A very inspiring street photographer from India. Manu’s idea of photography is very simple and personal. In his words “Photography is way of escape, a place where I find peace. I do it because I love doing it. It makes me happy. It is completely personal.”
Let us get to listen more from Manu himself about his photography and his various thoughts towards this genre.
A short Introduction about yourself?
My name is Manu Thomas. I’ve been taking pictures since 2007, mostly during weekends.
What makes Street Photography so special for you?
Photography is way of escape, a place where I find peace. I do it because I love doing it. It makes me happy. It is completely personal. The reason for me doing “street photography” is probably because it is very accessible and not expensive, other than for the time involved. I shoot anything that interests me, dynamic or static. The spontaneity of street-like spaces (“street” in street photography doesn’t have a literal meaning ) makes it very exciting. Possibilities are endless, even with the same backdrop. Also, often the pictures you take can tell a lot about yourself. You take a picture because you connect with what you see at an emotional level.
Decisive moments seem to be major ingredient in your captures. Few words on it?
Every photograph worth taking is taken at a ‘Decisive moment’, or so we believe when we press the shutter. If there is an ‘absolute decisive moment’, a moment where a scene reaches its maximum potential, I think it is very hard to perceive, if not impossible, unless you know exactly what picture you want.
I rarely visualize a picture beforehand. Usually if I notice that there is a bunch of interesting visual elements, I hang around and see how they develop with time. It is really hard to know what is the decisive moment in such situations. When I press the shutter all I feel is “there is something, some how X is related to Y and Z”, but I don’t know consciously what it is. When things arrange themselves for a short duration, it taps into your subconscious, triggers memories, fictional stories, emotions etc. In my opinion, such situations make better pictures, pictures you haven’t seen/taken before. Problem I see with pre-visualizing is, you know what you want a bit too much, usually ending up with obvious pictures and repetitions. There are people making good pictures based on pre-visualizing, based on conceptual ideas and such. It just doesn’t work well for me usually. I usually discover my pictures in editing. It is a wonderful feeling to find a picture while editing, to know why you took a picture. Sometimes I wonder if I even mean to take that or was it just plain luck, which I will never know : ) Editing is tough. There are shots which I absolutely loved but lost interest in over time and there are ‘failed shots’ which grew on me gradually.
So the way I work is, take a picture whenever I feel the balance and there isn’t anything obstructing the balance and I feel good ( good, better, best whatever it is, click, click, click without being consciously aware ) about the frame and move on to the next picture until I feel that the scene is fading away and discover the ‘decisive moment’ later.
Few words about your Mumbai and Kerala sets?
Mumbai is where I started photography in 2007. The city is extremely chaotic. I have a strong preference for negative spaces in my pictures, which is hard to come by in Mumbai. I am still clueless about how to convert all the clutter into meaningful photographs. Seasides and relatively quieter suburbs are a great relief.
Kerala is my home-state. I’ve been taking pictures there since 2012. I have strong emotional connection and much more familiarity with the place.
What does it take to make a good street photograph?
Thankfully, there is no answer to that question. It would be extremely boring if we know what “Good” “should” be. I see photography as a personal matter, subjective to personal tastes. Everyone should find their own voice and there will be a lot of people who don’t like what you like.
Once you have figured out what you like, all you can do is do your homework, have patience and hope for the picture to fall into your lap. And it does, if you persist long enough. A lot of work in photography happens without camera. Anything you experience in your life can translate into pictures. Look at a lot and lot of pictures. Probably the most important thing in photography is sensitivity. If you aren’t sensitive enough, moments will pass by without you even realizing it. Looking at pictures of the kind you like can help you with that, to create a rough framework for you to start with. Be a hard critique of your own work. Never compromise. Once you eliminate everything “bad”, what remains will be essentially “good”. While shooting keep an empty head, have patience.
Canon 5d Mark II and 28mm, 35mm lenses.
Your favorite photographers?
- Raghubir Singh
- Raghu Rai
- Alex Webb
- Garry Winogrand
- Carl De Keyzer
- Stephen Shore
- Lee Friedlander and many more..
Any Secrets / Advice to aspiring Street Photographers?
Someone told me sometime back, “You need to go back to what you love about it”. Take pictures only because you love doing it and it makes you happy.
Click on the image for better and enlarged view.
You can find Manu Thomas on the Web :
All the pictures in this post are copyrighted Manu Thomas. Their reproduction, even in part, is forbidden without the explicit approval of the rightful owners.