All images by Andreas Ott. Used with permission.
“I am a street photographer based in Bonn, Germany.” says photographer Andreas Ott in his original pitch email to us. Andreas works in IT and has been a photographer for 15 years. He became a street photographer in 2013 after discovering the work of Thomas Leuthard. However, balancing a job, a family and a personal love of art can be very tough to do.
He recently shot a series about street life in Cuba and was amazed by the friendliness of the Cuban people whom he photographed. But Andreas’ true strength is with his sense of composition. Andreas shoots in black and white sometimes and much of this work is high contrast–emphasizing shapes and the way that he composes scenes.
We talked to Andreas about his sense of composition with what he sees on the streets.
Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.
Andreas: As a little boy, I was allowed to use my fathers video camera every now and then, to shoot family events or our summer vacation.
I think that drew my interest in capturing scenes and led me to photography when I was a little bit older. I began to take pictures on a more regular basis about 20 years ago with an analog SLR Camera, hence I know what it means to create a good composition in the mind before taking the actual photo.
Phoblographer: How did you get into street photography?
Andreas: I used to shoot landscapes for quite a while. It is a very plannable kind of photography that gives you all the time in the world to capture the right image. It is also a lot about editing, to get the image like you want it. But over the time I realized that those images never really touched me. In 2013, I somehow discovered the work of Swiss street photographer Thomas Leuthard, and was immediately thrilled by the expressions and feelings that have been exposed by his photos. Since then, I focus on street photography and try to go out on the streets looking to capture a true moment whenever and wherever possible. Street life is the real life and different every single day. You don’t have to travel far, street photography starts right in front of your door. That is what keeps me motivated to explore what is around.
Phoblographer: What gear do you use?
Andreas: Let me put it this way, the smaller the better. I am using an entry level micro-four-third camera, the Olympus PEN E-PL5. It is a slimmed version of the Olympus OM-D E-M5, with the same image sensor but without an electronic view finder and a weather sealed body. Since this camera has no electronic view finder, I find it actually really convenient to shoot with the tilting screen. I know, there is a lot of controversial discussion about shooting from the hip but in this way people often don’t even realize that they are being photographed and therefore do not react to the camera. Unlike other street photographers, I do not shoot with my mobile phone. I use a Nikon Coolpix P300 if I need to go even smaller than my Olympus Camera.
Phoblographer: Your work is very high contrast black and white and very much about shapes. What inspired you to want to create scenes like this?
Andreas: I think black and white reduces the distraction in the image and makes it easier for the viewer to focus on the actual scene. As I mainly shoot in cities with many straight lines or silhuettes, there is per se not a lot of color in the photo. But I also know that life is in color, so I only use black and white when its a good fit for the photo and its message. Street photography is often about getting into peoples private zone, which sometimes can be uncomfortable for both sides. That’s why I like to shoot shapes and silhuetess because you can capture people in their environment without showing any facial expression and so leaving enough room for own interpretations