Sagi Kortler is a 46-year-old street photographer from Netanya, Israel. He is taking photos from 2009, from his childhood he was always fascinated by photography. He loves to have a camera always with him, and he believes good photographs are everywhere to be made.
In his words about street photography “It’s the attitude for making pictures, I like it for being direct and candid and unposed and raw. It’s how I photographed as a kid while not knowing anything about photography, it just feels natural and intuitive and real than anything else, it captures the world the way I see, feel and experience it.”
Thanks, Sagi for accepting for the invite. Please read on…
Hi Sagi, and thank you for joining us here today! Could you please introduce yourself?
My name is Sagi Kortler, I’m 46 years old, a photographer from Israel. I live in Netanya which is a city located about 30km north to Tel Aviv along the coastline of the Mediterranean sea. I’ve been into street photography since 2009, working mostly in Tel Aviv.
Please share some of your childhood memories towards the arts?
I’ve always loved and felt drawn to art. I used to draw and sketch when I was a kid. I remember that I really enjoyed going to museums and galleries, I could spend hours there. I remember looking at art books and watching art shows on TV.
When did you start shooting and how did this love for photography happen?
I was always fascinated by photography, always admired the serious and those who looked professional photographers, and loved the instruments of making a photo, the camera, the lenses, loading film. Turning a piece of paper into an image always felt like magic to me, it still does. As a kid, I loved to snap photos but never as a serious hobby. I really never gave it much thought for years. In the 90’s I really wanted to get more into it but it never happened and it just stayed a forgotten dream. It wasn’t really until my mother passed away in 2009 at the age of 60 that I realized that life is too short and that I should really start doing what I like doing, so I picked up photography and while I was getting quite good at the technical part of photography, I felt that it wasn’t it and I was missing something, about a year later I discovered street photography which in a way was shooting the same way I was making pictures as a kid. Acting on impulse, by intuition and it felt right at home for me and as the passion grew it became a driving power of its own.
What makes street photography so special for you?
It’s the attitude for making pictures, I like it for being direct and candid and unposed and raw. It’s how I photographed as a kid while not knowing anything about photography, it just feels natural and intuitive and real than anything else, it captures the world the way I see, feel and experience it.
You are from Tel-Aviv, a few words about your city and culture?
As stated above, I’m from Netanya and I live in Netanya. I did live in Tel Aviv for 10 years and I love Tel Aviv and it’s where I do most of my photography, I just feel more connected to it than any other place. Tel Aviv is vibrant, mostly due to the people that live in it as it is very diverse. Israel is made from people that came here from all over the world and the state is still fairly young so there is a big diversity of cultures, religions, economic statuses, sexual preferences etc. and they all mix, it’s a giant melting pot and some spots in Tel Aviv that are great for street photography are places where the mix is more present.
What is that you have adhered and learned through photography over the years?
I love observing people and photography is also a great tool for doing that and you get to learn a lot on human behavior while doing photography and street photography in particular. but mostly I learned new things about myself, Bruce Gilden said that we photograph ourselves and I have to agree with that statement. Going over my archive I can see how I grew and changed as a person, I find the camera and photography a part of me and my evolution, it completes me.
For Sagi, when does a photograph become complete and what makes it powerful enough to narrate a story?
I find that giving an image time and getting back to it after a while makes you feel different about it and more objective about it whether it’s good and powerful enough. I always go back to my portfolio and archive and re-edit it, I guess that the images that always remain are the complete ones. On a personal level, a powerful image will be an image that makes me feel something strong about it or the circumstances of making it.
Could you please share one photograph from your portfolio and story behind it?
The way I work is that usually roam the streets and reacts with the camera to situations that unfold before me. It’s rare that there is some build up to an image but it does happen from time to time. For me, street photography is a form of surreal art and many times the framing is taking the viewed story out of context of what really happens. I find it sometimes disappointing to learn the true story of an image. Trent Parke said once in an interview that a good picture is a picture that raises more questions than gives answers so if I give you all the answers, doesn’t it ruins the viewing experience?
What do you do to keep motivated, and not lose your passion for photography?
Change of scenery always helps, I try to travel to other countries a couple times a year. Also traveling to other cities works. And knowing that tomorrow might get me my best photograph yet is a big motivation. Street photography always surprises you, there is no real routine other than locations that you keep going back to, so anything can happen even things that are not photography related so it’s always great to be out there than doing something else and if you always carry a camera then you just might make a great photo.
Which photographers have inspired you?
As time goes by, I’m starting to feel or realize that I’m not inspired by photographers but more by photographs. There are of course photographers that I like better than others but I doubt if any of them inspired me. An inspirational image can come from a well known great photographer or from an unknown beginner. It’s what the image makes me feel and not who made it.
What camera and lenses do you use the majority of the time?
I usually use 28mm or 35mm lenses, I usually carry only one camera/lens so I have to manage with what I choose to take on a given day. Usually, if I know that it’s going to be crowded then I’ll go for the wider option.
Any favorite photography books?
I don’t have many photography books, I love photography books but have very little room for them.
What does Sagi do when not behind the lens?
I always have a camera with me, so no matter what I do, I’ll get behind that lens eventually. Good photographs are everywhere to be made.
What do you most appreciate in your friends?
That they put up with me and keep up with me.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
This something that should be asked at the end of a career, not at the beginning of one. I guess that winning the 2015 Lens culture street photography awards could be considered it. On a personal level, I feel my greatest photography achievement is that photography took me to places that I never thought I would get to. physically and mentally.
What is your idea of happiness?
It’s those small moments in life that you learn to appreciate and realize that whatever happened before that moment was worth it.
What is your favorite motto?
Live long and prosper.
Apart from photography, tell me about your hobbies and interests?
I like to watch movies and TV, I like to shoot pool, I use to compete on a semi-pro level before photography took over my life.
You can find Sagi Kortler on the Web:
All the pictures in this post are copyrighted Sagi Kortler. Their reproduction, even in part, is forbidden without the explicit approval of the rightful owners.