Andrew Kochanowski: Street Photography in a 2D Box

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All images by Andrew Kochanowski. Used with permission.

“You’ve got a two dimensional box to try to stuff with three dimensions worth of information, while the light is what it is,” says photographer Andrew Kochanowski. Andrew has been photographing for many years now, and his main passion is street photography.

One of the things that Andrew does differently is going out to photograph with intent. By that, he references that when he’s going to get groceries, he doesn’t bring his camera with him. Instead, Andrew goes to shoot only when he can fully put himself into that mentality.

Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into street photography.

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Andrew: Probably the same way that anyone doing it with some intent did. It’s a challenge to try and make something new out of elements you cannot control. You’ve got a two dimensional box to try to stuff with three dimensions worth of information, while the light is what it is, there is often movement, and whatever is there that is interesting may disappear in a second. Now with everyone uploading their phone pics into Instagram and the explosion of street photography interest all the tropes and conventions of this pretty old genre are out there in such volume that there is no shortage of great images being produced. I just try to add a few of my own.

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Phoblographer: Every photographer initially has a fear of shooting candid scenes in the streets, so how did you get over that fear?

Andrew: I’m not sure I ever had much of that. Obviously there are places and situations where people may not like you taking photos, and you have to be aware and deal with that. But for the most part you have a right to take photos in public places, and so long as you understand what is a public place and aren’t a jerk you should feel pretty comfortable about what you’re doing.

I keep having glitching problems, so this is another photo that some have commented on that is reposted.

I keep having glitching problems, so this
is another photo that some have commented on that is reposted.

Phoblographer: Your work, quite obviously, is very much about the people in the images. But what attracts you to these people usually enough to want to photograph them?

Andrew: When I go out to take photographs I go out to make photographs. I don’t carry a camera around with me when I go out to get the groceries. That’s what I mean when I say I photograph with intent. I may plot out a three or four hour session depending on time and place, and what I do is nothing but seeing, thinking, analyzing, and looking. I have a number of different types of images I would like to make when I go out to make them. Sometimes I get lucky and I see someone who will fit what I want to create and I try to make it work when I run across them. I never set up a scene and I don’t photograph “characters,” that’s not my style.

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Phoblographer: You’re well travelled, so what cities do you feel make the best for photographing people candidly in the streets? Why do you feel so?

Andrew: That’s been changing the last few years. Ironically as more people are shooting away with iPhones everywhere they go, and CCTV cameras are everywhere public, more places are trying to make it difficult to shoot in public.

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Obviously the common places like New York, London, San Francisco are great to shoot in, but the challenge there is that you’re treading on lots of people’s past experience. I mean, what can you add to the body of interesting shots that are taken in New York? I try, but still, it’s not very easy.

I had a great time shooting in Hong Kong, where I spent a number of weeks. Chicago is fantastic because of the hard light. Funny enough I don’t see much good work coming from there. These days I find it pretty fun to shoot in the exurbs of some places.

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Phoblographer: We know from the previous interview that you shoot a lot of film and that you feel that shooting film slows you down to take better images. Does the same idea apply to the streets?

Andrew: I used to shoot film in the streets but haven’t since maybe 2010. I don’t find much credit with the idea of slowing you down being somehow conducive to getting a good image. That’s the Internet trope of Leica shooters, I guess, because I don’t know anyone who seriously shoots in the street who succeeds with the idea. If I see a good scene, or the light is perfect and I’m hoping for something good to happen, I’ll shoot the heck out of the situation from a dozen angles and positions. Thank heavens for big cards, I say.

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Phoblographer: Why do you feel that street photography is important to the art world?

Andrew: Not sure I do. Some things look great printed up, but no one wants to pay big money to see them on their wall. This kind of stuff really works best in books, I think.

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