TARAS BYCHKO TALKS TO LUKAS VASILIKOS

L.V. Please share your story with us, but not the one of the photographer but the story of the individual you really are.

T.B. My name is Taras Bychko. I'm 31 years old. I'm from Lviv (Ukraine), where I grew up and live now. I’m a lawyer by education. I have bought my first camera in 2012 after the birth of my son for taking pictures of my family's everyday life. Interestingly, in that time I wasn’t interested in photography and no one in my family was thrilled with it too. But as soon as I began to make the first shots I quickly realized that this would be something more for me than just a hobby.

What is photography to you and why do you feel the need to take pictures?

For me, photography is a language in which I want to show and tell about the life, that rages around. The photo makes me to improve and it launches a process of constant desire to look for something new in itself and in the environment. It's like a sort of staircase that leads above and has no end. In short, photography for me is an integral part of my life, where the need to photograph I can only compare with the need for food, for example.

Every day we come across a large number of street photos which are in essence a display of technique or which aim to impress the viewer, at best. In your view, what makes a good street photograph and therefore worth being noticed?

Good street photography is like a lottery prize: when it comes to the impression that you should be in this place and at this time, it is a peculiar gift of fate. But lucky are only those, who work hardly and are ready to react to the situation around. In my opinion, the most important thing for the photographer is the selfless love to the street photo which, as a result, gives rise to a desire to constantly develop and be hard-working.

When it comes to your own photography, to what degree is emotion definitive in giving shape to your personal vision? Do you feel that emotive images can direct the viewer?

For me, the "mood" of photography is very important. Probably on the same level or perhaps even more than the composition and the content of the image.

Color is a significant element in what you do, even in low light scenes. Is color something that can assist you in expressing your vision more than when you shoot in b/w?

For me, the "scene" itself dictates whether it will be color or b/w. So I don’t highlight something more or less. I like to move from one to the other.

Let’s move on to your City project. Is it, in fact, a documentary or is there something more specific you want to communicate through this body of work?

Project Sykhiv. My goal is to pause the time, in which we have now, and document it as it is: exciting and difficult. Everything around me is changing so quickly, that it became interesting for me to photograph those where I live, my district. And interestingly, people, who see these photos, began to associate them with their cities. Sikhiv is a sleeping area of Lviv, which is similar to the same areas in other cities, so people started recognize their homes in it. If we talk about it in a global context, then it's interesting for me to show, how Eastern Europe lives. I don’t create a sample: to photograph only the good or only bad, the principle of documentary photography - to show all that it is in real life.

Photos from your Family project have been awarded in a number of contests, which shows the power of this body of work. What made you turn your camera towards the familiar of family and away from the streets? Also, this work is accompanied by a number of drawings which progressively become more colorful and more articulate. What is the contribution of those drawings to your story-telling?

The first reason to shoot Family Album is (maybe like everyone) the desire to document the life of my family. I want to make photos, which would help my children to rememebr their childhood, how they looked and how they spent their time. The second reason is predetermined by a part of my work life: during few years I teach in different photo schools, where very often I hear the same question from my students: “What I can shoot when I don’t have enough time? Home and job take it all”. It generated my desire to start the project and to limit it physically within the walls of my flat. Also, it became for me, as photographer, a new challenge: what I can shoot in so everyday conditions? But the flat became peculiar decorations for all photos from this project. Children a lot of their time spend at home, so I have to watch and fix all things, which will be interesting and exciting for them. Regarding your question about drawing: these are my older son's drawings that will form part of the concept of the future book “2 rooms” I’m currently working on now.

It seems like your Home project serves as the link between the viewer and the photographer. How do you experience sharing intimate parts of yourself, which could be seen as a visual diary?

As I wrote, now for me photography is all that's going on around me. I'm shooting things, that matter to me, and appear that they’re interesting not only to me. It's very rewarding.

You are the founder of 380Collective. How do you see collectives today?

Collectives is a great opportunity to unite like-minded people and cover their forces in the development of favorite affair. When we were making the 380Collective, I would like to unite Ukrainian street photographers for popularizing street photography in Ukraine. This task I set to myself as one of the initiators of the Ukrainian street photography group. It seems to me that such associations help and work for the promotion of photos in general and the development of each participant.

Are there any projects you are currently working on? Tell us about your future plans.

There are many ideas waiting for their incarnation. But now it's most important to complete the started projects this year.

http://bychko.com/

https://www.instagram.com/tas0ma/

RAY POTES TALKS TO JOE AGUIRRE

Who are you?

My name is Ray Potes. I like to shoot photos and edit a magazine I founded called "Hamburger Eyes".

What was the trigger, or inspiration, that led to your taking up photography?

The science mixed with the creativity. The first time I saw a print develop in the darkroom was what hooked me. 
What do you hope to communicate or describe with your work?

That while we are all different, we are still the same. 

Has your relationship with photography changed over time, and if so how?

Yes, I am less worried if a photo is "good" or "bad" or if I will have a career or not. 

Select five of your photos and talk about how they came to be and how they reflect your working methods.

