Interview With January Monthly Theme Contest Winner Roy Rozanski

Interview With January Monthly Theme Contest Winner Roy Rozanski

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Roy Rozanski January Winner Interview Cover

Introduction

The new year is underway, and The Street Hunters Monthly Theme Contest has a dozen new themes to partner up with it’s ration of months. At the beginning of the year, we announced changes in the prizes to be awarded to the contest winners. Instead of giving away COSYSPEED Camslinger bags, we’re giving the winner exposure… something every photographer enjoys! Who doesn’t want to have their work seen by more people? Our site has between 1500 and 2000 visitors a day and our YouTube channel is over 10,000 subscribers strong! The exposure comes in three ways. First, the announcement post, which proclaims the winner of the contest and showcases their winning image. Second, an interview feature with the photographer. And third, a YouTube slideshow of their work. The feature posts will remain on the web for as long as Street Hunters exists!

To kick off the new Monthly Theme campaign, we chose Zebra Crossings for January. We were looking for clever compositions using zebra crossings, and did we ever get some! In the end, a photographer who is no stranger to the Monthly Theme contests came away with the victory. In fact, he won just four months prior in September with his entry into the “Tattoo” theme ! AND, his photograph, “Untitled” was our Street Photo Of The Week 11/09/16! Ladies and gentlemen, Roy Rozanski is a photographic force to be reckoned with.

Roy Rozanski, Street Photographer

Roy Rozanski, Streethunters January Contest Winner
The Street Photographer Roy Rozanski, winner of the Streethunters.net January Theme Contest

Roy Rozanski is one of the many great Israeli street photographers working today. Roy kindly took time out from his busy schedule to talk to us about his winning shot, his approach, influences and a few other things. Here’s an exclusive look into the workings of one of our favorites here at Street Hunters HQ, and an undeniably talented street shooter, Roy Rozanski.

Be sure to follow the links at the end to check out more of Roy’s work!

Roy Rozanski Interview

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Roy Rozanski’s winning photo for the January Theme Contest “Zebra Crossings”
  1. This is the second time you’ve won the Monthly Theme Contest in five months, congratulations! Was your “zebra crossing” shot already in your portfolio, or did you go out and make the shot after hearing about the theme?

Usually I am not a contest-oriented photographer since you really can’t predict the shots that you will get during your photo-walk. After all we are talking about street photography, all the beauty in it is the fact that it is not predictable or rehearsed in any way. I already had this shot in my portfolio and thought that it will fit the challenge you posted on the website.

  1. Tell us about your zebra shot. How quickly did this shot come together? Did you spot the fellow approaching the crossing? Were you waiting there for a shot, or did you come upon it?

The shot came relatively quick. I spotted this fellow crossing the street while driving. I decided not to let this opportunity pass by me and jumped out of the car, leaving it parked on the side of the road and ran towards him. He was very kind and let me photograph him as I took several shots standing in the middle of a three lane road until the light changed and all the cars started to move. I returned to my car happy with the thought of ceasing the moment and taking a good shot as proven by your contest’s selection.

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  1. What gear were you using when you shot this? Is this your normal set-up?

I started with a basic Canon 550D and a 17‐40L lens. This sort of camera also represented me as a professional photographer – something that I am not interested in being seen as, as it causes people to either pose unnaturally or encourages hostility towards me.

The pursuit to get even closer is one of the reasons I switched to a small mirrorless camera – Fujifilm X‐T1 with XF18mm lens. This camera is much quicker to react in situations, easier in setting changes, and does not resemble your typical professional camera, but rather more of a tourist’s point and shoot equipment (for people with no basic photography knowledge). Hence, freeing me to focus more on my surroundings while decreasing the threatening vibe towards the people I shoot, allowing closer angles.

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  1. How did you get into street photography? Who were your influences?

Photography is relatively a new passion of mine. I began photographing in 2013 – following the documentaries about Francesca Woodman and Helmut Newton. Both are great photographers with a captivating line of work. I presume they had the most impact on me, since they got me started with photography. I like the way they capture their inner soul in every one of their shots, revealing the person behind the camera as much as the subject in front of it.

