The Stranger Who Came to Town


Quoting T.A. Uner, “The definition of a good story is one that remains with you long after you’ve turned the last page”. Cahilus is a man wrapped in mystery and it is unlikely you will ever forget this photographer or his stories. But who is he? Is he Inspector Jacques Clouseau, the corner grocer or, perhaps, the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz? I'm not sure we'll ever know. The few clues we are given are buried deep within a stunning collection of black and white street images. He is contradiction and he is compromise. He is a reciter of the human condition. He is the stranger who came to town.

Light is the essential component of a photo for me. Having said that, I believe that you also need to know the urban environment you are taking photos of. You need to know its streets, its walls, on which spots the sunlight hits during different moments of the day and in different seasons, where and when people gather in different corners of it, or the movement of tourists in the city. If you know these, you work is much easier. If not, you are relying on coincidence and luck." Cahilus

Kujaja: What is the most challenging part about being a photographer?
C: To be able to show something that is ordinary as if it were extraordinary.

Kujaja: What were the difficulties you first encountered shooting street photography?
C: Well that was really a long time ago. I think the awkwardness arising from the feeling that everyone around me was looking at me and that this forced me to hurry up was what irked me most.

Kujaja: Have you ever had formal training?
C: No.

Kujaja: Which photographers have influenced your thinking and photography?
C: All influence me: both those I like and those I dislike.

Kujaja: Who inspires you other than photographers?
C: I think the essential inspiration is the human “condition” or ways of being.

Kujaja: Is there any particular genre/style of photography you would like to learn about and try?
C: I would like to try out all styles if only I had time enough.

Kujaja: What are your photography must haves?
C: All circumstances and conditions are acceptable to me. The only determinant factor would be my mood.

Kujaja: Do you have a style that separates you from other photographers?
C: I have no style that I could call exclusively mine. However, my viewers might perhaps deduce one from my subject matter and technique (which I am afraid is far from perfect).

Kujaja: What do you want to say with your photographs?
C: I do not take photos to say something. What drives me is to make what I deem the ‘correct’ rendering of things that I like: a city corner, human action, a play of light, a geometric happenstance, people in front of a textured wall, etc. When I think they are good enough to share, I share them.

Kujaja: How does black and white vs. color play into your work?
C: I have a place for both in my work but I have to admit that black and white does have a more dramatic effect.

Kujaja: Do you think a photographer must have natural talent to become a great photographer?
C: No. I do not believe in natural talent for success in any subject. Everyone has some degree of talent in something. Some have the opportunities to bring it to the surface easier and for some, it never sees the light - even under auspicious circumstances. Being “great” requires a whole set of parameters (and I won’t go into what we mean by great!).

Kujaja: For you how important is content versus form in street photography. Do you think for you one plays a stronger role than the other?
C: I think that what is important is to awaken a need in the viewer to look and to continue to look. This can be achieved sometimes by content and sometimes by form. When both come together in harmony, then you have a gourmet dish of a photo!

Kujaja: When you are out shooting, how much of it is instinctual versus planned?
C: If I go out with the intention of taking photos, then almost all are planned. If not, most are instinctual. I always carry a camera (no exceptions!) so I can safely say that for me both are equally valid.

Kujaja: What do you think are some clichés in street photography you steer away from yourself?
C: None. I use all clichés.

Kujaja: What type of street images do you view as too common?
C: I do not dwell on this distinction. Nearly all photos contain some of these negative qualities if you dig into the details. Think of a frame that most people find magnificent, perfect or unique and then look at its details. It is possible to make a really awful photo of those details even under the same light conditions. Adversely, it is possible to transform, for example, a boring “cat photo” into one that will please the most demanding viewers.

Kujaja: What is your opinion regarding film vs. digital photography?
C: I have had access to and used both for many years. This “confrontation” imagined between the two is, in my opinion, a discussion for purists and I am not one. Both require work after the initial act of taking the photo, whether in a laboratory or on the computer. There is nothing natural about either of them. In any event, when taking photographs, what determines the quality of the outcome is the use of light and the work done by the eye/brain. The rest is just a question of means.

Kujaja: What are your photography weaknesses?
C: I get agitated easily and am rather obsessive.

Kujaja: What do you consider your greatest photographic accomplishment?
C: I have not participated in any competitions if that is the question. But I could say that I am happy to see when I surf the internet that, during the last fifteen years or so, some young photographers have taken my pictures as examples for their work. That is gratifying.

Kujaja: What advice can you offer for those who want to get into photography but maybe can’t afford equipment?
C: I would tell them that it is the eye that takes the photo not the machine.

Kujaja: What are some tips/advice you would give to yourself if you started street photography all over again?
C: Take less photos! Think about them and read more.

Kujaja: What is one question nobody has ever asked you—that you wish they asked you?
C: Why do you take photos?

Kujaja: Why do you?
C: Occupational therapy...

Kujaja: Thank you for this interview Cahilus.

Cahilus at World-Street Photography (click)