German street photographer Christopher Reuter is a right hemisphere junkie, so it was only a matter of time before he picked up a camera. Unlike the average street photographer, Reuter, a singer, writer, artist, and Urbane Dance choreographer, brings something completely different to the street genre. He has a sense of the rhythm and the shapes of the street that allow him to choreograph his frames in a way that is relatively uncommon in street photography. Through this choreography, he has produced a magazine worthy collection of what I'd call, Beaux Street Art.
I have been working as an Artist since the age of 13. I was raised in a small village of about 1000 people. As a kid, I drew all day long, including at school. There was really nothing but art that’s held my attention in all the ways that it has; like dancing, singing and writing. I have been a professional choreographer in Urban Dance for the last 11 years and I never thought there’d be anything that would compare to dance until I made my first pictures. Today, photography is the most incredible way to express myself. The feelings I have, how I see my surroundings and, of course, capturing true emotions forever. This is why I love the streets. No faking. No playing. Street is the real deal."Christopher Reuter
Kujaja: What is the most challenging part about being a photographer?
CR: For me as a photographer, it’s kind of hard to focus on only one thing. When I am on the street taking pictures, I am often distracted by many different things. I often have to tell myself that I can’t do it all at the same time. Another challenging part is to get shots that differ from others. I don’t like taking images I have seen a thousand times before.
Kujaja: Do you think a photographer must have ‘natural talent’ to become a great photographer?
CR: There are many things you can learn, at least how to get along with your camera. But I think there has to be a talent inside yourself to make good pictures. As you know it’s not the camera but the human behind it that makes the photograph. So I would say, yes.
Kujaja: Which photographers have influenced your thinking, photography, and career path?
CR: Of course I like the Newton, Bresson kind of images and style, but less influence works better for me. I think it is important to have a more open mind about everything.
Kujaja: Who inspires you other than photographers (artists, writers, music, architects, and philosophers)?
CR: All art inspires me. I listen to all styles of music. It could be Heavy Metal one day and a slow, cheesy romantic song the next. It all depends on the situation. But what inspires me the most is how humans act, what they talk about, how they think, and what is important in life. It’s just amazing.
Kujaja: How do you choose the places where you shoot?
CR: I like to shoot in areas with low tourism. The place has to be romantic and charming to me. I often don’t see that in popular tourist spots.
Kujaja: When you are out shooting, how much of it is instinctual versus planned?
CR: I think 95% instinctual, 5% planned. However, planned can also mean waiting for a person to step into the frame.
Kujaja: Do you think gear really matters when trying to make that great picture?
CR: Yes and No. Yes, when I think of autofocus and all that stuff, then gear matters. No, because there are always situations that you can turn into a great photo even with an iPhone.
Kujaja: What are your photography ‘must haves’?
CR: Always have your camera with you and one good quality lens is enough.
Kujaja: Locations and weather conditions seem to be a crucial aspect to a successful picture. How do you handle these unpredictable factors?
CR: Oh wow, this is good question because it gives me the chance to bitch about my hometown in Germany. Let me tell you, the weather here is more than horrible! You can’t ever plan to do a shoot outside. I feel like we have 300 days of rain in a year. I hate it! I am a sunny guy you know. But I want to learn of course. I bought myself a massive white umbrella, especially for rainy street photography days, so I think I will wait for the next heavy rain and go outside on the streets to make some heavy photography.
Kujaja: What type of images do you view as overdone, or too common?
CR: The homeless man/woman on the street.
Kujaja: Is there any particular genre/style of photography you would like to learn about and try?
CR: I think I tried out almost every genre of photography there is. My first paid jobs where product and still life shots. Later I also had to do architecture photos for different companies. Macro photography is fantastic so I think I might choose that, but when I do stuff, I do it a hundred percent. That means I have to spend lots of money on new equipment. Maybe one day, but not now.
Kujaja: What is your opinion regarding film vs. digital photography?
CR: I feel lucky that we have digital photography. Of course it’s nostalgic to shoot film, but I'd rather embrace our generation. Thumbs up to the ‘Old Masters’ of photography anyway. It had to be hard work for them to shoot film. They did not have the possibilities that we have today. But I don’t agree with people who tell me that shooting film is the only authentic or ‘real’ way to shoot street photography.
