Hello Francisco Fernandes ! We are honored to be able to interview you for our Featured Photographer format on Street View Photography!
Please tell us a little bit about yourself to begin with.
I am 37 years old, I was born in Vilar Formoso and now I live in Lisbon, Portugal.
I am a Programmer Analyst and for me street photography is only a hobby. Besides photography, I enjoy running. I also love music and when it’s possible, I sometimes go to concerts.
Francisco, tell us how you initially became interested in street photography?
Since I remember I’ve always appreciated street photography. It is what the exhibitions, books or websites, which catch my attention, are mostly about. So I think it natural that I tried to recreate these influences, when I started to shoot.
As part of the team of Street View Photography Portugal you worked your way up to one of three administrators of our main Facebook page “Street View Photography”. Your respected selections are seen by over 300.000 people per week and spread much joy and pleasure. Tell us a bit about that and your experience with SVP, how did it all start and where do you want to take it?
Initially I collaborated with the Portugal Street View Photography regional page but there was a need for someone to collaborate with the main page. e.u.: David has invited me and I accepted the challenge.
Being one of the administrators, brings me the opportunity to select some of the featured pictures to the main wall, which is also a huge responsibility. Fortunately we have excellent photographers, who share photos with us. On the other hand (and unfortunately) we can not feature all of the great pictures, there are simply too many of those. This collaboration allows me to meet some new street photographers.
I hope I can spread street photography to more people around the world through the collaboration with SVP.
In the early days of Street View Photography we quickly noticed how incredibly vibrant and strong the Portuguese street photography community is. Is it in your guys blood, or why do you think there are so many great Portuguese street photographers out there?
There are many good photographers in Portugal, doing not only street photography. Here we have many groups that organize Photo Walks, usually to do street photography. Our good weather is great for strolling on the street. Our community has also a very strong presence in the web, so when a new and attractive project starts, we love to participate and share it.
The Portugal regional page is one of the most participating SVP pages, which proves it best.
What would you say characterizes your own work in comparison to other street photographers?
It is difficult to compare my work with other photographers, I can say that I try to capture the spontaneity of the streets, taking all the pictures as a single moment.
How has your style and technique changed since you first started?
When I first started shooting strangers, I wasn’t able to photograph them at close range. However, as the time passed, I began to get more comfortable with it. Right now I enjoy to photograph my subjects closer and closer.
At the beginning I thought that the more I shot, the greater the pictures would become. That is totally wrong. The result was merely having lots of pictures, occuping my laptop. Nowadays, when I go out for a photowalk, I only shoot, when I feel that these are going to be great pictures and if it is not possible, I prefer to come back home with nothing.
What equipment are you using now and with what did you get started?
Initially when I started, I used to carry a large backpack, sometimes with more than one camera and several lenses.
Currently I bring with me just a small bag with a DSLR and no more than one or two lenses. Sometimes I only bring with me a compact camera, which is more discreet and portable.
Can you tell us about your work flow from the point you first step onto the street until you showcase the developed picture?
Usually I try to find a place with a special light or a great scenario. After that I start shooting until I find the best angle in order to have the great moment.
I’m very careful with composition and light metering, so I don’t have to spend much time with post processing, only needing to make small adjustments, such as levels and contrast.
Because I shoot in RAW, I need to convert to JPEG before showcasing the material.
Do you see a particular influence, be it a photographer or school on your work? Any subject that attracts you?
Like most people, I know who shoots street photography, Henry Cartier Bresson is a reference, in particularly the concept of the decisive moment.
When I shoot, there is always an instant, in which the action or the moment photographed becomes more special and this is what I look for, when taking my pictures.
In many of your images it seems that you are exactly on the right place at the right time. If we would split the street photography community into two categories, one is the roamer who walks around to find as many subjects as possible to get good results, and the other one is the camper who rather focuses on a place, camps out to wait until the right subject walks by, what street photographer would you be?
I’m a camper. As I said before, I’m one of those, who seek the right place and who then awaits for the decisive moment to arrive.
Do you see your personality reflected in your work? And if yes, in what image does that become apparent to you.
Sometimes when I look more closely at the work that I’m doing, I see some discretion and objectivity, which is as I try to be in my everyday life – discrete and objective.
Do you often interact with your subjects?
In most cases there is no interaction. The subjects do not realize that I’m shooting them. I do not hide myself from the subjects and I also think that my approach is not aggressive. Sometimes people notice that I’m going to photograph them but after shooting each one of us goes his way.
Among your work, which is your favorite and why?
I do not have an exact favourite piece, however there is this picture, special to me, because it was the first one that got selected for a collective exhibition. It was exposed in Lisbon “A Maior Exposição Fotográfica do Mundo”, June 2010.
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from shooting on the streets?
On the streets the scenarios change very fast, so the ideal is to know your camera like the back of your hand, so that you can adapt quickly to all situations.
It is best to have your camera always ready to shoot, because sometimes it is necessary to anticipate and predict what will happen, but unfortunately this is not always possible.
What would you tell a newcomer who asks for your advice on how to start?
The key is knowing how to respect people photographed. There are some situations, in which I clearly perceive that a person is not willing to be the subject photographed. We are all entitled to our privacy, so we should always bear this in mind.
A smile is always the best way for thanking someone in the street, whom I just photographed.
Thank you very much for this interview, Francisco.
See more of Francisco Fernandes work.