“I don’t get too close. Furthermore, I’m not interested in people’s faces, that’s not my style.”
Enrico Markus Essl (born 1970) is a street photographer from Austria currently based in Linz. He’s self-taught. For Enrico Markus Essl street photography is a way to surprise people with unexpected and odd scenes of daily life.
Interview with Enrico Markus Essl
Enrico Markus Essl, what was your most memorable moment shooting pictures out on the streets?
When I was in danger while taking pictures in Monaco. I wanted to take a picture of reflections in the glass facade of a bank. It took more than an hour to reassure to the police that I didn’t intend to spy out the bank and that I’m a photographer.
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?
It’s difficult to answer the questions. I think it’s difficult making pictures that stand out of the mass of street pictures.
Speaking for myself, there are maybe not more than three photos a year with which I’m content. If the mass of people likes these ones is anyone’s guess.
The market, especially the one for street photography, has developed extremely fast during the last two years. One the one hand there have been many self-proclaimed experts. On the other hand there have come up many good groups on Flickr whose members are real experts in the field of street photography.
What reaction do you intend to provoke in people looking at your images?
Above all, people should like my pics. I’m happy when I hear people saying that they’ve never seen these special kinds of pictures before.
I like it when people accept this kind of photography, because in my opinion it’s the most difficult one.
I’m often asked if the pictures are artificially arranged. Of course they’re not, but I like these questions.
What’s your strategy when you walk up close to people? Do you interact with them or take the shot and move on?
I don’t get too close. Furthermore, I’m not interested in people’s faces, that’s not my style.
In general, I don’t have big problems, but reactions of people vary.
It seldom happens that I come close and use the flash true to the motto “shoot and go”.
I think that people in Austria and Germany are more sensitive than in other countries when you come too close with the camera. I haven’t yet found out reasons for it, but maybe it’s a matter of mentality or history.
What’s the biggest challenge shooting on the streets?
I’t running around for hours and not being sure if you are successful or not.
You shoot both color and black and white? Do you have any preference and what does your decision depend on?
“I deliberately make pictures in black and white in order to draw attention to the essential in a picture.”
I prefer colour. The picture has more expressiveness and offers more room for shadow, light, geometry and colour contrast which I like playing with.
For me it’s much more difficult to make pictures in colour. But I also deliberately make pictures or series in black and white in order to draw attention to the essential in a picture or to emphasize the concept of a series.
What qualities and characteristics does a good street photographer need?
A feeling for composition, color and light. Furthermore, intuition for the right moment and of course endurance and patience.
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’d say it’s difficult to train intuition.
But there are environments and sceneries that invite to take pictures. Then it’s necessary to wait for the right moment to shoot.
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?
When I see suitable elements and when the light and basic composition are okay, it happens that I wait a long time for the right motive.
I’ve experienced that it mostly doesn’t make sense to wait for the motive. You rarely find it, but it finds you!
Intuition and fast reaction are the keys for success.
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.
The questions were carefully and considerably chosen. Thanks a lot!