Dan | FramesMedia 1:44pm, 19 March 2012
Interview with a Street Photographer - March 19, 2012
by Streets in Colo(u)r.

This week's interview is with David Ingraham (D. Ingraham), from Los Angeles, California.

- Here is the link to the interviews we have done thus far. Also, find us on Facebook -

What do you like most about street photography?
I think it must be the element of surprise. You hit the streets with no idea what you might stumble upon -- what interesting character might turn the corner, or unexpected drama might unfold before you -- and there's also a good deal of faith and hope involved as well. You head out, camera in hand, hoping and believing that you're going to capture something special, that a gift is going to be handed to you, so to speak. I'm also drawn to a gritty, urban sort of aesthetic or environment. Not sure why, maybe because it's the antithesis of the suburban middle-america environment I grew up in, but whatever it is, that's what seems to inspire me the most.

What do you look for in your potential image?
First and foremost I look for some interesting light and/or appealing geometry, and also a clutter-free backdrop, which for me is one of the constant challenges of street photography. There's so much visual clutter in most cities, it's difficult to get a shot without some distracting element in the frame. Then, of course, you hope that someone interesting might step into the frame.

Film or digital? If film, do you develop it yourself or do you let a lab take care of it?
As did many people, I started off with film, but eventually and inevitably went digital.

I now try and shoot a balance of both. But even back when I was primarily shooting film and working in the darkroom, I was too lazy to bother with developing my own film. I was purely interested in the creative side of darkroom work, the film-developing part seeming too tedious and technical, so I'd take it to a lab. I do the same nowadays, and then scan the negatives myself. But unfortunately it's becoming more and more difficult to find places that develop black and white film, especially medium format.

What tools do you primarily use?
As of about a year and a half ago -- when I bought my first iPhone --I've become hopelessly addicted to iPhoneography. Not only is it the ultimate street-photography camera due to it's inconspicuousness -- take a shot and then pretend you're talking on your phone! -- but it's also like a darkroom in the palm of your hand. The processing options that it offers are quite remarkable, and with an app like Snapseed, you can apply similar darkroom techniques like dodging and burning, etc. and you can do it all while waiting for the bus! However, I try to force myself to snap out of my iPhone trance from time to time, and that's when I'll shoot either with my Holga, Superheadz Ultra Slim, or my Nikon D80. I also like experimenting with my Lensbaby , which is like the poor man's Tilt-Shift lens.

Wide or long lens?
I usually try and stick with wide for street. It forces you to be bold and get in close and also everything in the frame ends up being in focus. Guys like H.C. Bresson, David Alan Harvey, and Alex Webb all used just a 35mm or 50mm, nothing else. It forces you to use your feet to compose and it's also less conspicuous than a big, long lens.

Do you get a chance to build a rapport with the subject?
Very rarely. I know photographers who are more into street portraiture, and they'll walk right up to someone, start a conversation and then ask if they can take their picture. That's a totally legitimate approach and I respect it, but it's not for me. I've always been more of a fly-on-the-wall photographer, lingering in the shadows, waiting for something interesting to unfold. I prefer spontaneity over a more formal, posed look.

Have you ever been harassed by the authorities for photographing in public? If yes, how do you deal with it?
Never harassed, but I've had trouble over the years with tripods. I used to be more into long-exposure night photography, but I got tired of cops telling me if my tripod touched the ground I needed a permit. That happened to me in NYC. I guess they assume if you're using a tripod it means you're a pro and you'll be making money from your images. And of course, post 9/11, authorities and the public in general are more leery of someone taking pictures in the streets, especially outside government buildings! Not recommended. But whenever someone stops me I just play dumb, acting like I didn't know any better and then wander off and try somewhere else.

