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Interview with Yanidel

Go to:  Yanidel – Humanist Tradition artist's page.


Explain a little bit about yourself. Where were you born, grew up?
I am a Swiss citizen currently living in Argentina. After spending my childhood and college years in Switzerland, I lived for extended periods in countries such as Mexico, the US, Spain and France. Argentina seems now to be a longer term destination, since constantly moving is not that compatible with family life. Nevertheless, we are building our life in a way that will still allow for extensive travels and, of course, street photography.

When did you discover your love for photography?
It was about 10 years ago, while living in Paris. The City of Lights has been a mainstay of street photography - historically, many iconic pictures of Paris were taken by street photographers. Moreover, the art of photography is everywhere In Paris; in the kiosks, museums, art galleries, public buildings - you just can't ignore it. My first pictures were taken during long weekend walks all around the city. At first I did not know it was called street photography but quickly made the connection with that discipline so dear to that wonderful city.

Do you remember the first images you took? What were they?
I guess all street photographers go through an evolution in the kind of pictures they take. First come the pictures of cityscapes with some human presence, then the human side slowly grows bigger in the frame until one gets bold enough to shoot directly "in the face" of strangers and interact with them. I went through all these phases which probably means my first picture was not that interesting or technically very sound. My pictures from these times are more than anything a sentimental value, though inexperience and spontaneity did lead to a few pictures that I am still proud of nowadays.

You consider yourself a "humanist tradition." What does that mean?
It basically means that one tries to give a poetic vision to the little facts of our everyday life. How do you turn a very simple moment of life into something that brings an emotion to the viewer? A good street photograph is never about telling a true story. The street photographer can only give his personal interpretation of a scene: the truth remains unknown to him since there is no journalistic approach. It is not reporting as facts are never checked, it is only one photographer's take on a fleeing moment. It is up to the viewer to come up with a story and I choose poetry to give him a hint or set the atmosphere of that moment.

Explain the difference between a street photographer and a traditional photographer.
In general terms, street photographers do not follow a plan, they basically never know what kind of pictures they will take during an outing. We let life and its unexpected twists cross our way and surprise our eyes. Everyday people are wonderful at randomly creating interesting scenes. It is up to the street photographer to be ready when it happens and record the moment forever. It does not mean that a street photographer does not work on specific themes (a place, a kind of people, an event), but there is no structured way, nor any staged interaction with the subjects. In other words, a street photographer is not a reporter. It is up to the viewer to make up his own interpretation. The street photographer just provides hints through a personal visual style.

For the camera buffs, could you please explain what equipment you use?
I have been using a Leica M9 rangefinder for the last 8 years, mainly with fixed 35mm and 60mm lenses. Rangefinders have long been favorites among the street photography community due to their quick manual operation and stealth. Nevertheless, technology has progressed so much over the last few years that other systems are now just as good and probably much easier to operate. You'll find that many street photographers are nowadays using mirrorless systems. Yet, as I did start to shoot street photography with a rangefinder, it has become second nature and its strengths are now part of my way of shooting. I'll probably upgrade to a Leica M10 in a few years when they can be acquired at a more affordable price. This being said, a great state of mind and one's willingness to interact with people is much more important to the quality of a street photograph than owning the latest camera.

Shooting on the fly must have given you some wonderful experiences with people. Any stories you would like to share?
Though one of the base principles of street photography is to capture scenes in a candid way, there are many instances that do lead to interaction with strangers after the picture is taken. When in a foreign country, you'll sometimes be told about unknown tales or be shown special places outside the beaten paths. While in India for example, we were invited to religious celebrations or to have tea inside locals’ homes. This being said, my best anecdote is probably the half dozen pictures of celebrities I took when living in Paris, without being aware of who they were at the moment. I even shot one of them twice in a span of several months. This celebrity might have thought I was a persistent and annoying paparazzi.

You have been travelling around the world. What countries have you visited?
We visited over 30 countries in a span of two years, mainly in Europe, the Americas and the Asia-Pacific region. I was particularly amazed by countries such as Japan, Myanmar and India due to their culture - a street photographer's paradise in some ways, though not easy to stay away from innate occidental stereotypes.

What is next for you?
I am currently working on a Paris book made of pictures taken over a 10 year span. I am also doing a long term project on the city of Rosario, basically depicting daily life in one of Argentina's largest cities. Since great street photographs are hard to come by, it will probably take me a few years to come up with something worth showing.

How can people get in touch with you, find or follow you?
I do post almost daily pictures on my Instagram feed: #yanidel_street
You'll also find most of my archive as well as many articles on street photography on my website: http://www.yanidel.net

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