“Street photography gave me the freedom to photograph what I want, and that’s what I enjoy the most. To be able to freely express what my eyes see, showing the viewer just how beautiful our world can be if one looks hard enough.”
Michael Ares (born in 1991) is a street photographer and photojournalist, currently based in Whittier near Los Angeles, California.
He is a Photojournalism major of Cerritos College, where he learned “a lot of the technical and philosophical aspects of photography”.
Apart from his studies, Michael Ares is a keen researcher of the internet to learn more about photography.
Interview with Michael Ares
Michael, what was your first camera and photographic experience?
My first camera that I got was the Nikon D7000. Immediately after I got my camera, I was asked to do portraits of high school graduates, couples, and even an event gig here and then. These little things were what got the ball rolling for me and my photography career.
Why did you become a photographer?
Originally when I first started doing photography I wanted to do studio work for fashion and commercial photography. I had dreams of shooting models and even photographing weddings making thousands of dollars. After a while I became bored with those types of photography, and experimented with street photography.
Street photography gave me the freedom to photograph what I want, and that’s what I enjoy the most. To be able to freely express what my eyes see, showing the viewer just how beautiful our world can be if one looks hard enough.
I feel that my mission in life is to inspire someone else to try street photography for themselves. If I can inspire one or two people to do that, then I feel that I have done my job pushing somebody else to bring out their creative side and help better our world with their vision.
What does photography mean to you?
Photography to me is a huge medium to society. It uplifts and educates the viewer on all of the love, joy, and happiness in the world, as well as the anger, sorrow, and anxiety.
Which photographer has inspired you most and why?
Well, there are many photographers that have inspired my work. I’d say one past master would have to be the great Henri Cartier-Bresson. His eye and sense of balance in his images have always been pleasing to my eye, and have inspired me to find the balance between my subject and their surroundings in my images.
As for a photographer who is living now, I’d have to say Rui Palha. I believe he is a genius in street photography. A lot of his photographs have strong geometry in them, and I’m a big fan of his “minimalist” photographs where he uses his environment to his advantage using lines, shapes and other things leading the viewer down the human subject.
Rui Palha – Slices of Street Life
What’s your favorite photography quote?
To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place. I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.
How would you describe your photographic style and way of working? How do you realize a shooting?
I’d say my style is a mixture of street and architecture photography.
I like to work alone, mainly because a lot of my photos require me to be at a location for a very long time waiting for the right person to complete my shot.
Andre Kertesz said:
“Seeing is not enough; you have to feel what you photograph.”
That’s a great rule of thumb for any street photographer for their work ethic.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic style and how did you achieve it?
It really comes down to practicing. The more you shoot, the more you develop a style of your own.
What qualities does a good photographer need?
I believe that a good photographer needs patience above all else. Sometimes I wait almost an hour for a shot, but when I get it, I know it was worth the time invested in getting the shot. Patience teaches you to wait for the perfect moment. It teaches you to slow down, and to really observe what is going on around you. Sometimes we can be rushed, and that may cause us to miss a wonderful moment because we feel restless and feel the need to keep moving on to somewhere else, when a wonderful moment was just on it’s way.
I believe that a good photographer needs to have a good instinct with balanced composition, while effectively showing the viewer “why” they took that photograph.
And a photographer needs to have passion. I know this seems like a given, but it’s true. If you are passionate you will always be studying, always be shooting, and always striving to perfect your craft.
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes?
I believe that a good photo is one that either tells you a story, or is graphically pleasing to the eye.
A good photo needs at least 2-3 elements in order to make a complete image. A photo of somebody standing still while they looking down at their phone and texting doesn’t interest me. I want to see something more than that. Whenever I see something that I like on the street, I immediately try to consider all the different things that I can fit into my composition to make up a more effective photograph that is pleasing to my viewer. If I see an interesting subject, but not much else to go with them, then I won’t bother taking the shot.
John Free once said:
“It’s just as important to not take the shot as it is to take the shot.”
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
By studying and analyzing the works of others. What makes their photo good? Then what makes their photo great? Then what makes their photo a classic?
The more you study, the more you train your brain on what to look out for the next time you walk on the street.
How do you keep up to date with new developments in photography, to keep on learning new things?
I’m constantly on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Flickr, 500px, Tumblr, WordPress and YouTube – so I’m constantly looking for new content, blogs, updates, and photos to look at. Yes, I have a lot of time on my hands.
Digital or analog?
I am a fan of both, when I first started learning photography I practiced on a film camera (Canon Ftb). I loved working in the darkroom, working with the chemicals and watching my prints magically appear. Film really taught me to make every shot that I take count. Now that I own a digital camera, I have applied pretty much everything that I have learned from film to the digital side.
The workflow of digital is so much easier and faster, but I do miss the personal connection I used to have with printing photos myself in the darkroom. I remember feeling like I was really perfecting my craft the more I printed photos.
What kind of camera and equipment do you use?
With my Nikon D7000 I have many lenses to accompany it like: 35mm 1.8, 50mm 1.8, 85mm 1.8, 35-70 2.8 and 80-200mm 2.8.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a professional photographer?
Connections are key! In the world of photography, or any art for that matter, it’s more about “who you know”, so network with as many photographers as you can whether they be locally or on the Internet. The genre of street photography has a huge community, so a great idea would be to attend photography workshops to make those connections that will last a lifetime. The more connections you make the better your chances of gaining more exposure and support of your work.