Have your photography subjects ever objected to you taking their photograph? If so, how did you respond?
Frequently! Anytime I'm shooting street photography, I just assume that at least one person is going to get upset if they catch me taking their picture. It's just a given. Once again, that's what's so great about the iPhone: I can take a quick shot and then turn away and hold the phone up to my ear like I'm making a call. Even if they suspect that you took their picture, they can't be certain and they usually just frown and walk off. But whenever I get "busted" I usually just casually say "Oops, sorry about that! " and walk away. I've yet to be beaten up!

Are you an in-camera cropper or do you prefer to do that in your darkroom or your computer?
I always try to pay attention to all the elements in the frame when shooting, but I'm still a chronic cropper, which I'll do either in my iPhone in Snapseed or , if it's a film shot or DSLR, in Lightroom. For the record, that's one restriction I've put on myself: If I shoot it with the iPhone, I edit it in iPhone; and if I shoot it with one of my other cameras, I'll do my editing in Lightroom and/or Photoshop.

Black and white or color? And why?
Both, but I seem to lean more towards Black and white. I think years ago, in my early days of shooting, I thought shooting in black and white made my shots look more "artsy" -- maybe less like a tourist snapshot -- but eventually I just grew to love the chiaroscuro-like aesthetic of black and white film, and the mood that can be created, all of which fortunately can now be recreated with software like Silver Efex. Color, on the other hand, can be distracting, competing, and even garish if it's not done tastefully. When I am shooting color, I frequently find myself desaturating a bit in Post-editing just to avoid things getting too obnoxious!

Do you extensively or minimally work with the post-processing software or in the darkroom?
For better or for worse, I tend to be a processing junkie, sometimes spending hours editing a shot. As time consuming as it can be, it's a lot of fun and, for me, an equal part of the creative process. I used to draw a lot as a kid and I'm very influenced by painting, so I like working on a shot and, when appropriate, maybe giving it a painterly feel, or, in the case of black and white, maybe the look of a charcoal sketch. Years ago I was more of a purist, and I have total respect for the great straight-out-of-camera street photographers, but even guys like W. Eugene Smith and Ansel Adams would spend hours in the darkroom dodging, burning, bleaching… whatever it took to bring their image to life, so I certainly don't view it as cheating or anything like that. It's all art, so there are no rules. The strength of the final image is all that matters.

What is your preferred time to shoot?
Late afternoon, when the light is low and warm. I'm sure early/mid morning is nice too, but I'm rarely awake to see it!

Whose or what kind of work inspires you?
Wow, where to begin! David Alan Harvey was huge for me when I was just starting to get serious. His Book "Divided Soul" was a huge influence. But I also love Alex Webb, James Nachtway, Mary Ellen Mark, Garry Winogrand, Sebastiao Salgado, Harry Callahan, Jean Loup Sieff, Richard Avedon, W. Eugene Smith, and of course Henri Cartier-Bresson.

And all the talent on Flickr has inevitably been a big influence. Chris Friel, the English Landscape photographer is brilliant. He shoots with a tilt-shift lens and does primarily ICM ( Intentional Camera Movement ), creating shots that look more like paintings than photographs. I've been meaning to apply that aesthetic to urban street photography but have yet to fully explore that technique.

I've also been influenced by a lot of great photographers on Instagram -- an iPhone photo-sharing app. Elif Suyabatmaz (@fisheyedreams ), Sion Fullana, Buckner (@intao ) and Richard @Koci Hernandez, just to name a few. Koci's work has easily been the single largest influence on my photography over the last year. He's on flickr as well, I'd highly recommend checking him out! ( )

If possible, link us to the first image, image series or a website that inspired you to take photography beyond a passing interest.

Hard to know where to begin and end, but here's a handful:

Show us some of your favorite images that you think represent you.

David Ingraham's Flickr Profile:
Maria Kappatou 7 years ago
Wonderful work David!!
Dan | FramesMedia 7 years ago
Agreed. I am a great fan of his visual interpretations.
Nick Kenrick. 7 years ago
strong images .the iphone is a super tool
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