Interview With May Monthly Theme Contest Winner Zlatko Vickovic
Month after month, we here at Street Hunters have been wonderfully overwhelmed with a flood of great submissions for our Monthly Theme Contests! The contests from the first quarter of 2017 have yielded four truly outstanding winning shots from Roy Rozanski, Kristof Vande Velde, Christoph Wuzella and Sreejith Kaviyil. Four months. Four winners. Four great shooters from four different places on the globe. So what would May bring? Would we be showered yet again with great work?
May begins a five-month stretch where the Monthly Theme Contests will be focused on colors. From May through September, each month’s theme will be one specific color. It may seem simple enough, but the challenge itself raises the bar. The photo really has to stand out within the constraints of the color theme. A photo with just that color element would not be enough.
May’s theme was the color green, and, appropriately enough, we were presented with a bumper crop of green goodness! There was a multitude of shots with clever use of the color, popping off the screen and grabbing our attention. But one shot was more than just a poppin’ o’ the green. More than clever. Ladies and gentlemen, Zlatko Vickovic won this month with an explosion of green!
Zlatko Vickovic, Street Photographer
Zlatko Vickovic hails from Novi Sad, Serbia and states his work explores “connections between people and their natural environment, as much as in urban as in rural settings”. He has had photographs featured numerous times on various online sites and in printed articles, newspapers and magazines. His current large-scale project is named ‘Dying Time’, and it is about “his rapidly dying home country Serbia”, which is among 11 countries in the world that will lose more than 15 percent of their residents between 2015 and 2050. Vickovic began his career in art as a traditional painter and then switched to photography, and from what we’ve seen, he has nailed it.
After the interview, be sure to follow the links to see more of Zlatko’s photos and to keep tabs on his work and see how his stunning project, ‘Dying Time’, progresses! Also be sure to look at his his work from the Serbian Protests.
Here at Street Hunters, we’re awarding the winners of each Monthly Theme Contest with all the exposure we can deliver! 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!
Zlatko Vickovic Interview
- First, can you provide us with some background information about yourself? For instance, where you’re from. How long have you been shooting? Are you a member of any photo collectives, groups or communities? Have you had any work published, shown in galleries, etc.?
My name is Zlatko Vickovic, I am from Novi Sad, a small city in the heart of Vojvodina, a region in Serbia. I’ve been doing photography my whole life, but for the last 5 years I’ve focused on doing some more intensive work in street photography.
I am not a member of any significant collective, and of numerous exhibitions and published photographs, I would single out:
International exhibition / Blind Pilots Project /Thessaloniki, Greece and
International exhibition / Photoville2016 / New York
- Tell us about this shot! It’s an explosion of green! How did it come together? Were all three elements of green present when you came upon it, or did you have to wait for the woman to come into frame?!
This photograph was created near my building, during my everyday walk to market. One morning I realized that the wall had just been painted green, and that the light that was illuminating the wall was magic, so I decided to wait a little in front of that perfect background. I was watching the wall through the viewfinder of the camera in a classic fishing style, typical for street photography. Few moments later, the granny walked by, and I thought “wow, great, the granny is dressed in green, and she will fit in perfectly”. And, as it often happens while I take photographs on the street, the old truck appeared at the same moment. I frowned, thinking that it will ruin the shot, but then I, almost instinctively, realized that the truck was also green and pushed the shutter several times. There are moments on the street when the pieces simply come together and the reality reveals itself in the harmony of shapes and colors. But, unfortunately, those moments are rare.
- Your more recent work in your Flickr photostream is in black and white, but going deeper, there’s a good bit of color work as well. Do you prefer one to the other? How do you decide whether an image will be mono or color? Does the scene dictate or is it predetermined?
I don’t prefer neither color work nor black and white. It all depends on what you want to say with your photo or series of photos. Sometimes situation almost screams to be post-processed in color or in B&W. When I am on the streets, I don’t think, there is no time for that. I just shoot whatever looks promising or good to me in the given situation. After I import photos to the post-processing software, then the brain starts to work and sometimes photo that looks almost terrible in color becomes great in B&W. And I will add to this what you might’ve already known… Color is much harder than B&W. That’s why, besides other reasons, we see so much B&W images in street photography groups and websites. Average photographer thinks that it is enough to convert any photo to B&W and it will already be a great street photo. But it’s not like that. If the image is poor, lacks content, and it’s without composition, light etc., there is no post-processing on Earth that will make a great photo from it. I will also add that I deliberately chose for my project ‘Dying Time’ to be in B&W. Because of the seriousness of the theme and content, B&W is far more suitable for this project, so when I’m in the field shooting for the project, I set my mind to the black & white mode.
- What or who inspired you to start shooting street? Who were your influences?
In my opinion, street photography is on [the] top of photography in general. It’s the hardest genre in photography, because it is unpredictable as the reality itself, and that’s why I can never be bored of shooting. Every time I go out on the streets, something new is happening and you never know what great photo opportunity awaits you around the next corner. That’s what inspired me the most. And of course, there are influences of great masters of the genre. Andre Kertesz, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Trent Parke, Alex Webb, David Alan Harvey… The full list is long, and I am sure our readers know them all…
- Your most recent large-scale project, ‘Dying Time’, is about the impending “population catastrophe” in your home country, Serbia. Can you tell us more about this? What inspired you to take on such a massive project and do you have a goal in mind?
