While traveling in Paris recently, I had the pleasure of spending time with Canadian-based street photographer Olaf Sztaba. He was conducting a workshop in the City of Lights and luckily it coincided with our time there.
I had interviewed Olaf earlier this year (Episode 421) soon after being turned on to his work via his YouTube channel. I not only loved his work, but I appreciated his visual sensibility which in many ways reflected my own. We had chatted via computer a few times, but this would provide us our first opportunity to meet in the real world.
We met in the early morning hours in the Latin Quarter where we shared breakfast with our better halves. We eagerly chatted each other up discussing photography, family and life Even the presence of a few persistent wasps didn’t deter us from enjoying each other’s company.
Afterwards, we took to the streets not only making photographs, but talking out loud about what we were observing and responding to around us. Though our backgrounds and life stories are dramatically different, we shared the same language and love for light, shadow and composition. As we observed a scene, we discussed what about it piqued our interests and how that translated into a photograph. There was no need to explain the mechanics of taking a picture. Instead, it was an intimate sharing of the way we each practiced seeing and the joy we derived from that.
Though we were often only a few feet away from each other, observing the same play of light and shadow and ever-moving humanity, we each produced images that were distinctly our own. Even when we captured the same moment, we each produced our personal take of it in ways that we both appreciated. As we walked the streets and photographed, we repeatedly surprised each other with our discoveries.
It was during this time that I produced one of the better images from the trip. I was photographing a street scene of people walking past an old wall. In the middle of the street where green street barriers. Across the street, I braced my back against a wall and allowed people near me to walk past, carefully including them as blurred figures in the foreground.
In one frame, a man stepped in front of my camera and raised his hand to face. In that moment, he created the perfect framing device for another man who at the very moment had turned to look behind him. I knew that I had gotten the shot even before I reviewed the image on the back of the camera’s LCD. But when I did look, I let out a loud exclamation all of which was captured on video by Olaf’s wife, business partner and videographer, Kasia.
The video of some of our time together has been posted on Olaf’s YouTube channel and I encourage you to watch it, not only because it features me, but I think it provides a wonderful glimpse into the way that both I and Olaf approach photography. And you haven’t checked out his work, I heartily recommend that you do by visiting his website and subscribing to his YouTube channel. I assure you that you won’t be disappointed.