We have discussed with the winner of our 25th weekly challenge, our former team member @andreclemente. Andre has been very new on photography but thanks to his talent, curiosity and consistence, he already has a remarkable style on his own. He has answered our questions with great generosity and let us know much more about himself.
@streetphoto_bw: Hi Andre, would you please tell us a little bit of yourself? Who are you, where do you live, how old are you, what are you doing for a life…?
@andreclemente: Hi, I’m Andre Clemente. I was born and raised in Manila, Philippines. Moved to the States 8 years ago, have lived in Los Angeles, San Francisco and now in Paso Robles which is in Central California right smack in the middle of LA and SF.
I work in the greeting card business. I have two cats and an awesome girlfriend who I’ve been with for 5.5 years. I like baseball, sushi, photography obviously, Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson movies, Westerns and Sci-Fi. I like Wilco, The Velvet Underground, Arcade Fire and Springsteen. Despite all that info, I’m not a hipster. I’m currently addicted to the game Song Pop, which is on the iPhone and iPad.
@streetphoto_bw: Oh yes, I’m going to ask you why you stick to hipsta but before may be we should learn about how you started photography. And what is it that made you to stick on bw and especially street.
@andreclemente: I’ve always liked taking pictures. But early on it was nothing more than being the official photographer on family trips, or say I went on a camping trip with my friends, a concert, an event, I always wanted a camera with me to document the experience. When I look back, I always liked the candid photos of my friends and family better than the posed ones. My Mom hated this because she never liked the way she looked in candids but I was drawn to these real moments and natural expressions even way back when. Then the iPhone and Instagram happened, put the camera in my hands 24/7, and brought out the passion for photography in me which I think has been lying dormant this whole time, so yeah, thanks to Steve and Kevin for that.
As fas as street photography goes, I just started in January of this year. After seeing some feeds on IG, I started casually taking some candid snaps of people in my neighborhood, and I said hey “this device is pretty nifty for this.” I was living in the Walnut Creek area at the time, which is some 30 miles from San Francisco and I decided to go into the city to find more characters, moments and stories. On that day, I fell in love with it and went into the city every week until late July when I moved down here. The street photography I post on IG is largely San Francisco between the months of February and July 2012 and up to today I’m still finding things on my camera roll from those epic 4-10 hour walks.
Why black and white? There’s a quote by Ted Grant “When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls!” That might be a little harsh of a statement for color street photographers but I find color to be mostly distracting and black and white adds a timelessness and drama that really appeals to me.
@streetphoto_bw: Thank you for that answer. And I loved that quotation… Well, I’ve been following you since long time and one thing always crosses my mind each time I look at your photos. You nearly use always Hipstamatic and almost always the same combination. Well I love it but I’m just wondering why? Are you trying other apps or other combinations and each time going back to the good old favourite one? Actually it’s good cause it has become your signature. I recognise your photos without looking at your name but do you search other ways too?
@andreclemente: Yes you’re right, my feed is almost 100 percent Hipstamatic based. For street, the combinations I’ve used the most are the Lucifer VI lens with the AO DLX film and also the John S lens with the AO BW film. I’ve also used, to a lesser extent, John S with AO DLX and BlackKeySupergrain. Hipstamatic currently has 25 different lenses and 24 different films and for those who aren’t familiar with the app, the idea is to match a lens and a film to come up with a desired effect. Now, if you’re keeping count, that’s 600 different possible combinations! Part of what I love about it is that you have to decide what you want with the shot before you take it. Do you want black and white or color? Is it sunny, overcast, do you want sharpness, high contrast, grain, vignetting, do you want a blur? These things have to be considered before shooting, it’s very analogue like. If you’ve botched your shot because you chose the wrong combination and you can’t go back and take it again, well that’s part of the learning process. It’s also a bit slow, at best you need to wait a full second before you’re ready to take your next shot. While with pro camera, for example, you’d be able to snap twice as many images in the same amount of time. You’d think that that would be a negative thing but it’s taught me to slow things down, be more patient and improve my timing. I don’t want to shoot like a machine gun, but more like a sniper.
Do try I different combinations or different apps? When I’m out on the street, I just decide beforehand which combination I want to use and usually stick with it the whole day. I don’t want to worry about changing equipment while I’m out on a walk but since I’ve moved out of the Bay Area, I’ve been shooting different things from beachscapes to rural scenes and abandonment, my surroundings basically, and I’ve definitely been playing with different combinations more recently. I still have about 500 to try! Haha. There are communities like @hipstaroll and @hipstaconnect that do combinations of the week / combination challenges and I’ll usually give those a try…. Different apps, ha. I keep telling myself to try shooting with procamera or the native camera for street. You know, just to try and see what I can come up with. But every time I go out, it’s Hipstamatic. I do want to give other camera apps a whirl, definitely.
