I’ve met Wojtek Kogut on a grey noon close to Warren Street. He was busy talking on his phone. I’ve easily recognised him but I remember how, in the first place, my eyes have stopped on a tattooed face of a guy that felt strangely familiar to me. And then I remember, it was a figure pretty similar to one in a portrait I’ve seen from him before. Wojtek is a Polish-born, London based photographer and if you’re a little bit into photography you will notice the strong influence of Leuthard and Cartier-Bresson in his work. He hosted our second workshop London in the eye of the traveller on 6th August 2016
Vanessa: Hey there! Before everything, I am curious how did you hear about Lobster and what made you become part of our community?
Wojtek: Hello and welcome. Firstly, I would like to thank Lobster for giving me this great opportunity to host the workshop and contribute to the 2nd event. How did I hear about Lobster? It was before my second photography exhibition and was looking around for people to invite to see my work and came across Lobster Media on the internet. Sent a message via Twitter and then it happened very quickly. Now I am contributing to Lobster’s second workshop. It is amazing, isn’t?
V: How was Wojtek before realising he’s really into photography?
W: I discovered my passion for photography after I moved to London. My two great friends Marta and Damian allowed me to play with their DSLRs and something clicked. Before then, I was visiting London over weekends, studying (I am a CIM qualified marketer) and socialising with people who turned out to be my best friends here.
V: Why your photography is black and white only?
W: Firstly, I take all my photographs in full colour and then post-edit into black and white. Why? As I do mainly Street Photography, I personally believe black and white colours make these photographs more dramatic, make them stronger, expose contrasts and get the viewer deeper into the scenes. We all know that the first photographs taken years ago were in black and white only.
V: What is your position regarding the photography for commercial purposes vs. the indie photography, passion-driven?
W: Everybody would like to make money out of their photography, me as well especially these days when everybody can capture photos using smartphones or tablets. I personally think (and I experienced that) that first you need to work on your style, shoot as much as you can, develop the network, advertise your work (via social media for example), do not be afraid to show off your work via exhibitions, for example, take part in the competitions etc and sooner or later paid work will come. Of course, we must not forget about the market where we operate as the competition is fierce but there is still room for others.
V: How did the Internet change the course of photography? Do you find it as a warmer place for growing then before it became popular?
W: When I started photographing, I even did not think that I would have a website, Instagram or Flickr account. It came naturally a few years ago (around 3). The explosion of Social Media allowed me to show my work to a wider audience, make connections/network of photographers, publishers etc. The power of the internet is enormous but it is on us, photographers how we use this medium into our favour.
V: What is the beauty in phone photography?
W: I hardly use my iPhone to take photos, to be honest. Sometimes where I spot something that I find “I wish I had my camera with me” or I simply do not have time to take the camera out and shoot, I use my phone. From one side I see Phone Photography as a threat to a real photography as the manufacturers add more and more photo capabilities to their products that one day nobody will use big, boxy Canons or Nikons. From the other, Phone photography is amazing and thanks to that many great shots were taken (even it happened to me) and ability to edit and share the images within seconds is even better. Really keen to see what the future brings in this area. For the time, I stay with my Canon.
V: They can easily be mingled, so what is the difference between street and travel photography?
W: Killer questions to be honest… I think everybody needs to find its own definition for that. In my opinion, Street Photography is mainly around streets, avenues, cities (big and small), candid moments that city life creates for us. Travel photography is around places that we visit, where there is more time to take photos, you can play with different approaches. In street photography, there is no time. You have to be quick, very quick and react immediately. Hope it makes sense
V: Is the street photographer a ninja with a camera? How’s this working, not to affect the moment and keep yourself invisible (and safe)?
W: I would say, the invisible as safe may distract people from trying this discipline…
Frankly, this is a very good comparison… from my own experience and what I have read, seen and been told about Street Photography (by Thomas Leuthard) you need to be somehow invisible, that said be natural, approachable, smiley but also very vigilant for everything is going on around you. And you must be quick, know your camera by heart, would never use flash in Street Photography. Also, the way I am dressed, very casual, natural, not standing out from the crowd. Never use telephone zooms to take photos in the streets… this is a very lazy approach in my opinion.
The approach I take is: before I set off to the location, I set up a challenge for myself e.g. candid moments, decisive moment. When I am on a location, I scroll around, look around what is going on, where I can find some nice textures, lines, shadows, contrast, where the people move from, where they come from / directions etc…
My camera is always ready: High Shutter Speed: around 1/1250, ISO auto, silent mode. I always try to observe the situations and try to imagine them in black and white. And then suddenly, the moment comes when I see more, notice something that maybe some don’t and magic happens…
V: What are the perks and perils of being a part-time photographer?
W: The perks stand in the photography itself… the ability to be creative, to photograph, to be out with your camera, to obtain the appreciation of your work from your colleagues, friends, the audience and all this should really motivate the photographer not to give up and carry on despite many obstacles. Perils can be different; would say, the competition. London is the place that is one of the most photographed places in the world but also gives us so many opportunities to capture this very one so I would focus more on that than obstacles.
V: Name three pictures as three defining moments in your artistic path and tell us a little bit about what makes these key points so special.
W: Lady with a cross (above, 1); This is one of my favourite photos which I took last October in Portsmouth, especially as it was taken with my camera on my belly. Despite the lady did not look at me, the scene is just amazing. Also, the composition is really good.
Woman of Alghero (above, 3); Candid photography of a woman of Alghero which I photographed during Easter Celebrations in 2015. The atmosphere around Good Friday was amazing and very inspiring. When I converted the photograph into black and white, the effect was even better.
Moroccan Man (below, 4); taken during my first photo workshop in Essaouira, Morocco in 2012. When I captured this man, I felt this is the type of photography I want to do. As you can see, this is the candid moment when the man was sorting out the wood pieces at his place. Ability to establish eye contact via viewfinder with him almost gave me goosebumps. The moment that I will never forget.
V: Name one thing that you could shoot over and over again and it’s magic still won’t vanish.
W: I personally like big events that attract crowds like London Pride or Chinese New Year which I photographed twice already. There are so many opportunities, everybody is open to being photographed and doesn’t mind the camera at all. Could do it again. And probably will next year.
V: What’re the little steps one has to take to transform its vision into photography?
W: I think, the passion, the persistence, openness and willingness to transform your passion into something more than just a hobby, to a profession that will bring your income but also fulfil your dreams.