simonking

When Bokeh Isn’t Best: Appreciating a Deeper Depth of Field

Recently, the more I study my photographs, the more I feel that bokeh is cheating me out of a more substantial image. I really like photographs with a lot of visual complexity -- well presented, not chaotic, but a clear arrangement of multiple elements.

If Sharpness Truly Mattered, Cartier-Bresson Would Be a Joke

While teaching a recent workshop, I joked that street photography was the only genre where people would buy $3,000 worth of cameras and lenses and then deliberately use them to make out of focus, grainy, imperfect images. This led to a pretty interesting discussion about the merits to imperfection.

The Value of a ‘Photographic’ Photograph

Discussing what makes a “photographic” photograph can seem like a bit of a tautology, but I think that my understanding of what I’m trying to achieve with my photographs has been helped by this idea.

There is No ‘Formula’ for Good Photo Composition

It’s very easy to get stuck in grooves in photography, to find something that makes sense or comes from a position of authority; once habits are formed around ideas about genre, style, or technique, it can be very difficult to break out of those constraints.

Is Isolation Overrepresented in Street and Documentary Photography?

One of the byproducts of the new-wave approach to street photography, which champions anonymity, mystery, and a cinematic aesthetic, is that there is an absolute abundance of images featuring silhouetted figures and shadow play. These are the kind of images I started off creating, and there are some fantastic artists who have utilized this style over the years, my favorite of these being Fan Ho, one of the classic progenitors of this style.

Cultivating Diversity in My Photography

There is an excellent quote regarding practice attributed to legendary martial artist Bruce Lee that I think provides a great framework for many pursuits but also highlights one of my earliest struggles with ideas around “style” in photography: “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

Prioritizing Concept Over Aesthetic in Street and Social Documentary Photography

There seems to be a trend in current photography goals to achieve a “look” to one's work. I feel this is a short-sighted goal, and that a consistent aesthetic is more the result of careful curation of a large body of work, rather than something that ought to be deliberately achieved.

36 Keepers: Working Towards a Perfect Roll of Film in India

When I’m out photographing, my concentration is on making individual frames that matter, working the scene with my eye before shooting, and staying patient for the right moment. I’m not averse to taking multiple frames of the same scene, but I find it’s a better use of my time and film to put the work into getting things right the first time.

The Eye Contact Conundrum in Street Photography

There are so many factors to potentially juggle for any given street/documentary situation that eye contact for me tends to fall a bit to chance -- if it happens it happens and if it doesn’t it doesn’t. It is rarely something I feel makes or breaks an image, but more frequently I’ve been thinking about what specific function working to achieve (or deliberately avoid) eye contact could offer to my photographs.

How to Shoot Street Photographs with Humor

I think that one of the hardest elements to incorporate in a street photograph is humor. Unlike other themes in street photography, I think that naturally occurring “funny” scenes are harder to stumble across, as they often involve a lot of interpretation and may involve playing with elements in the composition rather than being able to rely on finding a scene that is funny “as it is.”

Travel Without Traveling for Street and Documentary Photography

Whenever I travel for photography, there’s a real sense of anticipation for the scenarios I might face, the feeling that the next great moment is just around the corner. As a street and documentary photographer, my intention when traveling is not to see “the sights”, or to eat the foods, or to hear the music -- instead, it is specifically to meet the people and see what aspects of myself exist in foreign situations.

The Paradox of ‘Timelessness’ in Street Photography

I've noticed that a commonly used compliment for street photographs is to describe them as "timeless." My interpretation of this is that it is used to mean that there are characteristics of the image which in some way transcend the boundaries of the context it was made in and can exist almost in its own context, its own space.

A Photo Portfolio Doesn’t Need to be a Website

Well-curated portfolios can be some of the most powerful tools available to a photographer looking to efficiently communicate what they’re about to potential clients and customers. The classic portfolio is a physical book of prints, maybe 10-20 total, often accompanied by a declaration of intent in writing or in person if being showcased at an actual critique session.

Photographic Style Can’t Be ‘Canned’

Conversations around photographic style have always felt a little odd to me for a few reasons. It’s something I get asked about a lot by my students, as they feel that without a style, a visual signature, then they will find it very difficult to differentiate themselves from other working artists.

Why Shoot Documentary Photography on Film?

Shooting a long term project, whether personal or professional, is a wonderful way to explore areas of photography you might not have previously considered. I know of photographers who have experimented with different types of filters, post-processing techniques, actual shooting methods (long exposure, panning, unfamiliar/conventional focal lengths), and so on, as their projects evolve.

Telephoto Street Photography in India

Before my recent trip to India, I had a lot of conflicting thoughts regarding the gear I wanted to take. My entire purpose for traveling was to make photographs, so I wanted to shape my kit into the most efficient setup possible.

Film Photography Speeds Me Up

It’s been around a year since I switched to photographing on 35mm film for the majority of my work. Beyond a couple of false starts and some misconceptions, I think I’ve adjusted well, and I’m really happy to have made the change. Now that I have a good amount of work to reference, I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the adjustments I needed to make in order to adapt to a film mindset.

Computer Games, Spatial Awareness, and Photographic Composition

One of the most unintentionally useful influences on my photography has turned out to be the time I’ve spent playing computer games. Some photographers use cinema as a learning tool to observe the way cinematographers and DOP’s use their cameras to capture a scene. This can be a great source of inspiration, but I think it can lead to some photographers heading out and seeking to recreate shots or aesthetic styles (color palette, depth of field, grain, etc) rather than capturing anything unique for them.