Kujaja: How does black and white vs. color play into your work?
CR: It depends on the situation and the pictures I take. I always shoot in RAW and JPEG with a monochrome presetting. I like to see the preview in black and white on my screen when I am outside. Later on my computer and I decide if I leave it in B&W or switch it to color. When I take a picture of a guy or girl wearing a blue shirt in front of a yellow wall, I will keep the picture in color, but most of the time I shoot in black and white.
Kujaja: RAW or JPG and why?
CR: Both! Because we have SD cards that can handle it and I also like to model my pictures in my own way.
Kujaja: Many photographers feel that we're all inundated with images thanks to the web in general. Have you seen a change in the way people interact with your photos because of that?
CR: Yeah. I mean if I take a look at the web I feel inundated by almost everything, not only images. Today everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, has a cellphone, camera etc. I think we just have to deal with it. But what I am not dealing with is that everyone is considered a photographer, just for uploading bad images that no one cares about.
Kujaja: How has social media played a role in your photography?
CR: Not so much. I have Facebook and my own Webpage. And even on Facebook I am not spending more than 2 minutes a day. Why? Because I am busy being a photographer.
Kujaja: What do you consider your greatest photographic accomplishment?
CR: I have never won a prize with my photos. Before I got to Kujaja I didn’t even take part in competitions. For me, the greatest accomplishment would be having the talent to see what many people are not able to see. So let’s celebrate this one!
Kujaja: What are your photography weaknesses?
CR: I don’t know if this is a weakness, but sometimes it feels like it is. I always want things to be perfect and this can be very hard sometimes. I mean it helps to get the most out of myself, but often it is only BLACK or WHITE and nothing in between.
Kujaja: What are some tips/advice you would give to yourself if you started street photography all over again?
CR: Some advice would be: Don’t rush, wait! I sometimes have situations where I wish I would have taken more time to enjoy the moment and wait for the better result.
Kujaja: Finally, what is one question no one has ever asked you that you wish they had asked you?
CR: What is the difference between the country you live and other countries when it comes to Street Photography?
Kujaja: Is there a difference Chris?
CR: I can’t say that I’ve traveled the whole world yet, but one thing I can tell you, there is a huge difference between the city/country that I live in compared to the others that I’ve been to so far. Remember, this is only my opinion, based on my experiences. Every city is different because the people living there paint the picture… their picture. So if the city is stressed out, if it is paranoid and filled with hateful painters, the image they paint will not be beautiful. I think you can feel where I want to go with this.
I always like to talk about my experiences in the beautiful city of Lisbon in Portugal. On my first visit there, I could feel the good vibes and it was all very charming. No one got angry when I took their photograph, and I was getting close, believe me! So I got the feeling that almost everyone was quite relaxed with their own life. I could also see this when we were out at night. There were people of all different ages, dancing and partying together on the street. There was an old couple dancing next to a mother and her baby and many young boys and girls having a ball. It was amazing and no one calls the police when the party goes longer than midnight. This city never sleeps.
I use these experiences to measure Germany. We have some wonderful architecture here and for someone being here for the first time, it can be very interesting to see how ‘perfect’ people can live in the ‘system’. But for me it is all too clean and straight. It seems that many people are working at staying in that lane with no attempts to break out of that ‘normal’. Things can even get ugly at times. People attacked me 3 times now only for taking their photograph. Sometimes they are so aggressive that I can’t even ask what the problem is, so I have to decide for myself what it is.
It seems to me that many of the people living here are not satisfied with their life even though we all have a high standard of living. No one has to suffer from hunger. We have great healthcare and everyone has a roof over their head. Not every country has this privilege. And when you live here you can see this in the faces of the people. Of course, most of the people are friendly, living their life. But for me as a street photographer, I don’t like to feel pressure when I want to go out and take some pictures in the street. It’s always a little thrill to go out and take pictures of strangers, but it should be fun also. This is why I like to travel in other cities like Marrakech, Istanbul, Lisbon, London and Paris. I’ve never had a bad experiences in other countries so far and I hope it stays that way.
Kujaja: Thank you for this interview Chris.