Joe Wigfall is a photographer whose everyday studio is the streets of New York City. Joe is a Street Photographer. He specializes in capturing bits and pieces of everyday street life.
Street Photography takes a special attitude and technique. A special breed of photographer.
One might equate it at times to being like a combat photographer due to it’s constantly changing action, and the personal awareness necessary to maintain the photographer’s safety.
Thanks Joe for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us about your photography.
Joe Wigfall: Thanks James. This is both a thrill and an honor. I hope that what I share with you will be both informative and educational to anyone interested in Street Photography.
JRP: Joe where and when did you get your start in photography? Do you have any formal training?
Joe Wigfall: I started shooting informally as a teen with my good ole Kodak Instamatic. (Remember the ones with the Magicube flash?) Still, it wasn’t until I became an adult and bought my first SLR (the Minolta X-700) that the love affair with photography began.
I did headshots and weddings for a while, but eventually needed to explore a less structured medium. I have a bachelors degree in Fine Arts from NYU, but the vast majority of my photography training comes from “STIP”, the Self-Taught Institute of Photography.
I’ve also sat under the teaching of some terrific people photographers like Bryan Peterson, who taught me technique. David Bathgate who introduced me to up close and personal photojournalism. Neil & Barbara Silverman who showed me how to bring versatility to Street Photography.
My interest in Street Photography began five years ago as a result of doing quick sketches of people I’d see on the streets and subways of New York. After discovering the classic works of Robert Capa, Walker Evans, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and internalizing the courageous no-nonsense style of a 21st century street vet like Markus Hartel, I realized that street shooting was a viable option that could be very rewarding.
JRP: What would I find in your camera bag equipment wise? What kind of software do you use in your photographic workflow?
Joe Wigfall: I carry a DSLR (Canon 30D) with either a 28mm or 35mm lens attached. (There’s nothing like a good wide angle lens for capturing a subject in your immediate playing field.) I also carry a Ricoh GR-D, a solid digicam with a dedicated 28mm lens that allows for some terrific up close and personal stealth work.
Photoshop with a few plug-ins has been my main photo editor since I went digital a few years ago.
JRP: I became aware of you and your work on Flickr. Are there other websites that you use to showcase your work?
Joe Wigfall: No. I have found that Flickr exposes my work to a very diverse international group of people but I’m very excited about developing a new website which would just showcase my work. I hope to have it up and running shortly.
JRP: The images you have posted on your sites are artful in their execution and content. As I look at your images I notice a sense of being there yet not imposing upon the scene or the subject(s). How do you accomplish this with your captures?
Joe Wigfall: I feel it’s much easier to get good images of street action by becoming “invisible” while I shoot. People are more themselves when they aren’t aware that someone is shooting photos of them.
I try to get a “feel” for the locale I’m in by either walking around or just standing in one place blending into the background. Then I look for moments that catch my attention. It could be an attitude, a mood, an emotion or just an exchange between people.
It has taken a while to develop the confidence to shoot street this way. The variables are great. Moments to shoot change like the wind. The lighting fluctuates around every corner. The people are in various moods. The weather has a mind of its own. There’s no time to use a tripod or monopod. Taking a light reading is out of the question. From experience I’ve learned to do what I feel is necessary to capture the image. By that I mean, I will shoot through the viewfinder, through the LCD, from my chest, from the hip or even under my arm. It’s all about seeing the moment and capturing it, and AVOIDING undue attention to myself. I don’t sneak around but I try my best not to intrude while grabbing the shot I’m after. The less you broadcast that you are shooting the better your results.
On the playing field I have to be confidently aware, quiet, quick, and focused or I get nothing. Fear can become your real opponent on the street or rather the fear of “perceived” threats. In NYC real threats exist but most threats are the “perceived” type. They come upon the mind of a photographer that is misinformed or unprepared to deal with work on the street. During post production I ruthlessly edit my images, keeping only the ones that capture a mood or something special I saw. Then I custom process my images to focus on what “I saw at the time”.
JRP: Looking back what has been the best advice given to you by another photographer?
Joe Wigfall: If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.” It’s a Robert Capa quote and priceless if you want street photographs that have zing. I like to shoot with that in mind. Good street images need to make an impact.
JRP: What advice would you offer to a photographer new to street style photography?
Joe Wigfall: FIVE THINGS: First, realize that Street Photography probably won’t make you rich but it must become a passion. Only a passion will have you continually trying to capture fleeting images of people you don’t know.
Second, look at lots of people. Study their faces, their body language. Examine what, how, and the way they do what they do. Every where you go with camera in hand or not get to know your subject. Look at street photos that make your heart palpitate because that’s the “feel” you want from your own images.
Third, don’t leave home without a camera. Opportunities abound everywhere. You want to be ready to capture some of them. It pays to know your camera well because you’ll miss shots if you don’t. Pick a lens (28, 35 or 50mm) and stay with it for a month or so. You’ll develop a second nature intimacy that will serve you well during your shoots.
Fourth, when you’re out there fear will be your biggest enemy. Understand fear. Make it your friend. Show confidence by walking slower than usual. Don’t make eye contact unless you want to dialogue with them. Relax but maintain awareness of your environment. If you feel an area is potentially dangerous, it probably is. Walk on by.
Fifth, to be a good street photographer you need a good eye and a good heart. Enjoy the process of growing and watching your work evolve.
JRP: Joe thanks again for sharing your thoughts and photography with us. It has been very educational.
Joe Wigfall: Thank you James, this opportunity has been a Godsend for me. I am very inspired that you took notice of my work. I hope some of what I shared helps someone discover the street photographer within.
JRP: To view more of Joe Wigfall’s eye catching photography please go to this link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/75158779@N00/