Photo 1 - Woman on 16th street. Most people I approach don't mind getting their photo taken. She said her name was, "So Much".

Photo 2 - Spiderman talking to young lady. Always fun to follow around someone in a costume.

Photo 3 - Squirrel. My neighborhood has squirrels everywhere. They run things.

Photo 4 - Hollywood Blvd. This is the vibe of that whole street.

Photo 5 - HR Giger alien made of masking tape. I love the movies.

Whats next for you and Hamburger Eyes? 

More of the same.

Where is The Continuing Story of Life on Earth headed?

Not sure, but we gotta stay shooting it. 

What are some books and zines that changed the game for you?

All of them. I really appreciate the effort that people put in to making something. 

Where can we see more from you?

raysreports.com

hamburgereyes.com

Give whoever is reading this, some unfiltered advice. I enjoy your writing on hamburgereyes.com and appreciate the shot in the arm you give. 

Normally, my advice is to just keep shooting. You're most likely not shooting enough. But now that I'm older, I would like to change it to "producing". Like keep producing more and more work. I'm talking about prints, books, zines, posters, websites, blogs, etc. It takes a while find the correct rhythm for yourself and you won't get it over night. Keep experimenting. I'm still trying to figure it out and I've been experimenting for decades. LOL.

DAVID GABERLE TALKS TO GUSTAVO MINAS

Hi David. To start with, please introduce yourself and tell us how photography
came into your life.

I am a photographer from Prague in the Czech Republic. I started off as a pure street photographer, and even now I spend most of my time shooting on the street. I studied anthropology, but rather than studying specific cultures, I am driven more by trying to understand human perception. I spent the first years learning photography while I traveled, but I've always been intrigued by photographers who see something special in their immediate, familiar surroundings. If I use the two of the most famous Czech photographers as an analogy, I would probably rather have the eyes and brain of Josef Sudek than Josef Koudelka.

The first time I was intrigued by a camera was when my older brother started shooting film when we were both teenagers. I read a book or two about how to set the camera up and whatnot, but I honestly never really thought of photography as something important in my life. That changed when I had a breakdown in 2011, left university in London and went back home to get myself together. It took a bit longer than expected, and in 2012, I started working as a bartender in a jazz club. I was still struggling with anxiety and hated the packed subway rides to work.
At a suggestion of a friend, I started to carry a camera with me to distract myself from the nervousness and to help me focus on something in particular rather than feel like I needed to perceive all the stimuli at once. It was a relief to have a small rectangle to look through. I definitely hid behind the camera; it was a shield to protect me, but it also felt empowering at the time. I thought to myself, “Shit, if the camera can do this in such a short period of time, what will it do over a lifetime?” Since then, I never stopped thinking about the abilities of the camera. It’s a research tool for me. I wanted to understand how I see and then be able to manipulate it. I still believe that it can reveal and shape your view of the world. There is honestly nothing sexier for me than seeing something new, and letting myself be transformed by it.

Many street photographers really enjoy the chaos and crowds of big cities, but in
your case it seems to be the other way round: you used photography to retake
control over the alienating and dehumanizing experience of living in a huge city like
London. How has photography helped you in dealing with this?

For example, when I arrived to Tokyo for the first time in 2014, I thought I had my big cities handled by then, but it was still really overwhelming. All the shit came back, the anxiety of not being ok, of not perceiving my surroundings healthily like a “normal” person would.

As most therapists will tell you, the most effective way to overcome a particular fear is to go through it and realize it doesn’t really kill you. So I just kept going to the busiest areas, and I would get familiar with the place from what felt like a relatively safe viewpoint - from behind the camera - until I just didn’t care about the busyness anymore. I am a curious person and have a need to share what I discover, so making a book about large cities seemed like a natural outcome of what I was doing.

The thing was, I felt like my brain became dysfunctional at the age of 21. Until then, it was the thing I was most proud of - I was a quick thinker, very confident, and felt like whatever difficulties life threw at me, I would be able to overcome it because I felt smart and was hard-working. That changed, and it made me feel like I had nothing to be proud of, because I couldn’t handle stress, I couldn’t focus, and I became a fearful person. I couldn’t really work properly. So when I discovered my eyes and brain work well when I don’t analyze things, and just react instinctively, I decided to dedicate myself to it completely. It’s a very different way of working than we are mostly expected to operate in in today’s society, and it felt healthy. It gave me a purpose and hope for the future.

How did the idea/concept of your project Metropolight come about?

