“I mostly shoot by intuition, I feel I need to click at the certain time in a certain situation. I don’t think too much while I shoot, I just feel it. I leave the thinking part for later when I filter and edit my work.”
Sagi Kortler (born in 1972) is an Israeli street photographer. He’s a self-taught photographer.
“Street Photography for me is more than a genre of photography, it’s an approach to photography and to life. It is how I look at the world and how I see it even if I don’t have a camera. I make pictures by intuition, because I feel that I need to click the exposure button at that exact time. I do not plan or stage my photos, I let life unfold before me and capture and present it as I see it, as I feel it. I’m an observer of humanity and life, my role is to document the world I live in.”
With his work, Sagi Kortler hopes to become a part of a global pool of documentation for future generations so they will be able to learn and understand the times he lived in.
Interview with Sagi Kortler
Sagi, what was your first camera and photographic experience?
Taking family snapshots with the family’s Olympus Trip 35. I still have it and once in a while, I’ll load a film and go out to play.
Why did you become a photographer?
I was always creative visual wise. As a kid, I used to paint and sketch, the camera was a way to capture things that I saw and interested me. I guess I decided to become a photographer when the urge to create with the camera and express myself with it became stronger than anything else I was doing at the time.
What does photography mean to you?
It is who and what I am. I photograph as I see the world and I see the world as I photograph it.
Which photographer has inspired you most and why?
Too many – but to name a few: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, William Klein, Josef Koudelka and Alex Webb. I think that what most inspired me by them is the approach to photography and to the photograph.
Your favorite photography quote?
“If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”
I know it’s a cliché, but I find it to be very true.
Robert Capa “The Man, Who Invented Himself”
How would you describe your photographic style and creative process?
Don’t really know how to describe my style, I guess that this is something that critics and curators do. As a photographer I photograph what I find interesting to me and don’t think too much about “style”.
As for process, I usually wander the streets and make photographs as I walk, sometimes I won’t even stop and just shoot while walking. Sometimes I’ll stop and I’ll try to compose a few elements together, sometimes I get the privilege of “work the scene” and explore it from different angles, sometimes I get one shot and the moment is gone. I mostly shoot by intuition, I feel I need to click at the certain time in a certain situation. I don’t think too much while I shoot, I just feel it. I leave the thinking part for later when I filter and edit my work.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic style and how did you achieve it?
I think that you should make photographs they way you like it and the way that feels right and interesting to you and not how other tells you that it should be done. You have to explore the medium and yourself, the photograph has to represent who and what you are.
What do you consider to be the axis of your work?
Candid and un-staged approach taken from a relatively close distance with a wide-angle lens.
What qualities does a good photographer need?
A good imagination, a good eye and a strong sense of curiosity. A good photographer also should have an opinion on what he/she is photographing and he/she should have something to say about it and it should be reflected in his/her work.
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes?
It should have a strong content, it should be a personal report, it should be able to transfer to the viewer what the photographer saw and felt and why the photo was made.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
The inspiration comes from my subjects. Most of the time, if I have a vision of how it should look, the outcome is changed because my work is not planed or staged, I take what my subjects give me.
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
Whichever camera I have in my hand – no joking, I have too many from DSLRs to Mirrorless, compact cameras, film cameras or my iPhone. I like the Mirrorless systems most these days, they offer me a small, light and quiet system with good quality. I use wide-angle lenses between 24mm to 35mm (equivalent to 35mm format). I don’t use flash.
What’s your favorite website on photography?
I’m a bit biased here. I’m one of the co-founders of the Street Gang Photos collective, so I really like our site, I also designed and built it.
There is a lot of good sites I really like, I like Magnum Photos site and I like their collaboration with slate.com that they feature a daily set of pictures around a subject. Burn Magazine is also a great site I really like. ASX is also great and the list goes on and on…
What photography book would you recommend?
Any book by your favorite photographers. If you are into a certain genre of photography then find out who are the most interesting photographers in that genre and get books from them. It is very inspiring.
I also recommend contact-sheets books like the “Magnum Contact Sheets”, one can learn a great deal about the process of creation and the selection process of other photographers.
Have a look at the photography book “Magnum Contact Sheets”
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a professional photographer?
Don’t! Seriously, the word “professional” only means that one is making a living from photography. We live in an era that making a living from photography is almost impossible. It does not mean that an amateur or an enthusiast photographers can’t make great photographs, it just means that they’ll make their living of something else.
I rather use the term “serious” photographer, and to get there and to be notice and to be considered as such, one should edit really hard and tight their body of work. It takes only one bad or mediocre photograph to ruin a reputation.