London Art Spot: Tomasz Kulbowski

Tom’s photography is a comment on everyday life in this loud and bustling London city. “The decisive moment” is what he is most intent on capturing and that is exactly what he excels at doing. He’s an observer, a documentary photographer who focuses on the raw presentation of reality through his work – of Londoners on their daily commute, of moments of solitude and anonymity, of reflection and people lost in thought.

Originally from Lublin, Poland, Tom completed an MA in Culture and Psychology Studies at UMCS in his hometown before coming to London. He works as a corporate and event photographer with the Polish Embassy in London and Polish Professionals Association as well as being an official Getty Images contributor. His photography has been published in several online and print magazines and he has won a few awards including the Flora London Marathon Photography Award and the Panasonic Lumix Award.

For this week’s London Art Spot, Tom tells us about how London life – particularly his South Bank/Bankside neighbourhood – influences his photography, talks about his approach to his subjects and the challenge he constantly has to overcome and shares some of his favourite London shots.

LLO: How long have you lived in London and what brought you to this lively city?
TK:
I came to London first time 6 years ago and… didn’t like it really – was far too busy for me! But a year after that I received an interesting job offer so I decided to give London a second chance and it actually worked well. It’s my 5th year here and I’m still excited and surprised by this city. It’s a great place for a photographer – an endless source of inspiration with all the galleries, vibrant streets, amazing cityscape and interesting people from around the world. A great source of inspiration!

LLO: What influence has moving to London had on your approach to photography?
TK:
I’ve actually discovered “serious” photography in London – before moving here, I wasn’t thinking or reading too much about photography. Now it’s almost permanent: there’s no single day without at least a small activity related to the photography. Uploading photos to my Flickr account (http://flickr.com/klbw), reading about photography, thinking about new projects… I love it and it’s like a meditation to me, it keeps me sane and let’s me constantly progress in the photography field.

LLO: Favourite place in London to take your camera and why?
TK:
A lot of them, but the one I’m most familiar with is my neighbourhood: Bankside and South Bank area. I’ve spent there so much time with the camera, took thousands of photographs and I know that place so well, yet it still seems fresh and inspiring! It’s different at various seasons or time of day, there’s a lot of nice hidden places if you go away from the main touristy river bank route. Two of my ongoing projects are strongly related and sort of dedicated to that area.

LLO: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome to get a great shot?
TK:
My photography style is not technically complicated or demanding in terms of equipment, I use a simple set of camera and standard lenses. Also I’m interested in documenting the reality in a possibly faithful and objective way (if possible at all with photography, but that’s a theme for another discussion). Therefore the challenges I encounter are usually related to my approach and general style of work. I work quickly and in “stealth” mode – I try not to disrupt people I photograph and do not influence the reality I want to capture. It’s important to be invisible to my objects, so I can get exactly the picture I see, and not the picture of their reaction to me. This is to me the essence of the photography: telling the stories that would exist if unframed by your eye and the camera. So basically my main challenge is finding the decisive moment without interacting with the reality I encounter.

LLO: You say you have a special focus on solitude in the crowd and anonymity in big city. How do you approach these topics with your camera? Are there specific elements you look for when you compose an image?
TK:
Issues of solitude and individuality in the crowd fascinate me and they are especially visible in the metropolis like London. My approach is not to portray pathology or a problem – it’s more about keeping individuality and appreciating yourself, finding your own space and time for yourself in this usually busy, fast and noisy city. My objects usually seem to be happy and in a right place, just where they want to be, spending time with themselves. I try to compose my objects isolated against the city background, usually I use a very shallow depth of field to achieve that. The city landscape is always there and it stays significant, but the person is my main focus – a leading character of the story.

LLO: Are there any London-based photographers you really admire?
TK:
Of course! I love to see London through the eyes of other photographers, it’s a great experience and exercise in seeing too. David Solomons, Nick Turpin, Matt Stuart, Stephen McLaren are some of my favourites. I like their approach to street photography: deep, smart and elegant but at the same time light and funny. Their imagination, observation skills and sense of decisive moment are impressive.

LLO: Share your favourite image of London that you’ve captured so far and tell us what makes it special to you.
TK:
It changes every now and then, but recently I really appreciated this picture: St Paul’s (http://www.flickr.com/photos/klbw/4588387091/). It was taken in the one and only snowy day last year at Bankside, next to the Millennium Bridge, overlooking St Paul’s Cathedral. I love the dreamy mood of the background and the dynamics of the foreground as well as the tiny detail like the bits of snow floating behind the bird. It’s simply composed and well timed. It’s not my typical photograph and probably not most typical capture of London either, but that’s the one that says a lot about my own vision of that city, not necessarily realistic.

