London Street photographer, Gagan Sadana, states, “One cannot be trained to be a street photographer. You surely need to have an eye for detail and finding something worth telling through a picture, even in the mundane day-to-day things.” Sadana lives his words. His street images are real, they are compelling… they are mirrors reflecting life in the streets of London. Gagan’s natural feel for great frames is surpassed only by his brilliant use of strong contrast. Mono has never looked better.
I am an IT consultant based in the UK. I started my photography journey 3 years ago after I picked up my first DSLR camera. I ventured into street photography inspired by Thomas Leuthard's work and since then have been passionately pursuing this genre. I am a member of the Street Photography London Collective, which is comprised of some of London's best contemporary street photographers as well as up-and-coming ones.Gagan Sadana
Kujaja: Describe your photographic style. How did you develop your style?
GS: My photographs usually have a single subject and strong contrast. My first year of street photography was spent learning what I really liked to shoot. With so many styles of street photography, trying on each different style was a learning process. At that time I was also developing my own style and trying to understanding how I could best show my way of viewing things. After a year of shooting and experimenting, I decided on predominantly black & white.
Kujaja: What is the most challenging part about being a photographer?
GS: For me it is keeping a fine balance between shooting a candid picture of someone, while not making the person uncomfortable with my camera. At the end of the day, I do street photography because I love it, but it should not be at the cost of annoying anyone.
Kujaja: Have you ever had formal training?
GS: I haven't had any formal training in photography but I think if one is starting new, attending a workshop definitely helps. I had an opportunity given by Amateur Photography magazine around two years ago, to attend a street photography workshop with Damien Demolder. That workshop was very helpful in laying a strong foundation. I was fortunate enough to win a street photography competition sponsored by Panasonic UK, which led to another workshop with Damien. But apart from those two workshops, like many street photographers, I am learning from my own experiences while on the street.
Kujaja: Is there any particular genre/style of photography you would like to learn about and try?
GS: I am determined to keep developing my eye for street photography. As for now, I don't think that I will move to a different genre, but I do hope to try various styles of street photography.
Kujaja: What are your photography weaknesses?
GS: Not being able to make the best of the available time to shoot more is something I find restricting my photography. My tendency is to mostly go out and shoot on a bright sunny day. I restrict myself from doing street photography on the overcast days. But if you think there is always something interesting happening out there at any given time, weather should not be the excuse. Also, regularly finding time for photography given my work and family commitments, is another thing I still need to work on.
Kujaja: What do you consider your greatest photographic accomplishment?
GS: None really so far. I am still learning, and the process of learning will continue throughout my journey as a photographer. But getting my work appreciated and recognized by others even in the simplest way, means a lot to me.
Kujaja: Do you think a photographer must have ‘natural talent’ to become a great photographer?
GS: In certain genres like street and documentary, yes. One cannot be trained to be a street photographer. You surely need to have an eye for detail and finding something worth telling through a picture, even in the mundane day-to-day things.
Kujaja: What is your opinion regarding film vs. digital photography?
GS: I have always shot digital, but the excitement expressed by some of the photographers that shoot film, makes me think about trying it. For me shooting film, will be more of an experiment rather than my preferred way to shoot.
Kujaja: Locations and weather conditions seem to be a crucial aspect to a successful picture. How do you handle these unpredictable factors?
GS: I always prefer to shoot on sunny days, as I quite like the strong contrast in my photographs. Being based in the UK, sunshine is a rare commodity, so I try to make the best use of the light. So on an overcast day, my preference is to look for candid closeup shots. Rainy days work well, with the rain creating some very unique scenes on the street. People are also usually in a hurry, and don't realize that they are being photographed.
Kujaja: How does black and white vs. color play into your work?
GS: I am very much inclined towards shooting in black and white. Colors are a little confusing for me, or shall I say, I find them rather difficult to manage. In my view, black and white photography helps in bringing out the emotions more vividly and helps to keep the focus solely on the story. Whereas, in color photography, I find the colors somewhat taking the attention away from the subject and distracting from the real emotion.
Kujaja: What type of images do you view as cliché, overdone, or too common?
GS:In my observation, each geographical place has certain common styles. For example, a very common subject photographed in India is of kids jumping into a river. I see it again and again. In a similar way, on this side of the world, the most common scene captured is people simply walking on the street. All too common. And hence the photographs that really stand out are the one where a street moment is captured to show a very unique story.
Kujaja: What were the difficulties you encountered first starting street photography?
GS: The very first difficulty I encountered, when I started, was identifying what to shoot whenever I was out on the street. I was more or less walking aimlessly, shooting more instead of observing first. Now I know what I am looking for, which makes it easy to observe the street more closely and only shooting when I think I have what I am looking for. The fear of shooting a candid photograph was another thing that always held me back. It's easy to ask for permission if that's what a photographer would like to capture. But I only do candid photography so I had to overcome that fear. There are still times when I hesitate to click a photograph, but I am sure that by spending more and more time doing street photography, I will overcome the hesitation.
Kujaja: When you are out shooting—how much of it is instinctual versus planned?
GS: Unless there is a project in my mind when I am out on the street, it's mostly instinctual. There are factors which might influence, like the weather on the day, or light, etc., but generally, I go out with an open mind.
Kujaja: What are some tips/advice you would give to yourself if you started street photography all over again?
GS: One simple piece of advice would be to walk slowly. As a street photographer, you should try and blend into the street scene. If I was going fast, and was to suddenly stop to capture a photograph, I will have people's attention. And that's not going to result in the best photographs.
Kujaja: What advice can you offer for those who want to get into photography but maybe can’t afford equipment?
GS: Choose a decent camera, and most of the cameras out there are very good. Go out, observe and shoot but don't be in a hurry to publish or share your work with all the people. Be strict with your editing, and do not let your excitement and emotion of doing street photography influence your selection of photographs. Only share your best work, even if it means that you only publish just one or two photographs in a month.
Kujaja: Thank you for this interview Gagan.