“A photo can move you emotionally or create some sort of mood. Someone once told me to do great things with my heart, mind and camera. I think if you put these elements together and the natural qualities you possess you can do great things in photography.”
Linda Wisdom (born in London) is a self-taught street photographer. Her first love was music – songwriting and producing, went on to study sound engineering and worked in a couple studios as an engineer assistant. She’s always appreciated photography to look at but never pursued it as she does now.
“It’s never too late to learn and study anything if you have the ambition and drive to do so.”
“I am a London born photographer. Street photography genre is my first love. I only seriously picked up my first pro SLR and began shooting about three years ago now. With an avid interest in travel, different cultures, sociology and creative endeavours, I naturally took to street photography. Since I’ve started shooting street I have noticed a huge change in my observations in general. Photography really opens your eyes and I definitely see the world in more detail like never before, which gives an added creative advantage.
An everyday or ordinary scene can be turned into a beautiful photograph if you really look closely and open your creative mind. The challenge is being observant of your surroundings wherever you go. If you’re lucky enough and have your camera ready, you can photograph a wonderful scene that caught the attention of your eyes, heart and mind and freeze it in time to remind yourself and share with others. Photography is a big passion of mine, and if I’m not out and about shooting, I am either organising group events for beginners, researching photography online, reading books, editing photos or working on projects. Photography has become a huge part of my life and has presented me with many great opportunities and people.”
Interview with Linda Wisdom
Linda, what was your first camera and photographic experience?
I grew up in the 70s where as a kid I would toy around with my parent’s film and Polaroid cameras and take snapshots. I went out and purchased my camera as soon as I was old enough to afford my own but didn’t really take photography seriously. It was more a leisurely thing to do until I really started to appreciate great work from the masters past and present.
Why did you become a photographer?
Three years ago a photographer friend loaned me a spare SLR camera and we started to go on regular photo walks around London almost every weekend. After a while, I noticed I got such a buzz from spotting interesting characters and street portraitures.
After a few months of going out with my camera and learning and experimenting, I began to notice my efforts improve and a style developing. I have been hooked on street photography ever since. At one obsessive stage at the start of my newfound interest, I remember going out shooting anything up to 5 times a week both day and night! I would eat, sleep and breathe photography – when your passionate about something you do some crazy things I guess!
Time permitting now, I go out as often as I can either on my own or when hosting photo walks for my Meetup group “We Shoot People”.
What does photography mean to you?
It means everything. I can’t imagine now how I would be without it in my daily life. I remember when I was working a particularly stressful job, during my lunch breaks I would take my camera with me and get into that street photographer zone which helped me de-stress and take my mind of work. Just generally if I have things on my mind or I’m feeling down, I usually go shoot some photography, it’s as if I forget all my troubles for that space of time. You get so in the zone that your mind is just on taking photos. It’s like therapy!
Which photographer has inspired you most and why?
It’s a bit of a cliché but Henri Cartier-Bresson was the very first street photographer who attracted my attention to street photography and inspired me to get more into it. Since then of course many more masters have influenced my work in one way or another.
Robert Doisneau, Garry Winogrand, Ernst Haas, Fred Herzog, Saul Leiter, W. Eugene Smith, Fan Ho, Josef Koudelka, to name but a few. When you look at their work you see their personalities in the photos, their unique vision and their passion to perfect. It’s good to be inspired and but then you need to get out there and produce your own images with your own unique style rather than just replicate.
“I want to see everything, to look at everything. I want to be the view itself.”
What’s your favorite photography quote?
“The human heart feels things the eyes cannot see, and knows what the mind cannot understand.”
How would you describe your photographic language?
I try to focus on composition. Content is also king. Getting as many elements I can get into frame, this can be anything from a mood or emotion, light play, POV, geometry, juxtaposition etc. I think I subconsciously put an element of myself or state of mind into images occasionally which makes them more personal to look at.
The majority of my work is in black and white as I tend to visualise in black and white, but I have been inspired by and occasionally enjoy shooting in colour. Changing styles and working on projects once in a while helps keep my creative mind active.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic voice?
Personally, to research and study the masters and as much photography in all genres as possible. Understand what makes a great photo great, and use some of those elements to influence your own work and stamping your own identity on it. Try and be unique and set a style that others can be inspired by.
What do you consider to be the axis of your work?
I personally love black and white; it goes without saying in street that this just works from looking at the history of this genre. If the moment allows, setting my camera for the best exposure possible. I like my blacks black and the whites white to create nice overall tones. I hardly do any cropping if at all, as I like to take the shot composed as perfect as I can so that there is less work to do in the post processing stages.
Conceptually, what I photograph usually depends on different variables: my mood, the weather, the location, the project that I’m working on, the last photographer that inspired me. But mostly once I’m out with my camera I try to keep a clear and open mind and shoot what I get and review later.
What qualities does a good photographer need?
Talent, hard work, persistence, determination, and luck!
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes?
A photo that you never get tired of looking at, that when you go back and look at you see something new or different. A photo can move you emotionally or create some sort of mood. Someone once told me to do great things with my heart, mind and camera. I think if you put these elements together and the natural qualities you possess you can do great things in photography.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
Travelling, life, researching classic photographs old and new, buying photography books of my favourite photographers, going to exhibitions, watching documentaries, meeting and working with inspiring photographers.
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
I currently have a Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 with a 14-42 lens and a 20mm pancake. It’s all I need and has helped me get some photos I want to get. I have tried using big, fancy SLRs right down to just using my iPhone. My Lumix is currently my happy medium. I have experimented with film photography also; I do love the grain and tone quality of film. However as a film user, I find that my natural manually reactions to a scene have proved too slow and frustrating so I ended up going back to digital! I still own a film camera and will definitely use it again on future projects.
What’s your favorite website on photography?
“Magnum Photos”: It has a collection of some of my favourite photographic masters all in one place.
What photography book would you recommend?
Well, from a street photographer perspective, go check out Henri Cartier-Bresson’s book “Europeans”.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a professional photographer?
Study your craft and know it inside out, work hard, be persistent, good luck!