Street photography still was not my main ground, as I started initially with landscape photography. After a while I realized that during my long waits for a perfect landscape shot, I combined a human factor in my shots. That is when I converted to becoming a street photographer. I gave up my tripod, ND and polarizer filters and only kept my camera with a wide lens.

Street photography always seemed to me as a complete mystery since in contrast to other photography styles I could not understand how the shots were taken and how the photographers succeeded in combining different elements into one shot that is not rehearsed. I was mesmerized by how street photography was simultaneously basic yet complicated.

I became addicted to capturing “The decisive moment”.

Ultimately ‘street photography’ chose me more than I chose it, and no matter how I look at it now, this was bound to happen sooner or later in my photographic path. Street photography is the most challenging among all the styles of photography and to be able to cope with it in the streets is rewarding in itself. The fact that you have captured a single moment in life which cannot be duplicated or repeated in your own unique way, is what mostly fascinates me about street photography.

My two primary inspirations are Elliott Erwitt and his humorous captures and Martin Parr and his focus on beach life photography. I cannot stress enough how much those two photographers influence my work and I try my best to incorporate their style into my own photography.

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  1. You shoot mostly in Tel Aviv? Is that home?

Street photography is a passion of mine yet I am not a professional photographer and hold a 9 to 5 office job which prevents me from shooting during work days. On a regular basis I Photo-walk during the weekends which in Israel is between Friday to Saturday (the Jewish Shabbat) both days have a unique and different street vibes and shooting locations. Furthermore I try to shoot in all-weather situations.

Another thing is that I am not a local resident in Tel Aviv so I have a somewhat of a touristic mentality on location. Tel Aviv is my main “hunting ground”. It possesses a highly versatile street life packed with different vibes, sounds and smells.

Some exceptions to it are big events like the ‘Gay pride parade’, protests or great annual events where I feel compelled to participate at all cost.

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  1. A lot of your work is shot on or near the beach. Have you always shot your street work there? What’s the most appealing aspect… the people, the light, the background or what?

As I started photographing I stumble upon a very important book “Camera Lucida” by Roland Barthes focusing on the philosophical side of photography. The book raises the point (one out of many) that in every frame you take, you also capture your own soul, reflected to the viewer. The fact that I expose myself through my photography made me realize that I have a strong connection to the sea and seashore and that is why I shoot a lot of my photos at the beach area. With the help of photography I now realize that all my life has been involved with the sea, I always lived by the sea I don’t like to be in places far from it. My past landscape photography was mainly sunsets which in Israel can only be happening by the sea.

I changed from landscape to street photography but didn’t abandon the sea, instead I brought street photography to it.

Roy Rozanski January Contest Winner Interview 1

  1. Your Flickr photostream is pretty evenly split between color and black and white. Do you prefer one over the other and do you “see” the image in either when taking the shot or do you make the decision after?

I only post the photos alternating between color and B&W – it is my way to find equality.

When I started with street photography my entire examples to follow came from the great photographers of the previous century, all of them shot with film, and most of them in B&W. There is something clean and aesthetic in B&W photos which make you focus more on the details and the situation you capture, as a result most of my early photos were strictly B&W.

Gradually I became more inclined towards keeping color. I discovered that my decision between the two choices (B&W or color) is directly connected to the changing seasons of the year.

During the hot Israeli summer the light is very harsh thus dulling the colors all around so I am more inclined to post-process the shots to B&W. It also seems appropriate in order to convey the idea of the shot to the viewers.

Having said that, during the Israeli winter (when it is not cloudy and rainy) the light is much softer the beautiful colors should not be lost. I even try to emphasize them so they will pop out.

In the end it is a decision that I take on a frame to frame basis. If the colors have a role in the shot I leave them in, if the colors disturb the eye and cause “noise” which prevent the viewer from detecting the details or the story I am trying to relay then I transform it into B&W.

I make the final decision [on processing] before showing it to the public – I don’t like it when people post two versions (B&W and color) of the same shot and leave it for the viewer to decide. You are the creator of the shot, and as such you’ll have to make the decision prior to publishing it.

