Travis Jensen Talks About His Passion for Street Photography in San Francisco

San Francisco-based street photographer Travis Jensen has made a name for himself capturing candid shots, many of them in the rough Tenderloin neighborhood in downtown San Francisco. In this video from KAYO TV, he explains his love of street photography and the city that has become his adopted home.

As he explains in the video, Jensen sees street photography as what he was “meant to do,” a natural form of expression for someone who spent much of his past immersed in the skateboarding scene.

[Street photography] reminds me a lot of skateboarding growing up in the early nineties. It’s very raw, it’s unrehearsed, it’s spontaneous… S***, I’ll walk around for eight hours some days back and forth through the Tenderloin and I’ll only come home with one photo, and I’m ok with that.

For Jensen, street photography provides him with the professional challenges and personal rewards he needs to be happy doing what he does, even if he doesn’t do it full-time. To see more of his work, be sure to visit his website or follow him on Instagram.

(via ISO 1200)

  • harumph

    I can’t watch the video at the moment, but he’s got some great shots on his website. As a fellow Bay Area resident, I’ve found street photography in SF to be unusually challenging compared to other cities I’ve lived in, and I like the way Jensen has adapted to those challenges. For me, the biggest hurdle is avoiding the “homeless guy in front of a brick wall” thing, but Jensen just doesn’t even try to avoid it. Instead he makes it work for him.

    SF is full of scenic vistas, but on the street level, it’s actually pretty mundane and/or cluttered, so backgrounds seem to always be an issue for me.

  • JJ Black

    Travis is an inspiration. His work, alone or with the website he used to be part of, is candid, ballsy, and very very real. He deserves whatever good things come his way.

  • Mansgame

    It’s invasive, exploitative, and doesn’t require too much talent. You see an old man walking with a cane minding his own business, you jump in front of him with a camera and take his picture without his permission and you dare to call that art? You give photographers a bad name.

  • Samuel

    “Call that art?” yes its reportage, social documentary and its important and great and this man is highly skilled at it. Get back to you studio strobes and in-trays full of model releases.

  • This is me not you

    Eww instagram

  • Guest

    Still more polite than Eric Kim.

  • delastro

    This is the new street photography – this is not the old streetphotography – here you see the rules of the old streetphotography

  • Carlos

    Chamam isso de arte? Na minha opinião, o Travis, como outros fotógrafos desse gênero, se comportam como um paparazzos, arrancando à força as imagens. A propósito, a fotografia de rua passa por uma deturpação do seu conceito, quando diz: quanto mais perto, melhor! É um absurdo essa afirmação, uma verdadeira invasão de privacidade. Os fotógrafos de rua estão disputando para ver quem chega mais próximo do nariz das pessoas, lamentável…

  • Kodachrome64

    What’s your solution? Stop the old man, ask him to pose, and ruin the entire point of candid street photography? He’s well within his rights to photograph someone in public. And he seems like a really friendly guy. I could understand your comment if this was Bruce Gilden we’re talking about. You should get off your high horse sometime and try it and see if it requires talent.

  • Mansgame

    The guy bounces in front of a 90 year old man who can barely walk startling him at first. You don’t do that with old people because all it takes is to trip and fall down and they’re as good as dead. They don’t know each other, for all the old guy knows he’s about to get stabbed. My solution? Leave people alone. What right does he have to do that in the first place?

    What if you’re walking with your kid and a stranger pops out of some bushes and snaps a picture and runs away? You’re ok with that? It’s a jerk move.
    When did street photography become violating You can take beautiful street pictures without making people who are minding their own business be recognizable.

    If you feel someone would make a good photo then politely ask them if it’s ok and send them a copy later. What’s this obsession with “candid”? You’re not at a wedding. Any monkey can get a telephoto lens and start picking people off with “candids”. There is no art there.

  • Mansgame

    Nope, it’s not art to jump in front of a stranger and take a picture and run away like a wuss.

  • citysnaps

    Mansgame, would you happen to have photos online that I and others could view? Thanks!

  • lidocaineus

    Since when do the technical merits of the equipment have anything to do with the value of the work? I’m starting to think you really aren’t a troll and you’re just really limited to what you think photography should be, but then you point out that he “runs away”. When did he run away? Every encounter shown where the person even notices him he either gives a friendly wave (which invites someone to talk to him if they want) or he actively engages them in conversation.

    Every time I run across your comments, they’ve always got a plethora of downvotes. Maybe that should say something to you.

  • lidocaineus

    Quoted: “If you feel someone would make a good photo then politely ask them if it’s ok and send them a copy later. What’s this obsession with “candid”? You’re not at a wedding. Any monkey can get a telephoto lens and start picking people off with “candids”. There is no art there.”

