Showcase on X-Photographer: Sven Schroeter

>>Sven's work will be showcased at the upcoming Auckland festival of Photography for 5 days only! Check out more details here

German born Sven Schroeter may be a self-taught photographer but is certainly no amateur when it comes to street photography.  Taking joy in snapping the eccentric personalities that can be found across the globe, the X-Photographer's images sing the tales of strangers.

Check out more of Sven's work on  Bokeh Monster or read his blog

1. When did you first become interested in photography, and at what point did you know that being a photographer was what you wanted to do as a career?

Seeing the expression or emotional response of someone to an image you either collaborated on or created specifically for is priceless. And for that reason alone I will pursue photography as long as I am able.

The social challenge of working with a stranger is unique, irrespective of the setting (street, studio or elsewhere), in the attempt to draw the most honest representation from them. It is best described as a a dance. The photographer leads, and hopefully does not step on too many toes before the song is up.

No one in my family has ever paid any significant attention to photography, outside of the family treasured photo albums, and it was not until just after university that I could afford to try out a DSLR. Without any real specific direction in mind I started making pictures of everything. What started as an experimental hobby, now consumes my every free thought.

2. What first drew you to street photography—and how did you discover it?

To put it simply, variety! The street is the only place I know of where a constant stream of evolving fashion and self-expression exists. You come across a wider variety of people in two hours than you can ever hope to meet at a modelling agency, and get in front of the lens in one sitting, especially during rush hour or the university semester.

Street photography is like one giant theatrical play where each person walking by is auditioning for the lead role. With the added bonus, you do not have to deal with latecomers, cancelations or excuses. You are the conductor and set the tempo.

But, this complete freedom comes with its own set of challenges. Since you have no real control there are always elements working against you, for instance the weather, dense crowds and no matter how comfortable your shoes may have been advertised as, every pair will give you flat feet eventually. Nonetheless, it is these challenges which make the final selects after a full day shooting so rewarding and keep me going back.

3. What do you want your viewers to take away from your work?

On a daily basis we are bombarded with advertising selling fashion, accessories and of course the perfect stereotypical idealised image of the human form. Through my street imagery “everybody everyday”, I have been illustrating reality, focusing on the differences of exterior appearance.

On the outside, as individuals we are all unique. Busy expressing ourselves through tattoos, piercings, hats, bandanas, sunglasses or whatever other
accessory is currently in style. But if you can look through all the glitz and glam, we are all still the same on the inside, and this is what my focus has been.

4. How has social media played a role in your photography?

I have always been a big advocate of sharing art. It does not matter if the medium is print or digital, either is a great platform for presenting. However, in the age of smart phones, tablets and ultra slim laptops, the mass social media audience that you can address instantly is staggering. It also comes with the added benefit of instant feedback, whether it is through a comment on a blog post or further distribution by a third party, passing on and sharing your material on your behalf (the viral post or image).

I have been using a variety of social media platforms primarily for sharing gear reviews, our thoughts and opinions on photography related topics and of course for sending our own work into the world.

Results in regard to website traffic and new opportunities have been incredible, all which can be directly attributed to a social media presence. It definitely pays to put yourself out there.

5. When did you decide to make the shift to mirrorless technology – what prompted the move?

Arriving at the mirrorless door step happened by complete accident. I was in search of a portable camera system to take as an alternative to the DSLR when heading outdoors and hiking. I did the mistake once of being the photo gear donkey with tripod, lenses, spare batteries and a pro DSLR body. I swore never to do that again. Every gram counts when you are on foot for 20-30km a day.

So when the next big trip came up, it was the perfect opportunity to put the X series under the microscope and give it a chance.

[It (street photography) is best described as a a dance. The photographer leads, and hopefully does not step on too many toes before the song is up.]

In my opinion, the images from a typical DSLR are sterile and flat, probably the result of attempts to achieve the perfect optic and sensor technology. The Fujinon lenses and the accompanying XTrans sensor combo deliver images that have a full bodied character right out of the camera with stunning colour, incredibly accurate skin tones and a three dimensional punch. Each of the Fujinon lenses have their own character and it takes a little time to explore each ones sweet spot before it is possible to extract their maximum potential. However, you cannot really say that a DSLR or the new mirrorless technology is superior, both systems have their merits, and ultimately it just comes down to personal taste and style.

Roughly a year passed since the first X series camera wedged itself into my bag, got stuck and a couple of its family members moved in. Before even realizing it, all I had left from the DSLR days was a 85mm prime (my personal favourite focal length) and a single full frame body. Since the recent release of the 56mm (85mm equivalent) there really was no longer anything keeping me from completing the journey, I am now 100% mirrorless and still waiting for an X series camera to drop the ball.

6. Can you share some of your favorite images captured so far.

Sure, the images I chose (shown in this post) are my favorites going back two to three months. Each has special meaning, or required me to overcome a specific challenge in order to attain it.

For example, the three Chinese lads walking down the street. Because I did not speak a word of the local language while in China, trying to compose a shot using my usual collaborative approach proved fruitless. It became infuriating observing the incredible Chinese pop culture and missing shot after shot. In the end I played the tourist card and delicately made a few daring exposures before getting yelled at, probably in disapproval. The locals were not very receptive to being photographed, and were definitely not shy letting me know.

The younger population was a little less timid but the elderly came across as the street police, immediately honing in my presence and giving away my position every time I attempted to line up a shot. The challenge of the language barrier and my inability to explain my presence proved to be a relentless struggle.

7. What number one tip/advice you would give to yourself if you started photography all over again?

Don’t listen to those who try telling you what to shoot or how, otherwise you just end up with an almost identical portfolio. Tell your own stories and illustrate the world through your own eyes. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed of being different.

Check out more of Sven's work on  Bokeh Monster or read his blog