If you shoot street photography in somewhere like London or New York, you’re afforded the luxury of being able to work freely in a public space. Franzie Allen is perfecting her craft in Dubai, a part of the world known for its restrictive laws – photography is no exception. That, however, does not stop her doing her thing and doing it exceptionally well! Her street photography is full of beautiful light and vibrant colors, sucking you in by leaning on some tried and tested techniques. Although for Franzie, street photography is more than creating photographs. “Street Photography is my therapy.” She opens up, “…in the fast-paced world we are in now, it helps me slow down and appreciate the things around us.”
It’s time for us to appreciate everything she captures.
Phoblographer: What is it like shooting street photography, more so as a woman, in the middle east? A part of the world known for its conservatism and restrictive ideologies…
FA: In my experience, shooting street photography is challenging in more ways than one. There are a lot of rules in doing photography in the Middle East, and you just have to be aware of them while you’re doing it. You always have to be aware of the environment you’re in and the people involved before shooting – there are some locations where women are not allowed to take photos. I know that’s a lot, but that’s what makes it worth it because you have to take some risks. I try not to shoot them upfront, or even expose faces in the photo. Maybe sometimes when I feel brave enough, but most of the time I don’t – and to be honest, not exposing the face and making it a good photo at the same time is the hardest part of doing street photography.
Phoblographer: For you, what’s the more positive part of shooting street photography?
FA: The best part of shooting street photography is finding light and a good scene. Street photography is very unpredictable, and you have to find the right subject, the right location and the right element for it to come together. For me, there is the excitement of not knowing what you’re going to find.
Phoblographer: And the worst?
FA: Not getting the shot after finding everything that makes the shot. In street photography, an event can never be repeated. Once you miss it, then it’s gone forever. If you get lucky, the event will be repeated again but never with the same subject.
“… I think doing street photography helps me overcome the uncomfortable feeling of being outside the comfort zone…”
Phoblographer: Looking Through Dubai heavily uses the framing technique. Tells about how this project came about and why you decided to approach it in this way…
FA: It actually started with the car photo with massage cards (see attached). I used to work in a location where there are a lot of parked cars and huge constructions around. Everyday, cars are filled with massage cards – even if the car was left for merely 5 minutes. I wanted to take a photo of the cards, and at the same time, I wanted to incorporate some human element on it. I was aware of the privacy laws here so I don’t want to take a photo of anything that exposes anyone’s face nor any nudity involved. So I took the window approach, and since then I wanted to incorporate a scene where I take a peek through the windows, trash bins, or anything that would give a hint on where the scene is located. I honestly don’t like to take a photo straight on, I wanted to give the audience a sense of “mystery” and try to figure out where it’s taken.
” I am always looking for candid scenes…”
Phoblographer: Your work is very colorful and full of energy. Would you say that’s a good way to describe your personality too?
FA: Thank you so much! To be honest, I am an introvert and I can say that I am not really comfortable being around people, especially strangers. Whenever I take a photo, I wanted to take it in such a way that once I left the place, I remember it as it is – the colors, location, the entire scene. I think doing street photography helps me overcome the uncomfortable feeling of being outside the comfort zone and do something brave and challenging at some point.
Phoblographer: We all need a dose of inspiration from time to time. Which street photographers inspire you?
FA: Yes, I agree with that. I started reading about street photography a year ago, and there are a lot of inspiring photographers out there that it’s hard for me to choose! Here are some of the street photographers that inspired me:
Vivian Maier, Saul Leiter, Daido Moriyama, Joel Meyerowitz, Boogie, Elliott Erwitt, Eric Kim, Craig Whitehead, Joshua K. Jackson, Sean Tucker, Samuel Zeller (not really a street photographer but he inspires me a lot), Aram Franke, Joey Reginaldo, Ola Allouz, Ilker Karaman , David M Clarke, Olivier Duong, Roland Matos, Mityai, Polly Rusyn, Jane Zhang, Rodrigo Roher, Taras Bychko , Milad Ahmadvand.
Phoblographer: How do you compare shooting freely and working on a project? Which method would you say gets the best out of you?
FA: I guess shooting freely – I’m not really pressured to look for frames, and I don’t get fixated. I’m open to new scenes and most of the time, I discover photos for the project by chance.
“I think this initiative that you’re doing – interviewing artists and seeing their perspective – is really helpful in educating people about Street Photography”.
Phoblographer: Creatively, what’s your biggest barrier at the moment? What do you feel you need to do to overcome it?
FA: The biggest barrier would be integrating Street Photography or Candid Photography with professional work. I’ve started doing Freelance Photography full-time, and in my experience, most of the clients look for a particular brief or scene to shoot or to follow, and that really frustrates me. I am always looking for candid scenes along the way, and because it’s scripted or planned, I usually have a hard time making it look natural. There are times where I wanted to take photos of the small details of a said event, and clients really don’t appreciate it because they’d rather see faces than the details. And because it’s client work, not really personal work, I usually overcome the feeling of frustration by giving them shots of what they needed, and for the rest of the images, I keep them for my portfolio and hopefully, it will turn out as a new project! 🙂
” It has given me a sense of purpose and is something that I look forward to every day”.
Phoblographer: Is street photography a thankless medium? Do you think it’s hard to get the praise many deserve in this genre?
FA: I don’t think it’s a thankless medium. I see it more as a genre which extraordinary people see ordinary scenes extraordinarily – if that makes sense. Most street photographers are really skilful and talented and I guess it’s because not all people appreciate it and don’t consider it as a valid genre for photography that most of us don’t really get praises that we deserve. I think this initiative that you’re doing – interviewing artists and seeing their perspective – is really helpful in educating people about Street Photography, and a way of appreciating the artists in doing the art. Usually, when you ask people if they have an idea what it is, they think of it as taking candid photos of people in the streets, which, to be honest, for me is just scratching the surface.
Phoblographer: In your own words, what does street photography mean to you?
FA: In a world where selfies, being famous and trending videos are a thing, I think for me Street Photography reminds us about what life used to be before the Internet era and helps us appreciate how simple events make a great impact on people.
Street Photography makes me focus at the moment and ignore the unnecessary noises around. It has given me a sense of purpose and is something that I look forward to every day.
Be sure to keep up with Franzie by visiting her website.