Black and White Bangkok: The Street Photography of Jordan Stead

Jordan Stead
All images by Jordan Stead. Used with permission.

Photography has the power to transform the perspective of both viewer and photographer. The images that stick can transport you a world away and truly convey the soul of their subjects. The Black and White Street photographs by Jordan Stead inspire wanderlust while capturing the true soul of the places he’s traveled.

Seattle-based photographer Jordan Stead considers himself to be a visual storyteller, and has over a decade of experience creating images for both editorial and commercial clients. Jordan has a natural love for life that comes across in his personal work as well as in his writing.

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Jordan Stead

Thailand 2016/2017. Mandatory posted copyright: (Photo: JORDAN STEAD | www.jordanstead.com)

We recently had an opportunity to speak with Jordan about his latest travel photography project – capturing the streets of Bangkok.

Phoblographer: What made you ditch your Fuji?

Jordan Stead: Ha, when you put it that way, I get even sadder than the day I sold my Fuji off to a good home. By no means did I intend to replace my trusty X100S, but it spent an awful lot of time on my bookshelf this past year. While I use my SLRs for work, the X100S was always my travel and play-around camera. After it took an involuntary hiatus from use, a friend of mine offered up his Ricoh GR to me for an extraordinarily low price. I nabbed it with little prior knowledge, choosing to discover the magic of the camera through use, rather than market research (such as with more expensive photographic purchases). So far, I couldn’t be happier.

Thailand 2016/2017. Mandatory posted copyright: (Photo: JORDAN STEAD | www.jordanstead.com)

Phoblographer: This is much different from the K-9 portrait work, so what made you want to get into doing street photography?

Jordan Stead: The K-9 work was one of countless assignments I shot while on staff as a photojournalist for editorial outlets. I by no means ever was – or probably ever will be – a purely pet portrait photographer. The dog photographs were part of a one-off project.

Street shooting has always represented the opposite of my staff photojournalism and freelance visual production work. Street is a total “creative juices” affair; my photographic equivalent to the “stream of consciousness” practice for authors of the written word. Photographing the street is fast, messy and cathartic.

Thailand 2016/2017. Mandatory posted copyright: (Photo: JORDAN STEAD | www.jordanstead.com)

Phoblographer: Why high contrast black and white? What does it do for you?

Jordan Stead: I’ve always photographed and toned for “the crunch,” whether in color or otherwise. The GR quickly became my “least effort” photographic tool, and in turn, I utilized one of the excellent monochrome presets that comes baked into the Ricoh. I’m normally a manual shooter on SLRs, but with the Ricoh, I dabble in Aperture Priority. While setting a specific ISO has always been in practice, my GR remains primarily in Auto ISO. Even my controlling nature of shooting SLRs with specific AF points was ditched in favor of the GR’s excellent “Snap Focus” mode. My GR mindset: how can I dumb this thing down enough to eschew technical details and come away with personally meaningful photographs?

Thailand 2016/2017. Mandatory posted copyright: (Photo: JORDAN STEAD | www.jordanstead.com)

Phoblographer: Why digital? Why not film? And why point and shoots?

Jordan Stead: Digital for ease of use and dissemination. P&S because, as an alterative travel camera to my SLR, it is quite literally all I want to do: point and shoot. As mentioned, it’s an incredibly cathartic experience to make pictures without concerning yourself with technical requirements and nuances, such as when photographing for a paying client. For me, the GR perfectly served this purpose – and actually fit in my pocket.

Thailand 2016/2017. Mandatory posted copyright: (Photo: JORDAN STEAD | www.jordanstead.com)

Phoblographer: What typically motivated you to click the shutter on specific moments? Did it have to do with emotions? How do you feel you captured the feelings in your images? Does black and white help there?

Jordan Stead: Shooting without color does two things to a photographic mind. One, it eliminates the possibility of leaning on color as a crutch to claim a “good” photograph. Secondly, it allows a photographer to focus solely on use of available light and attentiveness to natural moments, especially when on the street. The process is streamlined, simplified. I react even faster to moments, shapes and visual urges than I would with a bigger camera or shooting for color.

Jordan Stead

Thailand 2016/2017. Mandatory posted copyright: (Photo: JORDAN STEAD | www.jordanstead.com)

Maybe it’s because I haven’t worked with a “point and shoot”, truly pocket-sized camera in a decade, but the GR’s no-nonsense feature set and back-to-basics construction brought me great joy in recent months. It casually accompanies me more often than other cameras have in the past, I’m not caught up in laborious “photographer thoughts”, and I’m coming away with images that keep me creatively satiated in new ways. Now let’s just hope its build quality lasts me longer than six months of abuse.

Thailand 2016/2017. Mandatory posted copyright: (Photo: JORDAN STEAD | www.jordanstead.com)

Thailand 2016/2017. Mandatory posted copyright: (Photo: JORDAN STEAD | www.jordanstead.com)

You can contact or see more of Jordan’s work on his website.