    This entire paragraph is so shockingly ignorant that I have to wonder how ANY person who’s picked up ANY camera couId even think this, not to mention it’s such a huge generalization that even taken seriously, it doesn’t make any sense. Congratulations – you’ve singlehandedly written off a huge, respected chunk of the history of photography with your lack of understanding of what a candid shots involves, which, by the way, can present a shooting style that ranges from completely rude to being completely innocuous.

    I suggest pulling your eyes away from technical points and start reading about photography. Not tech manuals, not spec sheets, not reviews, but a history of photography – you are clearly in desperate need of a basic understanding of what photography encompasses as a whole.

    Oh and nice try with the “THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!” argument that every clueless person uses. That doesn’t even dignify a response.

  • Mansgame

    I have thousands of pictures online and a portfolio that get comments and are otherwise critiqued. Maybe you’ve seen them, but I choose to not reveal myself here. If the day comes that I do an interview about how great I am and post my pictures here, you are welcome to do so.

  • Mansgame

    Downvotes here mean nothing. Look at the video again, he stalks an old man, tip toes behind him and jumps in front of him and without asking the man’s permission runs off. I’d like to see him try that with with a younger man and see what the reaction is.

    And don’t put words in my mouth, I never said technical expertise of equipment automatically equates to the value of the work, but Samuel mentioned strobes so I was answering him. All things equal however, it does set one photographer apart from another. I’ve seen some photographers walk to a studio and after given the exposure information ask me “what’s an aperture?” That sounds like this guy.

  • siva

    Well, at least he doesn’t use a Leica, the cliché of all clichés. Or does he?

  • Mansgame

    Well, you wrote 4 paragraphs and said absolutely nothing. Taking pictures of random people walking in the street minding their own business is not a virtue nor art. I’m sorry you don’t know how to pose subjects. I’m sorry you don’t know how to use lighting. I’m sorry you don’t know how to shoot sports, I’m sorry you’re too shy to interact with people during event photography, I’m sorry you don’t know how to correctly expose a picture, and I’m sorry that you sound like you like to take pictures of strangers’ kids, but it’s not art.

  • lidocaineus

    Quote: “Taking pictures of random people walking in the street minding their own business is not a virtue nor art.”

    Actually it is, and 100 years of photography pretty much refute what you’re saying. And if you actually read what I said, at no point do I indicate that being too shy to interact with people is a core part of street photography. If you DID know about street photography, you’d know it’s the exact opposite – that a photographer is supposed to be engaged and involved in the situation. Sometimes that means the photographer talks to the people, sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes it’s a mix. This is an extremely basic concept that anyone that’s interested in photography would know, whether through formalized schooling or just picking it up as they go along.

    Oh and if you need me to summarize four very simple paragraphs for you: Paragraph 1: Your quote. Paragraph 2: Explanation of how you don’t understand basic photographic concepts. Paragraph 3: How to remedy the fact that you don’t understand basic photographic concepts. Paragraph 4: Your argument is less than convincing.

  • Guest

    You really don’t need to argue with him. Everyone on this website can see he’s an idiot. He gets his giggles by getting everyone all riled up. Don’t give him the perverted satisfaction.

  • lidocaineus

    Yeah, I looked at the video again. For reference, it’s :21 seconds in. Your idea of tip-toeing and acting like a jerk is walking next to someone, noticing him, speeding up to get in front of him and taking a shot, then waving in a friendly manner? The older man is so unbothered he doesn’t even break his stride. And why wouldn’t he try it with a younger man? Did you see the other people he was interacting with during this video?

    The fact that you don’t even understand what I’m referring to when I’m calling you out on your strobes is indicative of just where you’re coming from and just how you completely miss the point – skill isn’t knowing how to set up artificial light. It’s using what you have it hand, which might possibly be strobes. When you’re doing street photography that’s not an option. And frankly if someone who didn’t know what aperture was could take a shot better than me, more power to him – he knows how to maximize what he’s using – who cares what technical merits or lack thereof matter if the shot is good?

    To put it another way – you clearly DO equate technical merits (setting up lights) with excellence, since immediately after you put him down by indicating he shoots in full auto. Why does that matter?

  • lidocaineus

    Yeah I’m done. I’m usually pretty good at avoiding trolls, dunno how this one slipped by. No one could be that ignorant or have such a myopic view of photography, and if they did, they definitely wouldn’t have the brain power to type on a keyboard.

  • Mansgame

    How many people owned a camera 100 years ago? Were people’s pictures posted on the internet 100 years ago? You can’t compare historic pictures with what some skater thinks is art when everybody has a camera in their pocket already.

  • tttulio

    Bob squarepants was not a happy guy…

  • Richard

    Looks like a Ricoh GR Digital III or IV. Great little camera for street work.

  • siva


  • Gerj

    and some american morons will tell you they are proud to live in the land of the free.
    that is a good joke.
    actually american are less free then most europeans… but they are to blind to see behind their narrow horizon.