“It’s a very big part of my life,” explains Polly Rusyn, as we discuss the influence travel has had on her creativity. A true globetrotter, galavanting from one destination to the next, Polly is flying the flag for street photography around the world. Her vibrant and energized work is almost a metaphor for herself; positive and full of enthusiasm. And although color is certainly the main character, her photographs have plenty of supporting roles within them that make for some awesome street photography. Because of her dedication to travel, we were worried we would not be able to connect with her. But luck was on our side and we were able to squeeze in a catch-up just before she flew off again.
Phoblographer: I always see you getting around to beautiful destinations. Where have you been recently and how was it from a street photography point of view?
PR: I’ve actually just returned from Gdańsk and Sopot in Poland! I was running a street photography workshop through my company, The Photo Weekender. It’s a brilliant place for street photography. Gdańsk itself is colourful, busy, has great light and interesting spots to shoot in, and in Sopot (just 20 minutes away by train) there is a long sandy beach that has sea swans, as well as a lot of human life!
Phoblographer: How important is travel to you in order to keep motivated to create street photography?
PR: Really important. While I do shoot in London, where I live, I never set aside whole days for shooting street photography as I’m always busy and feel that I should be working. Travelling allows me the luxury of shooting all day – or at least until my feet hurt too much to carry on exploring! I’ve been lucky enough to travel a lot especially as I previously worked within the travel industry.
“I love the challenge of shooting street photography – it’s like a problem-solving exercise…”
Phoblographer: In terms of your confidence when shooting, how does the Polly of today compare to the Polly who first started?
PR: Polly today is way more confident both in terms of how and what she shoots! Like most beginners when I started I kept some distance between myself and my subjects, and I wasn’t really sure what to photograph so I stuck to easy minimalistic compositions. Now I’m quite “Ninja” and sometimes like to use that to get in close; I also see differently now – I can recognise the potential in a scene and I’m much more responsive to what’s going on around me.
Phoblographer: You were recently a speaker at Snap photography festival. How was that? Are you comfortable talking about your work and processes to a public audience?
PR: I’m quite used to speaking to smaller groups in the workshops I run but speaking at Snap was next level as I had an audience of around 100 people, but it turned out to be a really wonderful experience. It was my first “big” talk, so I was pretty nervous to begin with, but I had 90 minutes to relax into it and I enjoyed it very much. I will be speaking again in October, this time at the National Geographic Traveller Masterclasses 2019!!! I’m hugely honoured to have been asked and am so looking forward to spreading the word of street to a travel photography audience. I love sharing what I’ve learned, and I love digging into the science behind everything including street photography…
Phoblographer: When you’re not in the street you’re working as a photographer. What does a typical day of shooting look like for you with your professional work?
PR: My photographic life is half client work and half street photography education (The Photo Weekender and my Meetup group, Street Club). I’m super lucky to have regular client work without having to hustle (too much!) as most of my clients come from Hey Saturday, a dating photography agency, for whom I have been freelancing since 2016! Yep, I make pictures for dating profiles. A typical day would usually involve back-to-back shoots on the streets of London, and they are always great fun as I meet so many different people who I’m helping to find love!
“I am constantly challenging myself to create something different…”
Phoblographer: What are your biggest challenges with your street photography right now?
PR: That’s a good question. I am constantly challenging myself to create something different, at least something different to what I’ve already created. I love the challenge of shooting street photography – it’s like a problem-solving exercise (and I love solving problems) because you are faced with an environment you have no control over, and being able to make an interesting image under those circumstances is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever experienced. I’m probably too much of a perfectionist though so my biggest challenge is probably trying to embrace the imperfection of the street a little more.
Phoblographer: Our readers love gear. What’s your set up and why does this work for you?
PR: I am 100% Fujifilm. I currently shoot with a Fujifilm X-T2, most often with a Fujinon XF 27mm f/2.8 pancake lens because it’s so unobtrusive, although recently I’ve been playing with the slightly wider Fujinon XF 23mm f/2, because it’s such a great lens, and whenever I’ve used it I’m blown away by the quality of images. I also have the Fujinon XF 35mm f/2 R WR that I mainly use in my client work. I have got my eye on the Fujifilm X-T3 though, as I hear wonderful things about the new sensor and even speedier autofocus. For me Fujifilm makes perfect street photography cameras – they’re small (and stylish!) and I just love that famous Fujifilm colour I get! Having the option of a silent shutter is awesome too for shooting on the street, and with so many external programmable controls and dials I can make really quick adjustments while I’m shooting, as I prefer to work in manual.
Phoblographer: Is shooting street photography every day important for your creativity, or do you like to take breaks in order to keep energised?
PR: I don’t shoot street photography every day because sometimes I just want to watch Netflix haha! I’m actually the sort of person who needs variety to keep me energised. Plus I really like to give myself whole days dedicated to street photography as that’s when I find I can really get into the zone, and that’s where the travel comes in to play.
Phoblographer: Your photos do the talking, but if you had to put your style into words what would it read like?
PR: Color, color and more color! I am a little obsessed with colour although I do still sometimes shoot in black and white. I like to shoot “about” colour as much as “in” colour – I’m very mindful of colour palettes along with colour connections in my images. I also love playing with light and shade. I was a graphic designer straight out of college so strong composition plays a big part in my work – I guess the visual aesthetic sometimes trumps the moment for me; but the beauty of street photography is that there are so many different flavours of it!
Phoblographer: You were part of an exhibition in San Francisco last month. Can you tell us more about the exhibition and how you got involved with it?
PR: Oh it was wonderful to be part of that exhibition! I belong to #womeninstreet, a group of women (and non-binary) street photographers, who were invited and sponsored by StreetFoto San Fransisco, an annual street photography festival, to put on an exhibition. What I most loved about it was its unique twist that all images were paired to create diptychs – it was such a great idea, I wish I could have been there to see them all.
Phoblographer: Finally, what other cool destinations do you hope to visit in the future to create more amazing street photography?
PR: Well, first of all thank you for that description of my work! I’m actually heading to Morocco this month, to Tangier and Chefchaouen! It’s a holiday with a friend so I won’t be shooting quite as much as normal… But I have more trips with The Photo Weekender coming up – first in September to Lisbon and Porto, and then in October to Seville. I’m always thinking about where to go next with my camera!!!