@streetphoto_bw: Have you bought yourself a camera since you started photography with IG? If yes do you shoot street with it, if not why? Or are you planning to buy one. What do you think about mobile photography? Do you think it has a limit?
@andreclemente: I now own a NIKON DSLR, SLR and a Holga and I can’t say I’ve used them a whole lot for street. I brought out the Holga once for a walk and man, 120 black and white film is expensive! It cost me a little over 20$ for the film and to have it processed and put on a CD. and that’s for only 12 exposures! When I took it on the street, I didn’t want to use it anything but street portraits just to improve the chances of me getting a quality shot and I think half my shots were decent, I was pretty happy with the results. Now that you mention it, I really should use that camera more. As far as the big lenses go, nope not for street. I was with my family a few months ago and I had the DSLR to capture family shots, we were out in a strip mall and I decided to use it to photograph someone smoking outside by a shop. And she was pissed! All it took was one DSLR street shot to get me in trouble with someone. It’s just way more imposing and it draws too much attention using the big lens.
Do think mobile photography has limits? I’m a big believer that photography is more about the craftsman than the tool and that the best camera is the one you have. If the best chance I have to create a good street shot is this 4.54 x 2.31 x 0.37 inch device in my pocket because of its compactness, discreetness and awesome apps, then that’s what I’ll use. Does it have it’s limits? Hell yes. The battery sucks balls. I’m going on an epic 10 day camping trip and I had to buy 4 power stations! I already own two which is more than enough for a day long photo walk but a multi-day trip with no electricity. Yikes. So now I own 6 total and I still don’t think it’s going to be enough. For certain things, weddings or sports, it’s definitely better to use a DSLR or SLR. The technology though is only going to improve so I’m looking forward to seeing what advancements mobile photography will offer.
@streetphoto_bw: I think what we see on the street is similar. You are also mostly focused on the subject itself, you are attracted by characteristic faces, by sadness, by the dark side of the urban life, instead of a beautiful scene with beautiful and happy people. What do you think about the reason behind that?
@andreclemente: I think it’s because I’m moved by the sad stuff. I like sad music more than upbeat music, I like sad movies more than feel-good movies. So in turn, I want my work to be heartfelt, to be intense, to be raw, to be soulful. I tend to walk the rougher neighborhood to find the grit and the emotion.
@streetphoto_bw: So what I understood your IG posts are straight from hipsta, you don’t even edit or refilter them. Well I think that demands lots of talents for shooting. You frame them so well and the combination you choose always fits good.
@andreclemente: Just to clarify, not all my shots are unedited straight from Hipstamatic. I used to be pretty stubborn about it, respect what comes out hipstamatic and don’t touch it. But as you can see on my feed, I do occasionally crop them wide if I think it makes the photo stronger, and for a while there I got hooked on using lo-mob and scratchcam and I was putting almost all my Hipstamatic shots through those apps even if I didn’t think they needed any editing. I just went to town on those apps for a little but now I’m back on alot of pure hipsta, if anything i’ll crop them but limited editing otherwise. Use vsco cam too sometimes.
@streetphoto_bw: Are there any IGers you get inspired from? And which famous street photographers do you admire?
@andreclemente: IGers out there. Sure i could easily name 50 or so but let me keep it local to the Bay Area. @travisjensen @troyholden @brandondoran are all SF street shooters whose IG feeds are 100% unedited Hipstamatic shots. Not only that, but they all stick to one combination which I admire. @suzanz has a unique perspective and I love how she’s been pushing the edit boundaries lately. @doobie_howser has a fantastic eye for composition and uses lines, shapes and patterns brilliantly. And @shutter_se7en is not only a master storyteller but is innovative in his mobile photography projects.
@streetphoto_bw: As you are a purist mobile photographer on IG, I think you plan to pass to IPhone 5 ASAP, is that right? Or have you ever considered other brands?
@andreclemente: Other brands. No haha. The 5, sure but ASAP for me would be when I’m eligible for the upgrade price.
@streetphoto_bw: Finally, how would you describe a good photo?
@andreclemente: A good streetphoto? Composition for me is of utmost importance, light is also a huge factor and when it’s glorious, it can take a photograph onto another level. The subject is something I look out for and whether it’s the face or the outfit, I like characters that draw you in, that are dynamic. Even with a not so interesting person, if you catch eye contact or an expression or body language, then that works too. The background of a photograph or whatever else is in the frame with the subject is something that can be easily neglected but its important too. I like shapes, lines, gritty walls. With moving parts, it’s extremely difficult to get everything fall in its right place and it involves some luck too. If you’ve got a a few of these things going for you, then you probably have a good shot.
@streetphoto_bw: Thank you!
Interview performed by @latibod.