“I love the idea and interplay of humans with or within geometrical shapes and lines. The fleeting moment, obscured faces, layers of light and shadows – and flash if necessary.”
Arthur Quejadas II (born in 1980) is a street photography currently based between Philippines and South Korea.
“I’m a photography enthusiast and i shoot both film and digital, coloured and black & white. My portfolio is found at stromaphoto.com.”
Interview with Arthur Quejadas II
Arthur, what was your most memorable moment shooting pictures out on the streets?
Sinsa-dong, Seoul. I spotted a group of policemen cluttering together suited with reflector rain coats crossing the street. This concept had been on my head lately so it was the perfect time to execute a shot.
On first thought I think it was shot from too far, but then the outcome along with the raindrops and the dark environment went as well as planned.
I am pretty happy about the result. A remarkable one because it’s a chance shot and I haven’t spotted this boys in a huge group together and it just did happen that afternoon.
Why did you become a photographer? And why street photography?
I discovered the basic functions of our family camera at a very young age. I was curious and then started to take pictures: at family gatherings to special occasions, for example. I became an enthusiast since I understand the real meaning of photography. It’s been a while since I started but I never felt I became a photographer. “Photographer” sounds cool but seems to be a huge title, it feels like a lot of expectations all the time.
Portraiture and conceptual is ok, drag me to events like weddings or funerals and I’m also down. Otherwise the random and drastic changes of environment of street photography sets the bar a little higher compared to any other genre.
The idea is eccentric and challenging. Unlike the concept of HDR and composite which is only possible and doable through multi-post-processing. By the way, no offense meant to the fans or anyone who is a believer that it’s done for the sake of art or whatever you call it. But I believe that the very essence of photography is compromised for doing such things.
Funny, because a lot of us are oblivious to the fact that the style was focused more on editing and manipulation which is really stupid and non-sense.
What does photography mean to you and what do you want to say with your pictures?
I define photography as a vision, a form of art even to the simplest. It’s a part of a story and emotional attachment, a process of embracing reality and fiction on the other side at the same time. A message, a medium between the artist and the viewer.
Photography on the other side is not about expensive gears, it’s not all about the crazy technology of a specific camera or lens features. It’s never about what you can do with cheesy post processing and editing to show artistry and identity that made you unique or popular.
A good edit is not even close to good photography itself. It’s not just about a fancy dressed up model posing into nice blurry background. It’s never about the name or signature followed by a “photography” word etched or written somewhere across the picture just to let people recognize you as a photographer and people may know you are doing photography. That is so lame.
Which photographer has inspired you most?
I’m not playing it old-school. I am more inspired by newer age photographers who does great not only one but pulling a lot of great stuff like Don Hudson and Pierre Wayser. Alex Webb is an inspiration ever since I discovered his work, his use and coordination of color, the way he controls light and shadows and depths of massive figures is just beautiful.
My friends at StromaPhoto inspire me as well. Trevor Marczylo and Julian Reid got me back to film photography, the fact that we all shoot film but it’s not a requirement.
Also, Lee Gumienny taught me well in improving my compositions when I was starting to shoot street photography. Props to all.
What’s your favorite photography quote?
Editing should always start at the view finder.
Practical and simple. Not really familiar who was the original author.
How would you describe your photographic language and creative process?
It’s hard for me to describe because we see things in different ways. The “decisive moment” is classic and may sound funny and cliché but I am doing my job to possibly apply it with my work with the best of my capabilities. I like well executed and well-timed photos rather than more on luck feel on the final outcome.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic voice?
The best thing to do is play it natural. Don’t try to be somebody else. Never think about the style of shooting, put the best effort, even with the simplest things. Everything will develop slowly.
What do you consider to be the axis of your work – technically and conceptually?
I use wide-angle lenses. I like the distortion on 28mm and 35mm. About color treatments, not so sure, I don’t spend hours on editing so let it be.
I prefer strangers on my works, unless of course if it is staged and social gatherings. I love the idea and interplay of humans with or within geometrical shapes and lines. The fleeting moment, obscured faces, layers of light and shadows – and flash if necessary.
What qualities and characteristics does a good street photographer need?
Always push the limits of what you do and what the camera can do. Be observant and a visionary.
What does a photo need to be a great street shot?
A good form. Visually pleasing and dynamic. A photograph that enhances emotion and raises questions, staged or street, as if you wanted to see and check it once more after you saw your lady friends newly uploaded summer picture on Facebook.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
Hard to say, but I go depending with the vibe of the environment of the project. Considering that It is the best place to understand weakness and strength photographically.
What’s the biggest challenge shooting on the streets?
People doing their job, people holding mobile phones and electronic devices, the homeless and beggars too, It is pretty challenging how to make an outstanding composition with them. Finding a neat background, and color coordination and balance as well.
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
A digital and film cameras, prime lenses and Kodak film rolls. I’m enjoying the Rollei 35 for now, all settings are full manual and the focusing only sets for pre-focus. It pushes me to familiarize myself with technical issues and proper manipulation of settings at my will.
What’s your favorite website about photography?
I guess this is the perfect time to shamelessly plug about StromaPhoto, it is my personal favorite since we founded it. We are proud to offer different genres of photography so it’s a pretty sweet experience. Check us at Stromaphoto.com for further more. I often visit curated groups on Flickr, individual websites of Stroma members, IPA, LPV-Magazine, In-Public, Magnum Photos, and Street Reverb as well.
What photography book would you recommend?
“The Americans” by Robert Frank. There is something consistent on his work and just by looking at it we can learn something, not only on street photography, but photography in general.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a (professional) street photographer?
- “Street photography” is more complicated than your typical portraiture session. Familiarize yourself with the true meaning of “photography” and “straight photography”. Do a quick research, google it before posting pictures on your social media page and defining it “street photography”.
- Never leave the house without your camera if possible. Everything out there is waiting to be photographed. Be confident, always remember that everybody started as a beginner and no one was good at it since they have their first camera. We all do crappy pictures at first so it’s cool.
- Remember that everybody has the right to shoot photos on public places unless there are proclaimed boundaries and prohibited areas. Otherwise, you have to understand that it’s not about mounting a telephoto lens on your DSLR either and shoot discretely, you’re not shooting careless celebrities, and we are not paparazzi.
- Stay focused and motivated, be aggressive when shooting yet be kind, we are all strangers.
- Do not depend too much on post processing tools. The artistry of photography will only depend on how you put things together with your compositional skills and let your camera be your slave. Learn the framing properly through the VF not on your PC, just shoot and crop later is as stupid as hip shooting. Do not hipshot and do not depend on luck.
- Don’t be fooled by some street photography pages on social networks, some of them are misleading like “street side moments group” on Facebook. No offense meant to the founders and members, but I do not find it interesting and helpful in any aspect in the sense of street photography and photography.
- If you really care and wanted to do street photography, There are lots of insightful websites, search and visit Magnum Photos, Eric Kim’s Blog, Blake Andrews’ Blog, In-Public, Burn My Eye, Seconds to Real, streetphotographers.com, Un-Posed, Street Gang Photos, Calle35, That’s Life, Street Reverb Magazine and many more.
- Last thing to do is to have fun and enjoy what you do and find a lady friend who will support you and enjoys as well what you do in the name of photography. Shoot film as well, it’s a sweet experience.