dmitry Stepanenko: “Heavy Color” Street Photography
Jason Koxvold: “Knives” – Left Behind In Rural America”
Dyanne Wilson: Chasing The Northern Lights In Yellowknife
Luc Kordas: Loneliness In New York