LLO: What are you working on now?
TK:
I’m finishing two projects – one is the solitude/individuality in the metropolis that I’ve mentioned earlier – between 15 and 20 large colour prints. Another one is a collection of my street photographs taken within last few years in London. Both will be presented in a form of exhibition later this year, maybe a self-published book too. Meanwhile some of the photos are available to view on my website: www.kulbowski.com.

Thanks Tom!

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

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London Art Spot: Marcus Riccoboni

 

In the spirit of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Marcus Riccoboni, 34, walks the streets of London with a not-quite-identifiable Lomo camera, capturing ordinary people in extraordinarily beautiful moments. He’s been at it since he was a child, making his first print at the age of 10 with an enlarger his father bought from a jumble sale.

His work these days is all about street photography, about capturing people in a precise moment, an instant that then becomes unforgettable, frozen in time.

For this week’s London Art Spot, Marcus reminds us why London is one of the most amazing cities in the world (in case you forgot), talks a bit about how being colourblind effects his photography and shares his admiration for some brilliant photographers who have influenced his work. 

LLO: Give us the basics first – Where are you from originally, how long have you been in London and what brought you to this lively city?
MR:
I’m originally from Cliftonville: a small, quiet place on the Kent coast – it’s a little run down these days and there’s not a lot going on. The nearest town is called Margate, which is known for amusement arcades, candy floss, and kiss-me-quick hats. I couldn’t wait to escape the area when I was young, so when I had the opportunity to go to university in London I jumped at the chance. That was in 1995 and I’ve been living here since.

LLO: How does living in London influence your approach to photography?
MR:
London’s fantastic – the most diverse capital city in the world.  There’s so much going; it’s an all you can eat buffet for photographers.  London gives me the opportunity to make random images of truly interesting people and events: one minute I can be strolling along Oxford Street, taking in the rush of shoppers and the next I’ll turn a corner and find myself in the middle of thousands of Sikhs marching in a demonstration down Park Lane. It’s easy to take London for granted; every now and then I like to stop and remind myself how fortunate I am to be living here.

LLO: Why do you prefer black and white images over colour?
MR:
I’m colourblind: I’m unable to differentiate between red, green and brown. Apparently the world looks muddy to me when compared to a normal sighted person. It doesn’t stop me from enjoying photography as I appreciate other visual qualities like shapes and shades. By removing the colour and shooting in black and white, it helps focus the viewer’s attention on what caught my eye in the first place. Either that or maybe I’m just pretentious!

LLO: When shooting street photographs, what elements do you look for while composing a shot?
MR:
Normally I just work on gut and wait until I see something that feels right. I do, however, look for a number of elements: an interesting scene (a quirky individual or an unusual combination of subjects), composing the frame so that they form a harmonious structure and finally the all-important ‘blink and you miss it moment’ when the subject’s expression or posture changes to make the shot.

LLO: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome to get a great photo?
MR:
Self-confidence: I’m naturally a shy person, so the thought of walking up to a random stranger in the street and taking their photograph was terrifying. Sometimes it still is, although I’ve learnt that if you act as if you should be taking the photograph, it improves the dynamic between you and the subject. Very rarely do people get upset and a brief nod and a smile go a long way to diffuse any difficult situations.

LLO: With images of Brian Haw and Notting Hill Carnival on your new blog, it looks like you’re into a documentary type of photography, images that tell a story or capture a bit of history. Can you elaborate on your love of photographing people and the type of images you’re aiming to capture? 
MR:
I like people but staged portraits rarely do it for me, so ‘street’ style of photography really suits. It all started when I saw an image by Henri Cartier-Bresson: it was of a young boy in Paris, walking along Rue Mouffetard, holding two bottles of wine – I loved the expression on his face. I soon found myself at the library viewing books of images made by Cartier-Bresson and others like Diane Arbus, Garry Winogrand and Willy Ronis. Running through them all was a common thread; the amazing ability to capture ordinary people, in ordinary situations at a moment in time that made the image far from ordinary. It’s all about that decisive moment: the split second when a raised eyebrow or sideways glance transforms an image into something special. I was hooked and have been trying to do the same since.

LLO: Which type of Lomo camera do you have? What are the advantages over a DSLR? And where in London would you most love to take it to experiment?
MR:
I believe it’s a Lomo LC-A, although I can’t be sure as it’s Russian and I can’t read the Cyrillic lettering on the camera. Anyway, it’s small, easy to carry and very inconspicuous – perfect.  People hardly notice when I’m using it; I simply load it with old film and shoot.  The Lomo has an almost magical ability to help me take photographs when the technical complexities of using a supposedly more accomplished camera would otherwise get in the way.  I’m planning to use if for my next project: photographing the meat traders at Smithfield market.

