Interview with Harry Wakefield
With us today is Harry J. Wakefield a talented London based street photographer. Harry’s work is fairly new to me since joining Tumblr but has become a daily favorite. Thank you Harry for giving us some time and some insight into your work today.
Harry, how did your passion for street photography get started ?
It started late last year whilst I was working for a Mexican NGO. At university I majored in Political Science, and the idea at the time was to demonstrate Althusser’s theory of subjectivity by photographing the native Mexicans in their own environment in the hope of revealing their unique, nascent self. After a couple of months I decided to wrap up that little project as I was convinced that my original assumption didn’t require any more exploration; many might disagree, but for me photography really does have the potential of transforming the individual into a subject. Anyway, I enjoyed it so much at the time that I found myself writing much less, and instead of applying certain theories to certain contexts I began to think purely in terms of photography - and I guess that is when I began taking street photography more seriously.
In your eyes, what makes a good photo?
Personally, there’s a gut feeling I get when I see photograph that I like. I can’t really describe it, but it is often accompanied by leaning forward for a closer inspection. What I will say is that the majority of photographs I believe are ‘good’ are those that capture a moment, or perhaps a person in their element - as opposed to those that appear technically perfect, yet say little. My two favorite photographers are Jack Delano and Marianne Breslauer solely because their portraiture provides exactly that, a feel for the surroundings and the times, whilst showcasing their own individual style. Also, a little bit of imperfection does go a long way in a photograph, and that is why fashion and studio photography do not often get me leaning forward.
Do you believe in the expression “A picture is worth 1,000 words“ ?
It’s a great saying, but for me it depends on the picture. I don’t want to take the expression too literally, but I for one have taken photographs that are worth about three words - ‘Dog on Road’ or ‘Boy with ball’ for instance - but I do believe in the expression in that art and photography both have this intrinsic potential to communicate without the need for written explanation. If you look at any of Edward Hopper’s paintings you a presented with scenes that if written would amount to thousands of words of descriptive and emotional analysis. Photography is capable of the same, and I think that is what the majority of photographers, street or not, are trying to accomplish. I imagine almost every street shot that pops up on tumblr (or any other site) has significance for he or she that took it, but what they would really like is for others to read into it themselves. I guess it ties in with the question above - good photographs are those that need no explanation, but allow for interpretation.
What kind of gear is in your bag when you are shooting?
I carry around a Zenit E - but the thing has a mind of its own, and it will soon find its way to Brick Lane Market if it doesn’t start behaving itself. I also have an old Nikon SLR with a few borrowed lenses, his name is Ernesto.
What is the funniest or scariest story you can share from a shoot?
Most of what has been terrifying for me has been hilarious for those I was around with at the time. I almost plummeted to my death trying to take landscapes of Zacatecas from the mountainside, a rock gave way and my friend Alejandro grabbed me in time. In Aguascalientes I was cornered by a pack of wild dogs and had to throw bread rolls into the distance in order to earn my freedom, later on that afternoon a local farmer tricked me into looking inside a small shed that turned out to be a breeding ground for Black Widows. That wasn’t very pleasant. Yet, I fear the worst is yet to come as i’m heading out to Brazil in a couple days and I think i’m just about reckless enough to wonder into the favelas.