Tracey Renehan is a photographer who has been capturing peoples attention for some time now. She has been featured on several notable mobile photography websites including the Mobiography’s ‘Capturing the Moment’ showcase. Her style of mobile street photography features lone dark figures in shadowy settings as well as the quirky characters she meets along the way. I caught up with Tracey as I wanted to find out more about the photographer behind the viewfinder and her style and approach to street photography.
To begin with, could you tell me a bit about yourself?
I am an Australian and live in Stockholm, Sweden. My career has mostly been in IT. For the past few years, I have been working as a consultant managing software development or system integration projects. During bench time, I manage operations and marketing for a growing online business in the Telco industry. I am an amateur, mostly self-taught, photographer.
To date, I have been selected for weekly showcases on Mobiography, App Whisperer, AppWhisperer Streets Ahead and EyeEm challenges. Some of my images have been exhibited at the Press At Format Festival UK (2013) and at the Mobile Love Exhibition, Berlin (2012). iArtChronicles included my Street Photograpy tips and images earlier this year.
The focus of your work is street photography, it has a shoot from the hip feel, a strong sense that these are quick, momentary glimpses of life as you go about your day. Is this a conscious decision?
Until recently, I did shoot quickly and without much conscious thought. I mostly only shoot street when I travel. Shooting street photography is so much easier abroad, especially when you love meandering foreign streets trying to get a feel for the people and culture. My main goal has been to capture candid shots of people I find interesting, for whatever reason, on the street.
Some of my shots are shot from the hip, however I tend to shoot from chest level. It is comfortable, as I can steady the phone, keep it relatively straight and simultaneously have a “somewhat” feel for framing. Perfecting this is still very much a work-in-progress, though my ultimate goal is to have the courage to shoot with the phone more within my eye range.
To be honest, my focus is still very much in the experimental phase of finding out who I am as a photographer. Street Photography is high on my list, but I also have a love for shooting portraits, black and white, and composites.
Do you have a set approach to the way you shoot street photography?
My set approach is currently going through a radical change. I just recently finished Mobile Photo Workshop – Story Telling Street Photography workshop. When Anton Kawasaki & Sion Fullana welcomed me to their Street Photography workshop, they told me specifically to slow down and observe before shooting. I have slowed down and have walked away from shots I would have taken before because although I found someone interesting, I could not see a story. Going forward I will be working on shooting more selectively.
Are there any photographers that have influenced your work or have inspired you in some way?
There is no question that Anton and Sion have influenced and inspired me to be a better photographer. Both of them are very talented photographers. As it happened, Anton was one of the very first mobile photographers that caught my attention before I started shooting with an iPhone.
There are a countless number of mobile photographers and mobile artists that I admire and look up to. My eclectic taste allows for a large group of influences. For me it is very much how an image speaks to me and there are many photographers, with all levels of skills, who have inspired me to learn to create images that also speak to others.
How much emphasis do you put on post-production editing?
It depends entirely on the image. Sometimes I only edit in Snapseed. I love editing and also love the results achievable with apps. iColorama is a fantastic app, which I have recently started using. Another favourite is decim8, though it took a long time before I understood how to use it. I also favour Blender, FilterStorm, Photo FX & Noir (for light), ScratchCam, BlurFX and Pixlromatic.
What would be your top tips for anyone wanting to shoot street photography?
Ah, I still feel like I have a lot to learn, so it is not the easiest question to answer when I do not consider myself an expert. Here are some of the things I tell myself:
Be bold. This doesn’t mean to put the phone in someone’s face, but more not to stand metres away from the subject. Get close to create an intimacy with the subject. Sometimes I get too close, so it is also necessary to find a balance. One of the best tips I learnt for shooting close is to use a headset for triggering the camera shutter. Don’t forget to put the phone on silent.
Learn how to use a post-processing app, such as Snapseed. It’s possible to straighten lines, crop out unnecessary details, adjust light and contrast etc.
Learn about composition and light. There are numerous Blogs and youtube videos available for free learning if you do not have time or resources to take a course.
