Local Talk - Q+A with New York Street Photographer Scot Surbeck

Scot, let's start with the evening you hung your photographs @ Local. I was anticipating perhaps an hour or so to place all of the images and then 4 hours in, you were almost done. Clearly, there's a highly complex process driving your craft. So two initial questions:

How do you approach each project so there's a comprehensive contextual experience? 

I study the exhibit space and how people move through it, the lighting (both natural and artificial), and the sound (ambient and music). I  envision the experience of entering and first seeing the pictures, and then moving  in for a closer look.  I then try to create an exhibit that has a strong emotional and visual presence and also enhances the space.

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How did you approach the project for Local including the masterful grid display system?

The large patina metal panels and high ceiling allowed me to create a show that is relatively dense with images  and includes large scale (20" x 30") pictures mounted high that can be easily seen because of their size.  By carefully and precisely arranging the photos, a grid was created which seems appropriate for pictures taken on the grid of streets in New York City.

You have a super intimate relationship with NYC which is evident from the manner in which you capture a variety of moments. NYC is arguably the capital of the world so no surprise in selecting this market but what specific elements draw you in?

 I always feel fully alive when I'm in New York City and I look for that energy in the people and situations around me.

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Of the current collection of images @ Local, which one brings you back for re-interpretation?

I can't say there's one that I keep coming back to. They are all equally interesting to me. 

At what age did you begin your craft and what was the initial driver for you to consider photography as a path?

I've loved photography all of my working life, most of which has been spent as an architect. There was no one moment when I became a street photographer. It happened gradually, then gathered steam. Now street photography defines and nurtures me, and gives me a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

Photography is an evolution, personal development as well as technology and equipment. Do you like where we are today and where photography is going or do you prefer a past time with arguably simpler option?

My learning curve as a photographer was greatly accelerated by the transformation from film to digital, and the development  of image processing software such as photoshop and light-room. It simply became much easier - and less expensive - to learn how to produce decent work. Technology doesn't produce fine art however. In order to do that, you're on your own.

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What's next on you journey? Is there a project that you are working on or working towards?

My journey is street photography. I want to get better, to keep evolving as an artist and a person.

What's your favorite coffee or tea beverage?

Black coffee, room for half and half, sweetened slightly by stevia.

More of Scot’s work here: https://www.scotsurbeck.com/index

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Local Talk - Q+A with Global Street Photographer Alan Holzman

What formal photography training, if any, have you had?

My parents gave me my first camera when I was 5 years old after I had my tonsils removed.  When I was in high school my dad and I built a darkroom in the cellar giving us a great opportunity to share the mutual passion of photography.   College, grad school and family had me place any serious photography on the back burner for many years.  About 5 years ago when I lost a job I really loved, in a school for emotionally disturbed kids, (I eventually earned a PhD in Clinical Social Work) I decided to turn back to photography.  Street photography helped me integrate my interest in connecting with people and and my love of making photos.  I feel I always develop a relationship with someone I photograph even it the connection only lasts a few seconds.

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I'm pretty much self taught.  I attend many lectures  on photography and have been involved in B & H's Event Space Portfolio Development program for several years.  This has helped me develop my skills considerably and also facilitated my acceptance into 3 group shows at Soho Photo Gallery in New York.  In addition, I've taken a few street photography workshops.

What camera/ cameras are your go-to for this particular discipline? 

I try to use film cameras as often as possible, however, I shoot with digital cameras as well.  My film cameras include a Yashica twin lens reflex, a Leica rangefinder and a Hasselblad.  Digitally I mostly use my Fujiflim x100t and my pocketable Ricoh GR II.

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There was a brief time when I was an aspiring photographer working on a studio in NYC and at the time, I recall the need to ‘get the shot’. Time, expense, film cost all contributed to this need. As film has moved to digital with time, expense and cost all but becoming a non-factor - are we better or worse for capturing that special shot?

I think "getting the shot" is more dependent upon the photographer than the gear.  Digital allows more flexibility and less cost no doubt, however, I find that film slows me down and forces me to pay more attention to subject matter.  I also enjoy the process of developing film.

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Images of people are very personal with the subject generally wanting to be viewed through a certain view. Who gets to decide on that view when you’re photographing someone?

When I photograph people on the street there is a combination of the subject's response and my timing.  Many of my street images, especially in India, are actually street portraits, where I ask a subject for permission and then they get to pose as they wish.  I often ask them not to smile but the rest is up to them.  I choose when to click the shutter.

We have galleries, museums and other venues like Local that aim to share artistic work with a public viewing audience. What is your favorite and/ or recommended channel for experiencing your work? 

I like seeing my images printed and hanging on a wall.  Physical images are very dear to me.  Whether in my home or a gallery or at Local, I much prefer a real, tangible photograph to a digital image on a screen.  With that said, I also find that sites like Instagram allow our work to reach a bigger audience.

What has been the most enlightening image you’ve ever captured - either at that moment of releasing the shutter or evaluating images afterwards?

I don't have one "most enlightening image."  However, photographs in which I've been able to capture emotion have the greatest impact on me.

What has been the most difficult shot to capture and why? 
You ask about the most difficult image I've ever captured. I don't have just one, but a few years ago I did a project in which I made street portraits of New York City police officers.  Initially, I was very intimidated.  Approaching  officers and asking them to pose was, at first,  quite stressful.  After some time I became more comfortable and had a really enjoyed talking with and photographing the officers of NYPD.

What do you hope comes of the public viewing your work?

I hope that people who come to Local and see my images are moved by the wonderful subjects that have become faces that I will forever remember.

What projects do you have coming up? 

Currently I'm working on a project about myself.  I'm scheduled for knee replacement surgery on January 30 and I'm attempting to document the entire process (not the surgery itself) from pre surgical visits to post surgical recovery.  

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What is your favorite coffee or tea beverage? 

Favorite coffee/tea:  I love a good cup of strong black coffee.  Also, Local makes a drink (I forget the name) with cayenne pepper that I really enjoy.  I'm also a big tea drinker.

ps. the drink is ‘Funktado’ :)

IG: @alanholzmanphoto

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