Interview with Jianwei Yang | Vancouver, Canada

Hello, Jianwei Yang! 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.

Thank you for this interview, the honor is mine. I was born in Beijing, 1969. Currently live in Vancouver, Canada. I’ve been a programmer for over 20 years. Other than photography, I love rock music and movies, both shaped my view of the world.


Seeing your remarkable work, I am curious where your creativity comes from?

Thank you. I’m not so sure. My mother loves music and drawing and that might influence me a bit. For my work, I think inspirations are coming from everywhere.


Could you share with us how you first became interested in street photography?

About 3 years ago I started practicing my photography skills. My initial motivation was to take better photos for my kids. I carried a camera with me everyday and kept shooting everything that surrounded me. Very soon I found that the best way to improve photography skills is to shoot on the streets as the subjects are changing all the time and I love the human factors.


You are an Administrator for Street View Photography US and also a part of the founding team behind Street View Photography Taiwan. Tell us a bit about your experience, how it all started and where do you want to take it.

It’s been a great experience for me. I like to thank David R. Prasser and Michael Ares for introducing me to this fantastic group. It just feels so great to meet all these talented photographers around the world. I learned a lot since I joined.


How has your style changed since you first started?

The subject is getting closer and there are more related characters in the frame. But some basic elements, like composition, balance and high contrast, remain the same.


What equipment are you using now and with what did you get started?

I started with a Sony A500, then a lighter A55, which works nicely with a 50mm. Recently I carry a much smaller NEX-5 with a 16mm pancake. It’s super light, fast and allows me to get very close to the subjects.


Can you tell us about your work flow from the point you first step onto the street until you showcase the developed picture?

Every day I spend about an hour walking on the streets and take 200 to 300 photos. It’s pretty  much the same route, a big circle that’s 15 minutes away from my office. I use Silver Efex for post processing. Each ‘developed’ photo takes me about 2 or 3 minutes.


Do you see a particular influence, be it a photographer or school on your work? Any subject that attracts you?

Rui Palha is one, his work is great inspiration to me, especially the ‘Human in Geometry’ series.


What would you say characterizes your work in comparison to other street photographers?

I don’t know, I really don’t. I love ‘the moment’, urban geometry, high contrast, shadows, the mood… If there is something different, I think all my shots are tagged “Vancouver”, and I’m very proud of that.


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 more of a roamer, but since I’m roaming on the same routine everyday, you can also call me a camper from a different angle.


Do you see your personality reflected in your work? And if yes, in what image does that come apparent to you.

I think so. I’m quite sensitive to people’s feelings so this kind of image always catches my eyes:


Do you often interact with your subjects?

Barely. I try to stay unnoticed. And quite often – like this one – I don’t think any of them wants to interact with me.


Among your work, which is your favorite and why?

This is the first photo out of my camera that makes me think of the phrase ‘Decisive Moment’, and it reminds me I need a bit luck to get it.


Tell us your funniest or most awkward street photography story.

I couldn’t help smiling when I clicked this one, there was a line right in my head: yeah, follow him, wherever he may go!


What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from shooting on the streets?

Be friendly on the streets and try to find something interesting in ordinary places.


What would you tell a newcomer who asks for your advice on how to start?

Keep your passion for photography alive…and take 200 to 300 photos a day on the streets for a year, rain or shine, you will see a difference.


Thank you very much for this interview, Jianwei.

Here you can see more of Jianwei Yang work.