Interview with Rui Palha
#1 Please introduce yourself
I don’t have many things to “talk” about me, I am a very low profile man as a street photographer should be, in my humble opinion. Here is a little text I usually send to people who want to know more about myself:
Born in April 1953, Portugal. Living in Lisbon.
Photography is a hobby since the 14 years of age, with great interruptions up to 2001, since then almost all the time is devoted to street photography.
This sentence defines my way to be in photography:
“Photography is a very important part of my space… it is to discover, it is to capture giving flow to what the heart feels and sees in a certain moment, it is being in the street, trying, knowing, learning and,
essentially, practicing the freedom of being, of living, of thinking…”
#2 How did you get interested in photography?
As I wrote before photography is a hobby since I was 14 years of age. I had my own darkroom, but to be honest, what I liked most was to press the shutter in the streets. It was an amazing experience. I was always mesmerized by the movement of people, their expressions, reactions. Trying to capture all that was a fantastic challenge and a way to learn about the world I live in.
In the “photographic world” I live in, people and their uniqueness are the most important elements of my photographs.
#3 Which artist/photographer inspired your art?
Henri Cartier Bresson, Elliot Erwitt, Doisneau and Willy Ronis among others, are my “inspiration.” You learn a lot just by looking at their work.
#4 How much preparation do you put into taking a photograph? Are you planning every step or is it always spontaneous?
90% of times it is spontaneous, it’s impossible to “stage” the moments in the streets.
Sometimes I have the image in my head even before I find the place where I can set the stage for what I visualize. If I find such a place by chance, I feel I am lucky. Sometimes, a specific setting awakens my senses and I feel the need to explore the options I have there.
#5 What fascinates you in places that you shoot?
I like low light conditions, rainy days and problematic places. First of all I like People, real People.
Usually I walk on foot about 10, 15 to 20 kms a day… walking, talking with anonymous people, photographing what I can and what I feel. Sometimes it’s easy others don’t.
Many times I repeat the route, it is always different in spite of being the same…the people is always changing as well as the situations. My type of photography it’s a task a little bit solitary , but I feel always accompanied by the world that surrounds me.
I try to show myself the little scenes of the streets in which the people and the typically southern urban environment built by people form a perfect unity. Cobbles, walls made of stone, graffities, children playing carelessly, thinking adults. In my photographs all people are unique and the most important part of my photographs, and I try to gain an insight into their feelings, thoughts with the help of their gestures, motions…
#6 Could you please tell us something about your technique and creating process?
I am not an expert in post processing. I use, in a very basic way, PaintShopPro 8 and I only use direct conversion to grayscale, levels, contrast, dodge&burn (as in the traditional darkroom) and unsharp mask.
Sometimes I play with an interesting plug-in that simulates a traditional darkroom (B/W Styler) and where you can simulate the type of film, grain, paper, etc…
Usually I spend 2 or 3 minutes post processing a photograph.
If the photo is good in the capture moment you don’t need to spend lots of time trying to save it.
99% of my photos are “no crop”. What people can see that’s what I saw in the capture moment. I don’t like to crop my photos. It is a matter of discipline and it’s a way to learn how to compose very fast in the shoot moment.
#7 We can see your photographs mostly in black and white, why have you chosen to present them in this form?
Although I’ve used color sometimes, in the past, I prefer black and white. There’s a concept, “no color, no lie,” that I, somehow, agree with. If you look at a black and white picture and feel that the image “tells” you a story without any distracting elements, then it is a good picture. Sometimes a color photo only has appeal because the combination of tones is nice and coherent.
Still, I do like color photography. There are great photojournalists using it wisely. But I do prefer black and white. As someone wrote, and I agree completely, “if color is used you show the color of the garments; if black and white is used you show the ‘color’ of the soul.”
#8 What do you do in your life besides photography?
I am retired now from my main job, so all my life, now, is dedicated to Street Photography, family and friends
#9 What future plans do you have? What projects would you like to accomplish?
I don’t have any goal to achieve with my photography, except my own pleasure and a sociological interest. As you know I am an amateur and I will have this status until the end of my life. It’s the only way to do what I want and not what the others want I do. Everybody has to be (and feel) free to create, to reflect what is inside themselves. I have always a sociological interest on my street “work”, of course.
I am involved in some social projects in problematic neighbourhoods of Lisbon. I always look for real People and I learn a lot everyday with the anonymous people in the streets.
Rui Palha Official Website: