Hello Oliver Merce ! We are honored to be able to interview you for our Featured Photographer format on www.streetviewphotography.net!
Please tell us a little bit about yourself to begin with.
First of all, I would like to thank Street View Photography team for considering me worthy for this interview; this is an honor for me. I am 36 years old and I was born in a small village (Calugari – Bihor, Romania). Nowadays I live in a village near Timisoara. I work in forest ecology (due to this kind of work, a lot of people ask me why I’m not photographing landscapes and nature). Photography is just a hobby for me, as well as the wonderful breed rottweiler.
Seeing your remarkable work, I am curious where your creativity comes from?
Probably the joy of doing something that I truly like plays an important role in it. Additionally, I would also like to mention the photos of the great photographers, archived in my mind and in my library, the music that I listen to, the books and magazines that I read.
Could you share with us how you first became interested in street photography?
I think everything started in 2011. Why have I decided to photograph the street? Probably because I like being among people, I like people, I like to believe that certain aspects, maybe, are unique in the life of the photographed persons.
What equipment are you using now and with what did you get started?
At the moment I have a Nikon D7000 and a Nikon F80, and I have a Nikon 18-105 mm lens (probably the most used by me in street photography), a Nikon 28-80 mm lens (which I only use on the F80, together with the Ilford Delta 400, Agfa apx 400 or Fomapan 200 films) and two fixed lenses, also from Nikon: a 50 mm f1.8 and an 85 mm f1.8. Recently I purchased a Nikon P7000. I started with a Fuji S6500.
Can you tell us about your work flow from the point you first step onto the street until you showcase the developed picture?
First of all, for some time now, I always carry a camera with me. It happened many times that I missed out on an interesting photo, just because I didn’t have the camera with me. Sometimes I walk the streets and I’m trying to find something interesting to photograph. Other times, if I find an interesting “background”, I go back there for a better light or to catch an interesting moment. Regarding the editing of my photos, I prefer to have only a basic level, with minimum adjustments.
This year I began participating in some national and international photo salons. I was awarded with the gold medal at the “Ars Fotografica” International Salon, “Movement” Section. I was also awarded a second place and a mention in the National Salon “Jews from Romania”.
Do you see your personality reflected in your work? And if yes, in what image does that become apparent to you.
I think yes. When you take a picture you use your intellect too, not just your hands and eyes, and as a result I believe that my photos reflect a part of my emotions and thoughts related to my surroundings.
Can you give our readers a tip on how to create such remarkable expressions like you have on your portraits?
First of all, it’s important that you have the opportunity to meet expressive persons and also to do everything possible in approaching them, to interact with them. Often, even if the person is a stranger to you, they still can happen to be open and communicative. I don’t like to “hunt” my portraits, and because of this I mainly use the 50 mm lens for these type of photos.
What would you say characterizes your work in comparison with other street photographers?
I think that each of us is different. I photograph, what I have the chance to and what I like. A correct comparison can be made only by a person who is emotionally detached from the photos that he has to analyze. But I have to admit, that there are enough photos, taken by others, which I wish, I would have taken myself.
Do you often interact with your subject?
In case of rapidly succeeding scenes, which would be non-recurring, I think that there is no time to interact with your subjects. In case of the portraits, made on the street, the situation is different. With every portrait I try to spend some time with the person I want to photograph.
Among your works, which is your favorite and why?
This is a quite difficult question, because I have several favorites. I tend to get attached to the photos, which are difficult to get or to those, in which there is an emotional connection between myself and the subject. However, most of the times, these are not my best pictures. The photo below is probably among my favorites, because on some level I managed to learn about the life of this person.
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from shooting on the streets of Romania?
I think this question could be asked without restraining it to Romania. I learned to appreciate more the life and the simple things that build it, I learned to be more friendly and more understanding with people.
It is said that our eyes are the mirror of our soul. Can you confirm this saying in your portraits?
I believe that this statement is true. I made, through the time, portraits in which the eyes tell a story about the state of mind of the subject, at that specific moment (exalted, happy, nervous, sadness, etc.)
What is your definition for a good moment in street photography?
A good moment can be one, when you shoot a surprising and exciting, typical or atypical scene, which appears suddenly, out of nowhere; when you meet a person, who can show you a part of his life in a fraction of a second.
What would you tell a newcomer who asks for your advice on how to start street photography.
I find it awkward to give advice when I’m also not too advanced. I think it’s important to have the camera close permanently, to learn the basics in photography and to develop your observation skills. This can be achieved by seeing more and more good photos, and going out to photograph more often.
Thank you very much for this interview Oliver!
See more of Oliver Merce’s work here.