I have many ideas for different projects. The list is long and becomes longer with time. But time is limited for all of us, so you need to focus on one thing at the time and try to make it as good as possible. Population catastrophe in my country is really terrible and almost hopeless, and I feel deeply and emotionally for my compatriots. I almost feel obliged to work on this project, because I think there are no things around me more important than that. And if you want to work on a long time project, you better be motivated, or you will certainly quit, long before it’s finished. And one of the goals is to raise awareness in people about what’s really happening in Serbia. Even the people from my own country don’t think about long term consequences of this catastrophe. They read about it from time to time in newspapers, but to see it in my photographs for real, that’s another thing. There are villages where I’ve been to where nobody has placed their foot for months. Another goal is to document this process of a dying country and to preserve it for some distant viewer in the future, who will perhaps ask themselves: How did this happen? What did it look like to live in these times?
- ‘Dying Time’ is documentary work. Do you think doing documentary work is a natural progression from street photography? Do you think the documentary and street are close relatives or distant ones?
In a certain way, street photography is a documentary photography as well. They have the same roots. Documenting people’s’ lives in an truthful and artistic way — that’s what it is all about. If you had asked the old masters, they would’ve told you that they didn’t like labels like street photographer, documentary photographer etc. They just lived and took photos of whatever came their way. And they treated everything equally. Local butcher or soldier on the war front — for those photographers it was the same thing. After certain amount of years, it all becomes a document and a part of the history.
- Do you find that you put more pressure on yourself when shooting for a specific project like ‘Dying Time’? Is there more frustration?
Well, certainly, there is more energy, time, and work involved in the project. For me, a classic street photography, like for example, work for my project ‘Hometown Poems’ is a more casual work. I enjoy just roaming through my city in a zen-like state of mind, and shooting whatever interesting I come across. When I work on a project like ‘Dying Time’, I sometimes drive to remote places for hours, while not knowing if I will find anything interesting enough to shoot. And sometimes, from all of the driving and shooting in a long hot day, I bring home one or two good photos, and that’s in case I’m lucky. It’s like working in a mine, but I love it and I am highly motivated, so on the other hand it’s pure joy, regardless of it being physically exhausting.
- Another project of yours, ‘Hometown Poems’, feels like a love letter to your hometown, Novi Sad and also to Serbia as a whole. Do you think this is accurate? Does Novi Sad inspire you to shoot street?
I think that shooting is a motivation in itself, if I can say it like this. Sometimes, just the feel of holding a camera in my hands is enough. One painter once said,” Just a smell of paint gets me out of bed and makes me want to paint.” On the other side, of course, I’ve spent all my life in my hometown, Novi Sad – it’s a great little town and for all the things it has given me throughout the years, it deserves a good project (photo book). And I think it’s natural for a street photographer to start in his own hometown. If you can make great photos in your own backyard, you can make them anywhere…
- You also shoot in more rural areas. How much more of a challenge is it to shoot in those locations?
The main difference when shooting in rural areas are the people and the way you interact with them. If you shoot in a crowded corner of the street, you can go almost unnoticed. Many times people don’t even know that they are being photographed. When you arrive to, for example, a small remote village, people look at you with suspicion and you are perceived as a complete stranger. So, if you want to take photos of people there, you need to talk your way through. And your time is limited, you only have a couple of tries to make a good shot in order not to intimidate people. So, in a certain way, it is more demanding and challenging.
- Some photographers focus on one element, such as the use of geometry, or the use of shadow, color or black and white, or candid portraiture. You have a firm grip on all of these. Did you practice all of these individually, or is your skill a result of man-hours on the street? Do you think it’s best to be well-rounded or to specialize in one thing?
To be honest, I didn’t practice anything. I have a background in classic painting, I was a painter before – so when I started to shoot on the street more seriously, I already had all about composition, light, framing, in me. And, usually, what you see determines what you will shoot. So if I stumble upon an interesting character – it will become a portrait; If I see great colors – then I will shoot that. No rules, no restrictions. I don’t think that you can choose properly to be well rounded or to specialize upfront. What you need are years of shooting, and then, from your work, it will emerge what you are the best in. I can’t imagine myself shooting only portraits, for example. That sounds too boring for me. If there is one thing I would hate to happen in my work, it would be to bore myself and others with it.
- What’s your favorite camera and lens to shoot with and why?
I shoot with Fuji x100F and Nikon D750. I use mainly primes, 35mm or 50mm, and sometimes short zoom, like Tamron 28-70 for example that I have now on D750. Fuji is highly sophisticated camera that I carry around my neck all the time, it is capable of making whatever photo you wish to make with it. When I go to the rural areas to shoot for the project, then it’s Nikon, because the battery is great, and also I can throw it on the back seat, and not worry if it will break. Nikon never lets me down, it’s the only camera I trust completely.
- What can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?
Well, ‘Dying Time’ project will certainly grow. When I started this project I was aware that it would last for years. Country is dying slowly and that process will last, so the project will too. And, you can expect the same thing I expect from myself. And that is, I hope, more good photos, much better than the ones I can make now. If you don’t evolve, you die. As a person and as an artist.
Sometimes I look at my photos, and I think that I didn’t make a single great photo. And I’m always frustrated with the quality of my work, because it’s never good enough compared to what I wish for. So I’m always experimenting, changing things, and going back in never ending circle. But that’s what keeps me alive, as a person and as a photographer.
Where you can see Zlatko’s Work