A photographer who’s been known to wait in one spot as camera-ready for hours – to get the right photograph
Street photography is a fascinating art form that captures the essence of urban life. In this series of interviews, we’ll be talking to some of the world’s most talented street photographers, who will share their insights, techniques, and experiences in capturing the beauty and complexity of the streets.
Our first street photographer in this series is Kevin Unger from Israel. Kevin is also the Founder of the #DOTSO Project. We had this insightful and creative conversation with Kevin recently in the month of April 2023 and shall be presenting it as it is, as it happened!
Why and when did street photography become your THE thing? What exactly inspired you?
Kevin: Being burned out from photojournalism a number of years ago, a friend of mine more recently insisted that I give Street Photography a try. After fighting him off for a couple of years, I put a camera back in my hands and went out to shoot street. That was 5 years ago. My motivation is back and more importantly, so is my passion. It was a great decision!
How would you define your style of street photography?
Kevin: I am very patient with my photography. I’ve been known to wait in one spot as camera-ready for an hour or two – whatever it takes to get the picture just right. A lot of photographers just want to get out and click. I guess it’s the photojournalist side of me. I want to get the story and I want to get it right because most times you just don’t have the opportunity to go back and shoot it again – Do it right the first time!
Kevin, what is more important to you, the people or the surroundings?
Kevin: I try to make both the people and the surroundings equally important – they have to be. The way I see it, you can’t have one without the other, but, as far as I’m concerned, it’s the people within their surroundings that truly makes the story and not vice-versa for street photography.
What would be your top list of tricks to succeed as a street photographer? Share some tips for people who are starting out on street photography..
Kevin: No tricks! Get out there and shoot. Study other street photographers and try to understand what it is that they are seeing. The things that you like in the work of others try and implement in your images in your own way of shooting. Eventually, you will take the best of them and incorporate them into your style. However in order to truly succeed with this you must have two things happening – Get as close as you can to the subject you wish to photograph and also, be patient! I find that by doing this you will truly find your shooting style and your soul will shine through; your photographs.
Kevin, when you look deep within, did street photography change you?
Kevin: Most definitely. I began to see the world from a different perspective. Wherever I went to shoot, I would see new things and I would want to capture them all. It allows me to study different peoples, cultures, and ways of life, motivating me to capture this in a single frame.
Alright! So, for a street photographer, what is beyond that camera?
Kevin: There’s something beyond the camera?
Is street photography your primary source of bread & butter?
Kevin: I also work as a youth counselor, mostly with at-risk teen boys. Though I don’t have any formal training in this field, I have a lot of life experience. Since I myself was one of these boys I am able to give them what they need – A person who can truly say to them “I know what you’re going through and this is how I dealt with it.” By being able to do this they come to realize they are not alone in what they are battling. It builds trust and bonds and more importantly, they begin to heal.
Out of your own work Kevin, Try and pick the top three. Tell us the story behind those shots.
Kevin: That’s a tough one! A few years back I was at the Kalandia Checkpoint, which serves as the northern checkpoint between Jerusalem and the Palestinian Territory. At one point I turned my head to find a moslem man praying. What made the image surreal was that the area where he was praying looked like a garbage dump and had a burnt-out car perched on a heap behind him. Very powerful image.
Another one of my favourite images was taken a few years ago in the heart of Jerusalem. I noticed a family who came on holiday. They must have been walking around the city the whole day. They were sitting at a local cafe. The mother looked exhausted, and the little boy also. The little girl had put her head down on the table and fallen asleep. It’s a great story.
I would say that my third favourite image was taken in the Arab Shuk of Jerusalem’s Old City. There, at one point I found an elderly cobbler hard at work. The small hovel that he’s occupying says it all.
A few years back I was at the Kalandia Checkpoint, which serves as the northern checkpoint between Jerusalem and the Palestinian Territory. At one point I turned my head to find a moslem man praying. What made the image surreal was that the area where he was praying looked like a garbage dump and had a burnt-out car perched on a heap behind him.Kevin Unger on his favourite work
There are areas of the shuk that do not cater to the tourist industry. These areas are not hard to find, as they are located just off the “Souviner Strip.” They mostly cater to the local residents and shoppers. This is the real shuk. The shuk you won’t see in travel brochures. It is the shuk with personality and character where no one will pester you to come and see what they have to sell you (at inflated prices). This is the true heart of the shuk where one can relax, sit down in a cafe, smoke a Nargila pipe, and soak in the atmosphere. Pictured: A shoe repairman in Suq el Attarin will fix your shoes while you wait. Mostly, however, he just enjoys chatting.Kevin talking about his favourite image
Which camera(s) do you use? And what about your lenses and other accessories?
Kevin: When I was a photojournalist my equipment of choice was NIkon. Now that I’m shooting street I’ve turned to Fuji, currently shooting with 2 Fujifilm X-T3’s. I enjoy the kit lens (18-55), but I would have to say that I’m married to my 16mm 1.4. I also have an old Nikkor 24mm 2.8 lens that I shoot with. I have an adaptor for it that I use on my cameras. It’s fully manual, but with a 24mm focal length, it’s easy to use with range focusing. It’s a great lens and I don’t go anywhere without it.
SPG Total Days
SPG Total Visits
Almost all of us do have our own inspirational figures and idols in other photography greats or peers. Which other street photographers’ work inspires you the most?
Kevin: There are definitely quite a number of photographers that inspire me; including Henri Cartier Bresson – I find his work captivating. Sir Don McCullen – I can feel his passion and excitement in every image he takes. William Klein – Every photo of his just screams out. Dorthea Lang – As a documentary photographer I believe that she’s actually captured the soul of her subjects in all of her photos. Vivienne Maier – She truly is the pioneer of candid street photography. Steve McCurry – A photographic genius!
Any shot you missed and you must have taken?
Kevin: Several – too many to count. Every street photographer has missed a shot. They’d be lying if they said otherwise. But missing a shot also helps us to be better street photographers, we become more aware and more ready, and we look harder for it. It’s a growing process.
Well, Kevin, what is your word of caution to amateur street photographers?
Kevin: My word of caution is more like a word of advice. Don’t be afraid to get close. Move as close as you can, to your subject. These days most people don’t notice the camera and when/if they do, most of the time they just don’t care. Move in and get the shot.
Do you believe that street photographers are travel photographers too?
Kevin: There’s a distinct difference between the two. A street photographer is always trying to show the story behind the photo which he has taken. It doesn’t matter where in the world he/she is. A travel photographer is trying to show the areas and surroundings more so than the story to entice the viewer to come and visit – Think Condé Nast Travel Magazine!
What is your perspective on the relationship between Street Photography and Street documentary?
Kevin: As far as I’m concerned, you can not have one without the other. They have to go hand in hand otherwise your photograph doesn’t have a soul.
Is there any location in particular that you dream to cover next? Or any place that you would want to revisit?
Kevin: Far too many to list here. Let’s just say I would like to photograph the whole world if I could – Maybe one day!
As we come to the end of our conversation, we believe that this will stay as a thought-provoking as well as an insightful read for a lot of other street photographer souls who are either into this discipline with full vigour and are trying their hands on it.
If you are a street photographer and own a credible body of work, you can be featured in The Street Photography Gallery’s Feature section. You only have to hit the button below or email us on email@example.com