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  1. From all I’ve seen of your work, you’re definitely about the moment, the story. You have the eye for capturing them. Is that something that came naturally as you started shooting street or did you learn it?

Only the passion for street photography came naturally to me. The quest for the elusive “decisive moment” is something that requires great patience and hard work. You need to endure with traveling the streets and perfecting your photographic eye to see the situation evolving beforehand. There is no shortcut for capturing the story, you will have to realize that you will fail a lot before you succeed and that is part of the “magic” of street photography.

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  1. You obviously prefer to work close. How long did it take to work up the courage to do so? Does working close ever feel uncomfortable or do you find it natural after working that way for a while?

Generally, I don’t interact with my subjects. I am a bit of a shy person who lacks the street smart and aggressiveness that Bruce Gilden has. I try to maintain neutrality in the street life in order to capture the moment with the least artificial interference. I long found out that a smile will get you a long way so I try to smile a lot to people in the street so they can be at ease and keep their guards down. I always try to capture the situation as close as possible following the famous Robert Capa’s saying. It comes with its own perils since people can react differently when you get close to their private space.

While most don’t even understand my photographic interest in them there is always a small part of people who will get annoyed by the presence of my camera.

Sometimes I act like I am shooting beside them and not focusing on them. You need to develop your own set of tools that will help you to get closer to your subjects. For instance, I try to act like a tourist visiting the town.

Similarly you need to form some sort of an exit plan to get you out of a sticky situation. I try to smile and back slowly away. Sometimes I fail in doing so and my flounder exit plan becomes other photographers’ capturing moment. Believe it or not, I already bear my share of “battle scars” from shooting people too close on the street.

On the other hand, after spending so much time in the streets you get to form some sort of relationships with individuals and you incorporate them into your photo-walk. I do not always have to shoot them but I make a point of meeting them and exchange a few words.

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  1. Do you think it’s harder capturing the moment/story working close? Is the closeness a main ingredient in the scene?

Let me just say that it is much easier to shoot with a Telephoto lens from a safe distance. However, I found out long ago that you miss a lot of the ingredients that makes a photo great when you shoot from afar. Instead of shooting in an isolated bubble I prefer to be as close as I can in the situation. When I shoot close it is all dependent on the reaction that I sense from the subject. If the subject is smiling at you and strike a conversation with you then I usually will make several shots. In most situations I will have to make do with one snap and this forces me to be technically prepared at all time so I can minimize my exposure time with the subject. You don’t want to let them rethink things over so they might change their mind against being photographed you might find yourself in all kind of trouble as a result of that. So be sharp, take one good shot and move on.

Roy Rozanski January Contest Winner Interview 3

  1. There’s a lot of great work coming out of Israel by photographers like yourself, Gabi Ben Avraham, Ilan Ben Yehuda and Ilan Burla, just to name a few. Is there a strong street community there?

To make things right you in-deliberately left out few names. Such as – Barry Talis, Orna Naor, Yael Gadot and Liora Naiman. I must admit that we have a lot of great street photographers in Israel and it is mostly due to the fact that it is a small country filled with unique communities, places and events that you can’t find elsewhere in the world and to top it all great lighting conditions.

I found out, that like myself, the local street photographers are on a personal journey and shooting in the street is their outlet leading to the creation of great photos.

However, the truth is that in street photography two is already consider a crowd. When two photographers shoot the same object too much attention is drawn from everybody around you and causing the loss of authenticity of the situation in front of you.

  1. What can we expect to see from you in the future, any projects planned?

I have a few projects in mind. I started to conduct street workshops in Tel Aviv for small exclusive groups of photographers. I also plan to go out with my own exhibition in the near future.

I try to learn and take inspiration as much as possible from the work of other street photographers.

I hope to keep growing as an individual and a unique photographer and becoming more precise in my photography. I aim to be bolder in capturing the moment and more experienced in identifying the situation to shoot.

But basically I try to be the best photographer that I can be.

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Where you can see Roy’s work

Roy Rozanski’s Flickr

Roy Rozanski’s Tumblr

Roy Rozanski’s Instagram

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