LLO: Elaborate on your upcoming Smithfield meat traders project. 
MR: Smithfield has been operating since 1868 and it’s the only remaining great London market that hasn’t been moved out of central town.  Although the place oozes history, it’s still a fully functioning market which means there should be plenty of contrast between old and new for the project. There have been numerous attempts to redevelop the area so I’m keen to document the place and the people who work there before it disappears. It will mean a few early mornings as the market opens at 4am, but I’m sure the pictures will more than make up for that.   I expect it to be great fun: full of quirky characters bustling around in an interesting setting. I’m even thinking of doing it in colour, which would be a first for me.  I can’t wait to get started.

LLO: What are your thoughts on post-processing in Photoshop or other editing software?
MR:
A lot of people get in a twist about this one – there are some real militants when it comes to the subject of image manipulation. People seem to forget that the photographer is manipulating the image from the moment they take the decision about which lens, filter or film to use.  Personally, I think it all depends: if the image is to be used for journalism, it should be left untouched as an accurate record of events. Otherwise, I’m more than happy to dodge, burn, crop and change the contrast or exposure of an image – any process that could be done in a darkroom. As soon as anything that wasn’t there is added or an artifact is removed, then it’s a different ball game – it becomes art – which is fine, just don’t call it photography.

LLO: Favourite London-based artists? 
MR:
Matt Stuart (www.mattstuart.com) – perfect timing and an ability to just ‘see’.
Nick Turpin (www.nickturpin.com) – I love the way he frames his work.
Sean McDonnell (www.waysofwalking.net) – breaks all the rules and still makes great pictures.

Thanks Marcus!

For more about Marcus and his work, see his website: www.random-image.com

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

London Art Spot: Agata Bartoszcze

 
Agata Bartoszcze, is a photographer, artist and designer living between London and her native Poland. However, her photography takes her around the globe. Her work has featured in numerous publications, most recently Photolife magazine. Her exhibition, “Vernisage – Women by Agata Bartoszcze” at The Bowler pub in Farringdon, is the first public exhibition of her work. It concerns the complex delicacies of the female form and spirit.  

“Rather then thinking of myself a photographer, I instead think of myself as a traveller and a teller of stories,” Agata said. “My travels are part of a life journey. I explore nature, cities and objects but also human behaviour, thoughts and feelings. I collect moments and transform them into images. Images which complete my stories. This thinking has led me to photograph almost everything and tell stories of unforgettable places, convey the fairy tales of the objects, children’s dreams, adult dramas or women’s desires. Lives of ordinary people play the main role in my stories and my challenge is the endeavour of revealing a layer of honesty and true thoughts behind the humans captured on film.”  

For this week’s London Art Spot, Agata tells us about her first public exhibition in London, the story of a chinese woman with peanuts and shares some of her stunning photographs from all over the world. 
 

LLO: How did you choose which photographs to include in your first public exhibtion and are you happy with the outcome?
AB:
Lovely female shapes are terrible complicators of the difficulties and dangers of this earthly life, especially for their owners.” ~George du Maurier

Women are inspiring, intriguing and beautiful. Their minds are like a riddle and feelings like a sea. Because I am one of them. The theme suits its surroundings and the relaxed atmosphere of The Bowler pub. Very positive outcome.

LLO: Has your approach to photography changed since moving to London?
AB:
I’ve always loved photography, so this hasn’t changed. I think I’ve grown with all what I’ve experienced in London.

LLO: Share a photo with a great story behind it and tell us about it.
AB:
Chinese woman with peanuts. Very old lady wanted to sell us some peanuts. We really didn’t want to eat them, but she insisted, started being very annoying even violent. She appeared to be strong. I thought this is a fantastic opportunity for a great shot.

 

LLO: Your photos from Mongolia are stunning. What challenges did you face in order to get the perfect shot?
AB:
I think I am a good observer and sometimes very lucky, especially with the landscapes. Sometimes you have to wait hours to get the best shot, sometimes you are right there, like it was waiting for you.

To approach people is a different story and very individual I would say. Sometimes I have to hide and take a shot secretly, sometimes I build invisible connection and other times I behave bravely and don’t ask even if I know I shouldn’t photograph the person.

LLO: Take us behind the scenes and describe your favourite photoshoot so far.
AB:
 I love traveling, so relaxing and taking photographs is so natural and pleasurable for me.

One of the best ones was on the Trassiberian train, when I saw a little Mongolian girl, very shy at the beginning of our photoshoot. After a while she became a real model, very confident and relaxed, we both enjoyed it withought saying a single word.

LLO: What sort of equipment do you have in your collection?
AB:
It is not equipment which makes you a photographer. I haven’t got a fancy camera or lenses, but I have a vision.

LLO: Are there any London-based photographers you really admire?
AB:
Matt Stuart. Absolutely honest photographer. I admire him for his patience and optimism.

LLO: What are you working on next?
AB:
Any subject is a challenge. As I mentioned before, photography is my journey, I try to see beauty in everything and then tell these transformed into images stories.

Thanks Agata! 

For more of Agata’s work, have a look at her Flickr page.

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.