Photographer Spotlight: Yanidel

Yanidel is a passionate street photographer from Paris who considers himself as part of the Humanist tradition. He strives for capturing little facts of people’s daily by giving a surrealist and lyric dimension to his photographs. Recently he quit his job in marketing to go discover the world accompanied by his girlfriend.

1. How did your involvement in street photography begin? Was is a style that you’ve always been fascinated with or was it a simple byproduct of experimentation where photographers tend to typically capture everything until we eventually recognize what we like most?

My involvement in Street Photography began with our move to Paris about 6 years ago. I wasn’t actually interested in any kind of photography before, though I always liked to include strangers in my holiday snapshots. Paris is traditionally of the main spots of street photography and therefore you get exposed to this discipline a lot more, be it through museum, exhibits or fairs. I started then to investigate the topic a bit more and took my first shots during long walks in the city. I was bit by the bug and soon bought my first rangefinder, an Epson R-D1. Since then, it hardly ever leave home without a camera.

2. Not only am I very fond of street photography but I’m equally enthusiastic about traveling and I think I can speak for most photographers when I say that we’re quite envious of you because you’ve managed to pursue both in this 80 Weeks Around the World adventure you’re currently on. Tell us a bit about this and how has this experience altered you as a photographer? For people who’ve daydreamed about embarking on something similar, what advice do you have for them from a financial standpoint?

Since most of my experience as a street photographer was built in Paris, I must admit that it has not been that easy to adjust to other countries and conciliate street and travel photography. I find that travel photography is before all documentary, it tells about people and places in sequence and as realistically as possible. On the opposite, street photography is usually purely random, wherever you are, there is no plot, no story connecting the pictures. I therefore struggled early on to keep my street photography routine but at the same time give a feel to my viewers of the places we visited in a cohesive manner.

I am still trying to find the good balance between street, travel and my personal vision but hopefully I’ll get there by the end of the trip. As for the financial aspect of the trip, let’s say that any people living in the Western world can do it. It probably means you’ll have to spend all you savings, sell a car, a house and accept the fact that there are no guarantees when you come back. I personally prefer to gather memories and pictures of the world than bricks and mortar.

3. I love how you said that “for street photography, any camera will perfectly suit as long as you master it.” I know that you shoot with the venerated Leica M9. Had did you become a Leica shooter and if Leica failed to exist today, what camera would you be using for your remarkable street work?

Photo gear of Yanidel

Actually I left the Leica M9 at home and went on the trip with my old Leica M8. I guess this proves further the quote you mentioned above. More seriously, cameras do matter as you can’t expect the same reactivity or image quality from a point and shoot compared to a pro DSLR (or rangefinder in my case). Yet, your personal vision of the world and the way you portray it through a shooting style is what matters most. For that reason, whatever the tool you use, it must not get in the way of your vision therefore the need to fully master it.

4. They often say that if a person makes something look easy, it’s because they’re simply that good at what they do. What would you say is the most challenging aspect of the type of work you do?

In general terms, I think the most difficult in street photography is not to try to do everything. I have got many photography books at home and admire the works of many great street photographers. Some are good at wide angles, others at creating lyric atmospheres and some at getting very close to people. To each its own, and though it might be tempting to do a little bit of everything, I think it is more rewarding to find and develop one’s own style.

Technique wise and more specific to my photography, I like to achieve very thin planes in focus meaning that backgrounds will often be blurred. It is very challenging to achieve it consistently as scenes hardly ever unfold the way you expect it. A slight mis-judgement and your main subject will be off focus which can result very frustrating when you lost a great shot. It is nevertheless part of my style and I have to accept the failure rate associated with it.

5. Do you think that the more a photographers shoots, the more difficult it may become for them to select one photograph that stands above the rest or should they all automatically have some personally meaning since they chose to capture it in the first place? Speaking of which, share with us 1 of your most favored photos and the backstory behind it.

Proudest photograph of Yanidel

That is a difficult question and I think there not one clear answer on it. Indeed a picture can stand out for various reasons; - what it took to get it, - your personal experience around it, - the subject and scene itself, - graphic and aesthetics criteria. I guess that the photographers itself would choose a picture that would be the paramount of all these criterias. Unluckily, the viewer only can relate to what he sees, often generating a bias between the photographer’s experience of the picture and the final result.

One photographer’s favorite can therefore be completely misunderstood by the viewers. Add to that my favorites tend to change with time and I find it very difficult to find one. But to cut short, this shot taken in Madrid is probably one of my favorite since I started the trip. It represents what I try to achieve in my photography, that is a mix of humanism, lyricism and humour in an aesthatical way.

To read up more on other photographers in the Spotlight Series, check out the dedicated page.