Interview

  • Shades of Grey, published on July 29, 2019

    SOG- How and when did you start photography?

    BJH- I never considered photography as a career, nor did I have any interest in it when I was younger. I was much more into painting tho I lacked any talent necessary to be taken seriously. Even today, I don't have much interest in attending a photography exhibition. But to make a long story short, I took a photography class as an elective in college. I soon realized this was a medium I thoroughly enjoyed and I was pretty good at it. The rest is history.

    SOG- What kind of images were you looking at when you started?

    BJH- I remember visiting my local bookstore and taking out a stack of books from the photography section. I'd sit there in the bookstore for hours, sometimes as many as eight or nine at a time, looking at portraiture, landscape, photojournalism, and street photographers. I also enjoyed photography magazines where I could see photo essays from documentary photographers. Being a bit of a history buff, I loved the idea of documenting time with a single shot. My choice of books eventually became a stack of photojournalists and street photographers. Many of my favorites, like Cartier-Bresson, were both (photojournalist and street photographer). While the historical aspect of photojournalism was appealing to me, it was street photography's combination of history and art that genuinely made me feel like an artist. For the most part, with photojournalism history is happening in front of you but with street photography, you're always working with a blank canvas.

    SOG- Who are your main influences, and why?

    BJH- I was heavily influenced by the Magnum photographers of yesterday. The "old school" photographers, the founders and some of the early members pre-1985 like Abbas, Erwitt, Bruce Davidson, and Micha Bar-Am, to name a few. I would say Cartier-Bresson, Koudelka, and Salgado, who spent some time with Magnum, were the most influential. When I was at that bookstore looking at the works of these photographers, I would carefully study every picture trying to see what they were seeing. Looking at their approach, their viewpoint, and their style. It definitely helped shape my idea of what makes a good photograph. The easy answer to your question is that these photographers were at a place that I wanted to be, both figuratively and literally.

    SOG- Can you tell us about your intent/vision when you go out shooting?

    BJH- I intend to hopefully make a good photograph. The thing about street photography is that you're not guaranteed of anything. Finding that one "magical" shot is always the goal. I've always said that if I can get one image in a day's work that can be exhibited or published, then it's been a success. I'm extremely selective in my shot process. I could be out shooting the streets of London for eight hours, and I may only shoot 10 to 15 frames. I have to see the picture before pressing the shutter. If I have any doubt, I will move on. I'm not looking for any one thing in particular. It's one of those things that you know it when you see it. I've been told my work has a vintage feel to it, so I guess those characteristics are probably something that catches my eye.

    SOG- How do you work while in the street?

    BJH- It's important to be invisible. Most street photographers will tell you this, and it's true. There's an art to being invisible. I keep my little black Leica M6 down by my waist and only pull it up when the shot has come together. I don't carry anything else that would label me a photographer (another camera, camera bag, vest, etc...). I wear dark, mundane clothes. Nothing bright where a sudden movement would cause a look my way. The point is to not have your subjects looking at the camera. It's essential that you're able to recognize and anticipate good photos so that you're not wasting all of these points on meaningless shots. If I am seen by a subject(s) and it's a shot that I really want then I'll pay my subject(s) no attention and will even pretend that I'm focusing on someone or something else. From the corner of my eye and once all the elements have come together, I'll turn to my subject(s) and get the picture. You typically don't get second chances so if I miss the shot I have to move on.

    SOG- Do you have a specific idea/plan, or do you only take what comes to you?

    BJH- I try to plan on being in an area or at a place where I increase my chances of success, but as a street photographer, you always have to take what comes to you. I do not stage photos, so there's no plan needed from that aspect.

    SOG- Street photography can be quite tough sometimes, and dealing with people reaction is not always straightforward. Did you have any problem shooting and, if yes, how did you deal with it?

    BJH- If you do street photography long enough, you'll inevitably have a confrontation or two. I had a couple when I was younger and still learning the trade. I've only had one confrontation where I felt it could turn violent. I had a biker confront me inside a biker bar. He got in my face and demanded that I hand over the roll of film. I assured him that I didn't take his picture and that I was not handing over the roll of film. He eventually walked away but not before issuing another threat. Most street photographers will get the usual "you really should ask before taking someone's picture." Obviously, if you asked then it wouldn't be street photography, it would become portraiture. If you learn to become invisible, then your subject(s) shouldn't suspect or ever know that you took their photo. People have to understand the historical significance of street photography. It's one of the reasons Cartier-Bresson's work is so relevant today. I take great pride in the historical contribution and value of my work.

    SOG- On our Facebook page, you call yourself “Documentary photographer.” Can you tell us what precisely documentary photography is?

    BJH- I've always struggled with labeling my work. I think you can divide my work into two categories: documentary and street photography. There are even a few environmental portraits. I like to think of my work as a period timepieces as well as art. A good number of young street photographers today are shooting lines, reflections, shadows, and isolated subjects from a distance. They have talent and a good eye, but their work is lacking complexity and depth. A hundred years from now this work will be meaningless. I believe much of this has to do with their fear of getting too close to their subjects. I think the documentary photography label addresses both the aesthetics and the purpose of my work. However, I do understand that my work will always be synonymous with street photography.

    SOG- What kind of equipment do you use?

    BJH- Leica M6 camera with Kodak T-Max P3200 and Tri-X 400 lm. It's all the equipment I need.

    SOG- Do you have any post-processing workflow, and what kind of software do you use?

    BJH- I do keep a digital file of my black-and-white frames that I scan in for internet purposes as well as archival pigment prints that I sell. I do not use photoshop or any other software to manipulate or distort my images. Exhibition and collector prints are made in the darkroom.

    SOG- Social media is probably the most essential tool to promote your work. Which one is the best for you, and do you have a specific strategy to use it?

    BJH- To be honest, I'm just starting to get into social media. I have a Facebook blog, and I recently created a Pinterest account. I'm hoping to have an Instagram account by the time this article runs lol. My daughter, who's very savvy when it comes to social media, has been explaining the importance of it and helping me get started.

    SOG- Finally, do you have any upcoming projects you want to mention?

    BJH- I have several ongoing projects. I enjoy making return trips to specific cities and countries where eventually an exhibition will be the result. My next exhibition is at the Appleton Museum in January of 2020.