Today I am featuring some Street Photography in Portugal by Jorge Silva, a wonderful reader of ours, along with some questions, enjoy!
Jorge, Please tell us a bit more about yourself
I am a 40 years old guy who started dabbling in photography when there was just film around, was never able to have a darkroom so shooting became too expensive, started shooting less and less and was finally “rescued” when I bought a DSLR about six years ago.
Where in the world are you located?
I live in the city of Porto, in Portugal. Its’ historical center is part of the list of World Heritage sites and, although being the second biggest town in this country, I suppose it’s still fairly small by some standards.
What inspired you to become a photographer?
My then-girlfriend/now-life-partner had an awesome Minolta SRT101 when we started dating. Now and then I would grab her camera and she taught me some basics and, from then on, I decided I should get a camera too. The first camera I was able to buy was a Zenit 12XSL all made of plastic who did quite a brutal “klang!!!” everytime I pressed the shutter but, some time after that, I acquired an used Pentax SP1000.
What purpose does it serve for you?
Since I started shooting, photography is to me a refuge. It is my tool to try to connect to my surroundings and, in them, being able to connect with myself and my vision. Ever since I picked up a camera I never had any real interest in trying to stage photos or setting up a scenario for what was inside my head.
I always wanted, and still want, to capture a fleeting moment of reality that, when forever suspended in a photograph, is still able to resonate deep in me.
Can you describe a few of your trigger mechanisms that make you want to stop and shoot?
As can be implied from my previous answer, I don’t exactly adhere to the concept that we register our surroundings impartially. When I’m out on the streets I usually tend to photograph the loners, those who, most of time with their surroundings, are able to transmit me a certain sense of loneliness, of introspectiveness. I am usually drawn to situations who convey me a feeling of detachment from the crowd. I am a contemplative and introspective person and these feelings lead me to shoot the way I do.
I also absolutely love fog. I use to say that “fog makes everything look better” and that presence adds a lot to the feelings I try to express. When I see fog it’s like “I have to go out and shoot!” and, in more than one occasion, I drove around town trying to find fog…as hilariously as it may seem!
What is your full time occupation? Do you think that influences your photography?
I worked many years as a silversmith. If anything, photography came as a reaction. Every single work I did, as a silversmith, due to everything involved always took a long time to reach its’ completion and photography brought an opposition to that – everything was immediate, I just pressed the shutter and my moment was done. It was around that time (before photography, even) that poetry also became a means of expression to me – both are outbursts.
I asked because it’s usually graphic designers who are naturally keen to lead the eye with their compositions like you do. They are trained to consciously lead the eye of the viewer where they want them to look. Interesting that you were a silversmith. You have a lot of vertical images, is that a conscious decision?
To tell the truth, I only recently came to that conclusion myself! I was checking my work and started to realize I photograph a lot of vertical images. I don’t know why, it just comes naturally, but I find it a bit odd, considering that I have to throw my arm up and bend it – that’s not the most natural of poses.
You successfully use lines and shapes to design your frames. What is your process? You notice them first and wait for a subject to pass by?
Every now and then I may find myself in the situation where there’s an interesting background and I am waiting for the subject to arrive and give it another dimension, but most of the times is just a matter of realising the surroundings at play in the right moment.
I am always searching for leading lines, for elements to strengthen the composition. Geometry and a sense of balance in the picture play a great deal. Sometimes I even want to punch myself for being so formal about how I compose!
I have observed that many prime certain aspects of photography naturally, for you it seems that it’s composition, no need to beat yourself! I love your work 🙂 What advice would you offer our readers to help them lead the eye in their photographs?
Search for lines, for the geometry of the place. I have nothing against cluttering the frame, there are people who are able to do that amazingly and I admire their work, but I am more inclined to a certain minimalism.
If you want to learn how to compose effectively don’t just stare at photographs. Remember that painting, drawing, engraving, etc. were around way before photography came along and everything, composition-wise, has been tried through and through for centuries.
Bearing that in mind however, don’t forget to shoot – a lot! Don’t pay attention to those theories that say you should restrain yourself from shooting. You don’t tell a painter to refrain from painting! You have to shoot, to practice, to experiment and, by looking at your own work, start to feel what’s working out for you. It may be something you’ve seen before and it may be something new, either way it will be something that will matter to you and that you’ll feel a need to further explore.
What camera are you working with currently and why?
Currently I use a Nikon D60 that I bought around the time it came out and already shot a lot with it. It’s the only thing I have so there’s not much of a choice there.
There are no perfect cameras but, if I could, I would change for a mirrorless system with a smaller size, less noisy operation and that could handle the other kind of photography I do (live music) – yes, I am talking about that four-letter word that starts with “F”! 😀
Any closing comments?
Thank you for this opportunity! I always return to this site to see and read about others people work, and every issue of the mag is always a pleasure to read, so it feels great for have been given this chance to talk about my work.
For more of Jorge’s work please visit Jorge’s blog here