I remember that, as a teenager, I quite liked cities. I thought Prague (1.3 million people) was too small, and I wanted to move to a bigger place. I also knew that cities are the pinnacle of society - culture is turned up to the max and all its citizens go through a heavy-handed socializing process. It always felt like there was something sinister about the whole concept of cities, but it kind of attracted me. After living and studying in London, and noticing the pressures of a larger city, it became a bit clearer to me what a place like this can do to the human psyche. It’s intriguing and worrying at the same time. We are all more alone; we perceive the social inequalities as more pronounced there, and it creates a whole lot of pressure that I was quite sensitive to. It’s a bit like what they say about New York - it makes you or breaks you. And London broke me. I kept coming back, though. I eventually finished my degree and might actually move there again next year.
While at university, I was reading an amazing essay from a philosopher and sociologist Georg Simmel, called “The Metropolis and Mental Life”, and it resonated with me so much. I remember reading it and jumping out of the chair in joy that somebody captured it so precisely. It gave words to what I was feeling at the time, and became the backbone of the book’s structure. It made me think of the solitude in cities, and its effects, and how it also spurs new creative directions. Also, coming from a family of builders and architects, it was natural for me to perceive the effects of the postmodern architecture in cities, and I wanted to emphasize that as well. It took me a while to sequence the book for those things to come through, but even when I look back at it now, it still seems to work for me. When I gave the book to my psychologist, he said that it was a challenge to go through in some way. I think if you’re sensitive, it should be a bit disruptive, in a “what the fuck are we living in” sort of way. At the moment, I’m happy to be in Prague. In the future, I hope to find more comfort in nature.

For two years, you traveled to many metropolises for the making of your project. What was your working method during these trips? Did you have specific places in mind to visit beforehand, or were you just exploring the city and being led by its flow? What was the most challenging aspect of the whole process?

I actually shot the book in eight months, with a few pictures from previous trips included. I woke up, worked on a computer for a while, or just read/studied something, then had a big lunch to knock me out for a nap, woke up, exercised, had a coffee and then went out to shoot in the afternoon. That was the daily routine. I couchsurfed the whole way through, so a lot of the places I explored were defined by where I was staying, but often I would head in the direction of business districts and such. I knew how to shoot there; it’s easier because of all the reflected light, and the mood resonated with me somehow. When I was choosing the cities, I searched for the most “metropolitan” cities…there are definitions and criteria for that (like population, foreigninvestment, different nationalities, etc.). I adjusted it a tiny bit by going to Seoul instead of Beijing as I already had Shanghai in China. Then I looked for the sunniest months to visit those places and tried to make an eight-month trip out of it. I have a tendency to be very structured in some ways, but try to keep the shooting very loose when it comes to it, so that I can react to whatever I find interesting at the time.

The most challenging was definitely creating the Kickstarter campaign for the book, andthen doing all of the stuff like packaging the books, taking them to the post office, etc. I had a bad experience with my publisher, and somehow the books that got printed had paper dust in them. The first hundred of the books I sent had this issue, because I didn’t realize it, but when I did, I put on some gloves, took a cloth, unpacked and cleaned the remaining 700 books I sold, page by page. It was an ordeal... I smoked a lot of pot during the two weeks that I was doing that.

Lately you photograpjed in your hometown, Prague. Tell us a bit about this project
and how different it was shooting in a familiar city in comparison to unknown
metropolis.

The project was commissioned by the Institute of Urban Planning in Prague after they saw Metropolight. It was a dream job. I was shooting my hometown for six months and got paid for it. The thing was, I hated shooting in my own city for long periods of time, because after a while I would get depressed that I don’t see anything interesting. I thought it was an opportunity to learn how to see something even in the more basic and mundane things, and it was painful but I broke, or smoked, through it eventually. 2017 was a weed year for me, I was probably burning 3-4 grams a day. I smoke from time to time now; you can’t really do it daily when you need to do things that don’t revolve around creativity. And I started running out of money this year, so it was time to be a bit more responsible again.

It all ended up in a huge exhibition in Prague; I don’t think I will get such space again in the next 10 years. Some of the photos were printed on the wall, and then there was a 25-meter long walk with an 8K projector, so some of the photos got projected. We also took the textual signs and various visual debris you see in the city, and printed it out and stuck it onto the floor. Prague’s a mess visually; there are a lot of advertisements everywhere, and I wanted to bring some attention to it. Since my photos tend to be quite clean, I thought showing the audience all the shit I had to avoid would emphasize how much visual pollution we live in.

In a previous conversation you mentioned you were now trying to reinvent
yourself photographically. How is this going? Any plans for new projects?

When I was shooting in Prague, something new happened. I started to focus and enjoy the emotional charge of shapes and colors. I lost a bit of interest in people. So I guess now I am shooting a lot more unpeopled photos. But I like the human presence in my pictures as well, so I go out with a friend once a week and shoot her in different places. It’s partially constructed and partially improvised, but it allows me to try and work with new things. I haven’t really processed these images into a coherent series yet, so you can only see them on my Instagram at this point. Sometimes I have really wild and vivid dreams, and feel like there is some untapped imagination there, so I am slowly trying to bring it out through the pictures. I can really relate to some surrealist and magical realism paintings, so I suppose I am exploring where my own brain can take me. I am hoping it will all fall into place (and a book) eventually. Sometimes, when I scroll through Instagram and see all the things people do around the world, it’s really humbling and makes me question why I even bother with all this, but then I systematically remind myself I am doing it to satisfy my own curiosity and to learn something. It’s also a bit like eating; I have to do it to stay alive.

You can view more of David’s work here and here.