Abtin Eshraghi is a self taught photographer from London. He was born in Iran, raised in the UK and lived briefly in the US. I first noticed Abtin’s work through Google Plus, which has a great network of street photographers. His photos have a gritty energy that jumps off the screen.
I enjoy Abtin’s photos because he’s using a GF3 to get spontaneous and slice-of-life photos from around London. He also shoots film and a DSLR but I’ve chosen a few of his micro-four-thirds photos because they showcase the extra freedom you get from a smaller camera.
1. Do you prefer wide angle or zoom for street photography?
For street photography I prefer wide angle lenses. This is mainly down to two reasons.
1) Wide angle lenses are smaller and more inconspicuous.
2) They give a better sense of how the human eye sees a scene.
Typically, I use the Panasonic 14mm lens on the GF3. This equates to a 28mm on full frame format. It’s extremely compact and allows me to get very close to my subjects without scaring them off.
An additional benefit of a wide angle is that it allows for a larger depth of field so I can get more in focus than I would using a longer lens. Some people choose telephoto lenses over wide angles as it lets them stay far enough from their subject to not be spotted, but I don’t feel that this approach suits my style. Plus would you rather have someone hiding around the corner trying to take a photo of you with a huge lens from 50m away or casually approach you, take a photo, smile or say thanks and walk away?
2. Do you interact with your subjects?
I try not to interact with my subjects before I take my shot. This is because if I interact with them in even the slightest of ways, they may lose the pose or look which drew my eye to them in the first place. The GF3 allows me to shoot from the hip or get extremely close without my subjects even realising that I’m there, giving me the opportunity to capture many interesting scenes.
When I shoot film on my Nikon FM3A SLR I tend to be slightly more obtrusive, although nowhere near as much as people like Bruce Gilden. In such instances, I take my shot first, make eye contact with my subject, and acknowledge them by either smiling, nodding or saying “thank you”. I find this is usually enough to dispel any negative reaction they may have to having their photo taken.
3. Have you ever been spotted by someone or gotten into trouble doing street photography?
When I use the GF3, I’m usually shooting from the hip, so I don’t usually get noticed, and if I do people don’t usually seem to mind.
There are a few occasions when I’ve been using film on my manual focus SLR or rangefinder, and due to focusing taking a split second too long, I have had my subject putting their hand up or turning away. Most of the time I usually say sorry and walk away. I respect a person’s wish not to be photographed even in a public space so I don’t argue with people if they ask not to have their photo taken.
I’ve never been in a position where I’ve gotten into trouble as the approach I take is very polite and generally inoffensive to my subjects. However, this approach obviously makes me miss certain decisive moments which I wouldn’t if I took a more aggressive approach. I suppose it’s all about striking a balance between respectful and opportunistic.
4. What was the first camera you owned?
My first digital camera was an old Canon Powershot but that was a long time ago and I don’t really see it as a milestone in my street work. My first real street camera was the Panasonic Lumix LX3 which is still to this day one of my all time favourite cameras. If it wasn’t for this beauty I probably wouldn’t be into street photography. I’ve had this camera since early 2010 and only bought a DSLR so I could get better portraits with shallower depth of field. Since I bought my DSLR, the LX3 was consigned to being my everyday camera which I carry with me everywhere. Late last year I upgraded my LX3 to a GF3 + 14mm lens which I believe has refined my street photography style as I don’t have to concentrate on zooming in, instead I move closer to my subjects.
5. Are you trying to communicate an overall message with your street photography?
I’d be very arrogant if I was to say that I have a noteworthy message that I try to convey through my street photography. My first goal is to capture a compelling image for my viewer; usually something out of the ordinary, noteworthy or funny.
I try to have a good balance between subject and the composition of the shot, but I would consider posting a shot on my blog where the subject is prominent enough to reduce the emphasis on composition. Sometimes I find myself shooting a scene which has more meaning; such as the contrast between different cultures, classes, or individuals. When I do capture such a scene it’s often extremely rewarding on a personal level, but it’s not an essential part of my photography.
– You can check out Abtin’s blog at Abtin Eshraghi Street Photography