The Interview. (by @andreclemente)
@streetphoto_bw: What you can tell us about yourself? Who is @danielji outside of the IG world? Where in the world are you based? What is your photography background and how does your personal life relate to your photography?
@danielji: A little about me… I was born and raised in the NY metro area in a working class immigrant family. The arts were not encouraged but I always found ways to express myself. Growing up here, I’ve seen a lot of the “old New York” that you only read about…. I sometimes like to think that experience gives me a little added perspective walking the city streets today, but in reality… I’m constantly exploring and rediscovering this city like everyone else.
I’m a very visual person. I never used maps to find my way around growing up. I just relied on my memory from walking the streets and exploring on my own or with friends… finding my way with landmarks, serendipity and a little luck. This philosophy pretty much holds true today. I can walk 80 blocks without breaking a sweat and I’m just a vacuum for urban imagery and people in general, (I never, ever forget a face). So it was a natural transition for me to embrace street photography and capture some of the amazing things I see. I also think this heuristic experience has influenced my photography. I love to experiment and explore new concepts and push creative barriers.
In many ways, I prefer to see the world the way it should be, the way it was meant to be and not necessarily the way it is now. So I tend to project this alternate (but true?) reality into my daily life and sometimes that really manifests itself into my photography.
I have a casual photography background. I had some artistic experience in high school… and I’ve had to work with DSLR’s for various multimedia projects in my professional career but it did not resume a creative approach until I started working with mobile platforms.
@streetphoto_bw: What IS Street Photography? How would you define it? And what does it mean to you?
@danielji: I’ve traditionally viewed street photography from a documentary perspective… capturing candid moments that embody important themes in our humanity and somehow define society in that place and time. To me, that often means subtly documenting the cracks and fissures that are often ignored or overlooked in everyday life. But I also know there is beauty in the world and even beauty in those cracks and fissures. So perhaps the art of street photography is to present a balanced parallel existence of these dark and beautiful themes that haunt and bless our everyday lives.
@streetphoto_bw: Capturing moments that define society in that place and time is beautifully put. Your feed has an even distribution between Black & White and Color. What is your shooting process? Do you think about which format beforehand or do you decide that in the post processing stage? What apps do you like to use for shooting and what apps do you like to use for editing?
@danielji: I really believe in experimentation and exploration so I’m not sold on a particular color format ahead of time. When I shoot, I tend to focus more on the basics… lighting, composition, perspective, camera angle, subject placement and so forth… of course, a lot of those technical terms go out the window when I’m actually shooting on the streets and I often just go with my instincts. Afterwards, it’s an exhaustive heuristic process of trial & error and experimentation and I will end up with 5 unique versions of the same photo. Lately I’m trying to visualize what I want ahead of time to cut down on this post-processing time! I tend to shoot with Camera+ and occasionally ProHDR and then mask my shots to death in Filterstorm. I also work with PhotoForge, Noir, BigLens and SnapSeed when I see the need.
@streetphoto_bw: Tell us about the winning photo. I love the light, such an ethereal glow. There’s a sense of movement but at the same times as if it’s frozen in time. What’s the story behind the shot?
@danielji: Thanks! This was one of those moments where I was walking half-asleep on my way to work and then suddenly awe-struck by this glorious, paradoxical scene! It was completely instinctive in that I just had to stop, pull out my iPhone and start shooting. The lighting in Grand Central can be tricky most of the time, but for a few brief moments in the morning and afternoon, the sun will burst through the massive windows in a very grandiose way and just overwhelm you. I’m just in love with Beaux-Arts architecture and Grand Central Terminal is one of the few remaining bastions of that style… a building that can simultaneously exalt man to such great heights so that we may see the face of God, if even for a brief moment, while at the same time highlight our diminutive status as it relates to the natural world. I think the spirit of this photo encapsulates one of those paradoxical moments. Sometimes all you have to do is look up and it hits you. This was shot in Camera+ and then edited in Filterstorm. The core of the overwhelming lighting is natural and I basically enhanced it by adjusting Levels and Curves and experimenting with various blending modes.
@streetphoto_bw: The photo has a monochromatic tone to it that has been consistent with some of your recent posts. Is that something you consciously try to do? Keep recurring edit patterns? Also, what is in store for your followers and anyone who visits your feed?
@danielji: Thanks for noticing that recent trend in my feed. I honestly think this is a coincidence and not something that I planned. Overall, I want visitors to my feed to appreciate the diverse styles, edits and subjects that vary from one shot to the next. I purposely try to mix things up to maintain that level of ‘consistency’. What’s in store for the future? I think I will gradually start to contribute toward original series and possibly play around more with abstract concepts and minimalism but perhaps still within a street photography realm. We’ll see how that works out! : )
I also think my recent trend in monochrome might also be heavily influenced by the @streetphoto_bw feed and related contests. The contributions to the #streetphoto_bw hashtag have been a major influence and motivation of late to explore the limits and boundaries of black and white street photography!
@streetphoto_bw: That’s awesome to hear! Also, looking forward to seeing the new styles you want to explore. Lastly, are there any street photographers whose work inspires you?
@danielji: Well… there are the masters like the Magnum founders and George Brassaï but I can’t hold a candle to their work. There are so many talented IGers that it’s just overwhelming. Early on, I was inspired by @christopherpares and his take of people in NYC. Later I discovered the creative stylings of @radiotom and his unique approach to street photography! Adam Conner’s feed (@derblutenkat) has really helped push my creative boundaries. Also, @jasonmpeterson’s street photography continues to amaze me. There are lots of other great IGers, the list just goes on and on.