“You can get away with a lot if you are relaxed and purposeful. My camera is taped up and looks a little like a toy.”
Darran Roper is a street photographer from the UK. He recently won some awards with his images. For Darran Roper street photography means creative interaction with his surroundings.
Interview with Darran Roper
Darran, what was your most memorable moment shooting pictures out on the streets?
I met a man named Adan Abobaker. He lived in a hostel and had been homeless for about 10 years. Originally he had fled Somalia as a refugee. We talked for maybe twenty minutes. I had commented on how positive he was and that this was unusual for a man in his position. He told me there had been times in his life, he came close to ending it all. A turning point in his life came when he had saved a woman who had thrown herself off Blackfriars bridge into the Thames. What a testament. A homeless Somalian refugee that saves a woman trying to commit suicide. That really got to me. He had been given the George Medal for his courage.
You’ve won a couple of prizes with your photos. What does a 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 media?
Not really sure I know the answers to this, we all see differently. It is hard to be objective about your own work.
I believe I am better placed to comment on others work than my own.
What reaction do you intend to provoke in people looking at your images?
Hopefully there are questions unanswered – a subject or emotion conveyed.
How do you handle uncomfortable situations while shooting street photography? People, for example, not wanting to have their picture taken or not understanding the concept of street photography.
If someone asks me to delete a picture I delete it. I’m happy to talk to people if they approach me. Most people won’t.
What’s your strategy when you walk up close to people. Do you interact with them or take the shot and move on?
“I take the picture and avoid eye contact when the camera is away from my eye.”
You can get away with a lot if you are relaxed and purposeful. My camera is taped up and looks a little like a toy. There is no branding. My focus-light is disabled, as is picture review. Raising the camera and then moving it away after the shot is easily read. When I first started, I would raise the camera early where possible and take it away late. I am not so concerned now. I take the picture and avoid eye contact when the camera is away from my eye.
You shoot both color and black and white? Do you have any preference and what does your decision depend on?
I love black & white and colour, it has taken a bit of persistence on my part with color to feel that way. For me both mediums are important, though at the moment I am focusing more on producing colour work.
What qualities and characteristics does a good street photographer need?
Observation. Being able to react to what you see without thinking too much is a good starting point.
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?
“That was the first time I realised that life was full of many mini productions, that I could take part in.”
There are situations that you can read, if you observe. For instance, I remember watching a man dressed smartly, standing alone and smiling. It was December time in London, very cold. I am inquisitive; following his gaze it wasn’t apparent to me why he was smiling. Then, I saw a woman paying a taxi driver across the street. Bingo. There is an expectation between them; a meeting; they are lovers perhaps. Once she paid the driver she ran across the road and straight into his arms. I had already positioned myself and waited for it. That was the first time I realised that life was full of many mini productions, that I could take part in.
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 am on a walk I don’t think about the aesthetics of what I am doing.”
I study photographs that move me, to define the element that interests me. My compositions inevitably come from influence and intuition. I would say I do most of my thinking at home. When I am on a walk I don’t think about the aesthetics of what I am doing. I look for something that holds me. Then, at home, some time later I will review the pictures, I will start thinking again.
What’s the biggest challenge shooting on the streets?
My biggest challenge is finding the time to get out and be active. I live with my fabulous wife and two kids in a small town in the south of England.
It is difficult to have your mood, favourable weather a little bit of luck and subject matter all come together for a day’s walk plotted in the calendar.