Be patient. It takes practice and it’s ok to make mistakes. Practice different perspectives. Think about light. Know how the camera app works. I have made a lot of mistakes with focus and exposure, especially now when there is so much light and I have become accustomed to shooting in low light.
Try to learn from mistakes. Obvious mistakes can be corrected. I sometimes struggle with knowing what is wrong with my photos. I can feel they are off, but can’t always pinpoint exactly what. Solicit honest constructive critique from someone who is not a friend or family. It takes courage, but a wonderful learning experience.
Finally, as I recently learned, observe before you shoot. Before shooting ask why you want to shoot a particular subject or scene.
Could you tell us the story behind a few of your favourite photo’s?
When I first spotted this guy in a shopping gallery, I instinctively knew I had to shoot him. I was carrying heavy groceries at the time and had trouble keeping up with him. I followed him out through the exit and spotted him half way up the stairs. I ran up after him and just as he approached the top, it became a “now or never” shot. I pressed the trigger. This story is more mine than that of the actual image, still I like the end result. It was edited in Snapseed and I applied the Vortron(Redux) filter in decim8.
She amongst the Shadows
This shot was taken at the Tate Museum in London. I spotted the girl on my way out of a light installation. At the time she was standing alone by the wall. A few minutes later when I returned to try to get a shot, a couple had joined her at the wall. I shot anyway and later used TouchRetouch HD to remove the couple leaving only their shadows. Shot with 6×6, cropped and edited in Snapseed, TouchRetouch HD & I may have used Noir to spotlight her face.
On a cold winter’s night, I came out of a restaurant and noticed steam spilling out of a central heating plant. It looked like mist, for which I have always had a fascination. Mist is mysterious, a little scary and extremely beautiful. My boyfriend wanted to look in a store, which gave me a perfect opportunity to wait for someone to walk by. I waited perhaps 15 minutes, when I was given three great image opportunities. This is one of them. It was shot with Hipstamatic, edited in Snapseed, ScratchCam and I may have used other apps until I felt I had that little scary atmospheric winter’s night I was aiming for. On the same night and location, I took “The Jogger” and “Steamy cold night”, which I am also very fond of.
The original portrait of my boyfriend is actually quite good and stands on its own. In the middle of the night last autumn, I was trying out FilterStorm and lost myself in it then suddenly I was looking at this image. I have a fascination with how people use masks to camouflage what they feel or hide something they do not like about themselves. The image is not perfect, but that doesn’t stop me from loving it. It also inspires me to continue to learn and eventually create art. Shot with Camera+, edited and converted to black and white in Snapseed and then FilterStorm.
Donning the Mask
This is made from two portraits. The cut-out feel of her mask emphasises the fact that there is a mask. I love taking portraits with the main intention of getting behind the subject’s mask. My goal isn’t to seek out flaws, I am more interested in capturing a more real side of my subject and getting beyond the learned photo-face. This image and ‘Face Off‘ is not saying anything about the subjects. Both images actually say more about me, the photographer and what I hope to achieve when I take portraits.
Where can people connect and follow you online?
Is there anything else you would like to share. Do you have any future plans for your photographic activities?
I am working on a collaborative project with a friend who is a creative writer. She has just finished her first novel and has also written a series of poems. We thought it would be both fun and interesting to compliment her poems with my images. The end result will be published somewhere on the Internet.
I have several series I would like to do. One is related to time and how it has a tendency to dictate our lives. Another series I would like to do is related to women and freedom, with emphasis on both internal and external influences. Unrelated to the latter series, I would also like to increase awareness of the effects of the sex slave trade. Ultimately, I would like to raise money to help rehabilitate rescued women and children and at the same time empower them. I am considering partnering with one of the rescue groups, then to put out a global call for mobile photographers to donate one image for auctioning. The proceeds of the auction would go to the rescue group(s).
Lastly, I am passionate about continuing to learn and improve my skills.
Andy, thank you for running this feature on Mobiography. I feel so honoured to be featured, by you, amongst the other selected talented mobile photographers.