Street photography with Trevor Gwin
An interview with the England based photographer
We welcome you back dear readers for a beautiful interview with Trevor Gwin on his street photography near Manchester, England. We’re happy to have him join us to share his stories, experiences and beautiful imagery. Without further ado let’s jump to it.
Thank you so much Trevor for agreeing to join us for an interview. We’re very intrigued by your story and street photography. To get started could you introduce yourself and tell us about how you got started in photography, and then into street photography?
“My name is Trevor Gwin, I’m a Street Photographer from Burnley in Lancashire, England although much of my work is done in nearby Manchester. I have a background as a fine art painter and make my living as a Mental Health professional. I’ve carried a camera with me sporadically for the past 30 years, sometimes incorporating photography in my paintings but over the past 10 years I have almost solely concentrated on digital photography. My art has always embraced the accidental and chance image with an aversion to the planned or posed composition. My earliest ‘street photography” was taken when I had never considered the genre, although I had seen and admired the likes of Cartier-Bresson, as well as Magnum and documentary photographers such as Martin Parr. It was probably seeing the work of Vivian Maier that helped me to concentrate on Street images and to define myself as a Street Photographer.”
There are different opinions and views on what street photography is. How would you define street photography?
“I try not to overthink my work and certainly not while I am shooting, when my only intention is to record the life and the light of the street as I encounter it. However, looking back through my work as I have over the past few days, I can certainly say that my favourite images have a definite theme of the loner in the urban landscape. I am struck by how often my subjects, even when in groups are seldom communicating with each each other.
Light is very important in my work and I strive to use this to create or hopefully reflect moods and “moments”. Perhaps it is my love of artists such as Caravaggio, Hockney and the the Observer newspaper photographer Jane Bown that influence me here.”
What is it about street photography that you are drawn to most?
“It’s the never knowing what is going to happen. I may go out with the intention of taking one type of photograph but due to unforeseen circumstances completely change the direction of my normal work. I love the prospect of accidentally encountering beautiful images and the possibility of my best ever image being only just round the corner. Most of all I love observing people and the way they interact (or don’t interact!) with the city and each other.”
Have you done any specific street photography projects? If so, could you tell us about some of them?
“Unfortunately, I’m too disorganised to concentrate on any specific projects. I always work best when I have the mental freedom to explore based on chance and intuition.
While not an actual project, I have been striving to get closer to my subjects, and have had some good results. However at the moment it is too close in time for me to give an objective opinion on my success at this.”
Could you share with us some of your favourite photographs and the stories that are behind them?
“One of my more traditional Street images but also one that proves the falsehood of “the camera never lies” I rarely take shots of street entertainers and unless the audience are part of the image like here, I don’t really consider it part of the genre. This singer and his band, who are mostly hidden, piled onto the train playing “Hit the Road Jack” with appropriate hand gestures. I usually shoot from the hip and hate it when anyone poses but here he is fully aware of the shot. For me, it was the awkwardness of the surrounding passengers as the band blasts out a superb in your face version of the song that interested me. But of course this is not as it now looks…. only today someone described the image as having “palpable tension” and that I was brave to shoot it. Afterwards I gave the singer all my loose change, embarrassingly only 30p! If anyone knows him, tell him I’ll buy him a couple of drinks when we meet again.”
“Probably my most popular image, and as with so many successful shots it’s the simplicity of the image that makes it work for me. Taken at a Cafe Nero in central Manchester, I was attracted by the formality of the three unconnected figures. I took a number of shots both individually and collectively but never once did any of them look up from what they were doing. When I posted this shot online, people commented that it it is a sad reflection on the alienation of modern life that they are not communicating. But for me this is just three people enjoying a moment’s peace in a busy city. They are three very different people and apart from liking a coffee and cigarette, have little in common, why should they communicate, and mercifully, two of them aren’t even using a mobile phone.”
“Taken on a recent trip to London. Unusually I was not alone when I took this, I had promised my wife I would limit the amount of times I got my camera out. BUT I love shooting Contre Jour and as we walked from Euston, through Bloomsbury into Theatre-land, the morning light poured down on us. Shooting into the light gives me everything I want from photography, a technical challenge that focusses my mind , the element of chance in how the light bounces to create shadows and flares beyond my control and the myriad of ways I can reflect this in my editing. I am so pleased with the way I have managed, by luck more than skill, to keep the face in focus while the light creates some lovely abstract effects.”
