I first came across the work of Sacha Dohmen earlier this year when his unique style of street photography started appearing in the Mobiography Flickr Group and on other prominent mobile photography websites such as P1xels, the Appwhisperer, Mortal Muses, IPhoneography.com as well as several ‘Capturing the Moment‘ showcase appearances. He was also the subject of a recent ‘The Photo I am Most Proud of‘ feature. As if this was not enough he also received an honorable mention in last years Mobile Photo Awards and only last week was the artist of the day at IPA for the second time in 6 months.
Sacha is a self taught amateur photographer who lives in Belguim (and as he puts it), in a small village in the middle of nowhere between Liège (Belgium), Maastricht (Holland) and Aachen (Germany). His rugged style of photography features solitary figures, isolated on dark or blurred backgrounds. A couple of my favourites include ‘It’s Coming Down’ and ‘Insomnia And The Hole In The Universe’, two very powerful but simple shots.
In this weeks Talking iPhoneography I spoke to Sacha about his work, style, approach and to find out more about the stories that lie behind some of his favourite images.
For those who aren’t familiar with your work will you describe your photographic style.
I bought my first camera, a Nikon D60, 5 years ago to photograph my holiday in Mallorca. I shot all I saw and came back with a lot of photos but especially with the knowledge that I had a lot to learn. So I bought a book from Andreas Feininger and one to learn a bit about Photoshop. From then on, there was only photography for me. Each week in the magazine shop I would buy everything there was about photography. There I found an article about Bruce Gilden and I know, this is it. Street portraiture!!!!
What influences your shooting or editing style? Are there any specific artists that you draw inspiration from?
There are a lot of people who influence me. I really love the work of Roger Clay, Shel Serkin, Lee Thatcher, Mark T Simmons and Dilshad Corleone then Greg Schmigel and Richard Koci Hernandez, two pioneers in the mobile photography movement. My all time favorite street shooter is Bruce Gilden. Otherwise, of course Berenice Abbot, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Vivian Maier, Diane Arbus, Robert Doisneau, last but not least the ironic Elliot Erwitt.
For the treatment I use primarily b&w, it’s the purest form of photography. Photography is all about emotions and I think b&w focus better. It´s reduce a picture to its essential elements.
Could you tell us about your approach to street photography and the images you capture?
I don´t think when I shoot, I’m a walker and my camera is part of the walking, I’m attentive about the people and situation around me. I capture a fraction of life and later build my own storyboard for this person. All I need is a street and my camera to make something extraordinary out of the banal, to create a social drama, to awake emotions.
For me, my motivation to document life and take street shots is to capture and awake emotions. Photography is all about emotions.
Your photographs feature lone figures in the street set against blurred backgrounds. Tell us about the apps you use and the process or methodology you apply to your post production editing?
I shoot with my IPhone 4S (Hipstamatic, Pure Shot or Camera+) or with my Nokia Lumia 925 (Pro Shot).
All my edits are made on the IPad, I always start with Snapseed for the basic settings then blurred the background with BlurFX or BigLens. After this I convert in b&w and add textures with ScratchCam, PhotoToaster, Mextures or PhotoForge2 just to name a few. For the frames I love Lo-Mob. At the end back to Snapseed for the fine tuning.
What would be your top tips or words of wisdom for aspiring mobile photographers or artists?
The first one is find your style. I see a lot of amateur photographer (not only mobile) which publish one day a portrait, one day a landscape, then a street shot, then cats or dogs… Not one is really good. Think about what you like and specialize you in this genre.
Zoom with your feet.
Learn from others, do not be shy and ask in the community for advice.
The last tip is specifically for aspiring street photographer. Pay attention to your look and don’t attract attention. We do not speak often of it but it’s very important. We cannot become invisible so we have to adjust our look to the surrounding street. Don’t dress flashy and don’t dress to funky. Just dress normally with neutral or dark colors. And wear good shoes so you can walk far and run fast.
Could you tell us the story behind a few of your favourite photo’s?
The Lost Soul
This is a very personal picture for me and I have long considered if I should publish it. I have known this guy for two years now. Every saturday when I go to the city to shoot, he sits at the same place and we talk to each other. Sometimes just minutes, sometimes up to an hour. He is neither an alcoholic nor a junky, just a man that the society has abandoned. He lost his job at a large insurance company due to austerity measures and must now beg for 10€ each day to survive and not to lose his apartment. This just makes me sad and angry.
Got To Find A Better Way
This is one of my personal favorites. The first thing I noticed when I saw her, was with what dignity she wears her age. Nothing to do with the sad, the miserable and pathetic of most of my street shots. Full of vitality, she looks just great, and for sure, a lot of young lady’s would love to be like her when their get old.
I took this one on the Cathedral Square in Cologne. I heard him before I saw him, a warm soulful sound. It would have been a crime not to try to capture the intensity of his being.
It’s Coming Down
When Jesus cry’s, oh yes he cries…. this is what I love about street photography. I took this one on a bus station and the woman studied the roadmap. With the right treatment and use of light it´s possible to tell a very different story and to awake emotions.
Insomnia And The Hole In The Universe
It is very important to know the characteristics of a city, what are the best places to photograph, when and how the sun shines… In this case I took the bus and I´m always seeking the seat with the most possibilities to shoot.
When this woman had sat down across from me, I knew this was a stroke of luck. She was totally bleary-eyed, could barely keep her eyes open and when, only to stare vacantly into space.