Awesome. Very impressive images, and each tell a very interesting story. I’m sure they are cherished memories for you as well.
Can you walk us through a typical day of you on the streets doing your photography?
“I often just take my camera with me when i go out for a walk, I don’t drive so this is an almost daily event if I’m not working. However my typical dedicated street photography day would normally involve a trip to Manchester where it is easier for me to dissolve into the crowd than in a town where I’m fairly well known. I usually check the weather forecast beforehand, not necessarily so that I can catch the best light, but so that I can prepare myself for what sort of shots I’m likely to take. I use a Fuji X-T10 which is a wonderful unobtrusive camera, superb in low light and with great auto focus, I’m not a purist so if auto works, why not use it. I use its 16-55 kit lens at present but rarely use the zoom preferring the wide angle to so that my subjects can be part of the environment. I usually shoot at f5.6 with my ISO on auto but limited to 1600, depending on the light. With the fuji it’s then easy to adjust the shutter speed with a flick of the dial. I know central Manchester fairly well now and love how the light shines down Mossely Street and Deansgate in the late afternoon and how the hipsters of the Northern Quarter pose outside the cafes. I know spots where workers have their crafty cigarettes and where friends and lovers are likely to meet up but I always discover something new every visit. Often it’s the side streets that provide the most interesting shots rather than busy streets. I rarely stay still in one area for long, preferring to walk around and return to areas of interest. I generally spot an interesting situation or person and approach them naturally, shooting from the hip before walking by. If I’m challenged, I smile, tell them I have taken a shot and offer to delete if they want…but this has only happened 4 or 5 times and twice I hadn’t even taken a shot of the person who challenged me.”
Are there any tips or suggestions that you would give to other photographers, both more experienced and those starting out?
“These are only opinions, not rules but…
Know your camera and how to use it. If possible, know your location, don’t be afraid to try new places. Know where the sun will be and how it is likely to affect your image.
Be sympathetic and celebrate life on the street, not exploitative in what you do. Don’t take advantage of someone’s vulnerability, of course sometimes the opportunity is too good to miss but you need to keep your conscience clear. I recently took a shot of a young mother telling off her child, but in the image it looks as if she is being aggressive towards her son which is totally unfair and to post it would be unethical.
If you see a wonderful moment on the street you are likely to be too slow to have captured it, especially with the delay on mirrorless digital cameras. try to predict when something is likely to happen.
Learn about composition but don’t think about it when shooting, and even while editing. Let your unconscious brain do that… it has better judgement.
When editing be prepared to “murder your darlings” as well as the obvious failures. The best edit is usually made by pressing the delete key.
Study the work of all artists, not just photographers, go to galleries and look online, buy photography books, watch TV and films critically…….You can learn as much about photography and composition from watching a Scorsese film or Citizen Cane as you can from most photography books.
Use colour, but use it for a reason. I find that desaturation of other colours is usually more effective at enhancing the ones I want to emphasise.
In post processing, Less is More.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter what camera we use, what lens we have, how we set up our camera or how we shoot our images. The only thing that matters is the final image. It doesn’t matter what great intentions we have or what historic event we record, it’s only what the viewer sees that really matters.”
Well stated, we surely agree with these suggestions!
We’d like to give you the opportunity to include anything you’d like to say in addition to what’s been shared.
“Thank you for giving me this opportunity to talk about what I do.
My work and opinions on Street Photography are constantly evolving. The only thing I know for certain is that I can improve and that my best image could always be the one I shoot next.”
Thank you, Trevor. It’s been a pleasure!
About Trevor Gwin:
Trevor Gwin is a Street Photographer from Burnley in Lancashire, mostly doing street photography in and around the Manchester area. He has the background of being a fine art painter and has sporadically used his camera for the past 30 years. He sometimes incorporating photography in his paintings until solely concentrated on digital photography. He was done so for the past 10 years. More of Trevor’s work can be found on his Facebook.
As for me, and the Talk Photography project, I’m always looking for interesting photography projects and those who are doing extraordinary work. We encourage you to contact us with your own projects or recommend others who are doing fantastic work. Contact me any time.
If you’re a lover of street photography, you’ll love this project I’m doing with street photographers the world over. I highly recommend checking it out!