Kristian Leven is a street photographer from the UK and a member of 8 Street Collective. He also shoots weddings in street photography style.
In his words about special love with street photography “It’s the challenge of capturing something funny, unusual, beautiful, chaotic or enigmatic, and doing so in a public space, in a situation that is completely unplanned and unposed. It’s doing this knowing that the majority of the time it won’t come off, but also knowing that at any point something very special might happen.”
Thanks, Kristian for accepting for the invite. Please read on…
Could you please introduce yourself?
Hi there, I’m Kristian, a member of The 8 Street Collective, and am based out of the UK. For six months of the year I shoot weddings in a street photography style, and the rest of the time I aim to travel and shoot street as much as possible.
What are your childhood memories towards the arts?
I was a big show off when I was younger, and loved acting – basically any opportunity to be the centre of attention! I remember joining the local drama school as a kid and being involved in all of their productions, which carried on to school, college, and University, and I really thought I’d become an actor, but ultimately I wasn’t any good. So I went through some wilderness years in my 20s as I worked out what I wanted to do. In 2007 I bought my first DSLR and after a couple of years of messing around with it I realized I really wanted to become a photographer.
What first drew you to photography and how did you discover it?
To be honest, I can’t pin down a particular moment, as it evolved naturally over time, but ultimately it came from wanting to preserve and capture moments that happened in my life in an interesting and artistic way. When I was at University I bought a video camera and would film day to day moments in my life, and when I traveled I wanted to photograph the people I met and situations I encountered to hopefully inspire friends and family to head out and do the same.
What makes street photography so special for you?
It’s the challenge of capturing something funny, unusual, beautiful, chaotic or enigmatic, and doing so in a public space, in a situation that is completely unplanned and unposed. It’s doing this knowing that the majority of the time it won’t come off, but also knowing that at any point something very special might happen.
When I saw your portfolio, the composition and colors are so unique. How did you develop this style?
Thanks so much, appreciate that. I’d say through a lot of trial and error! My first reference point was Alex Webb, as I loved his colourful, chaotic images, and then over time I just shot whatever excited me whilst I was out, regardless of whether I’ve shot a similar situation tonnes of times before. It’s also an extension of myself and my behaviours; I’m a bit OCD, so I like pictures where people are nicely placed in certain sections of the frame, and I have a quiet, shy side, so I find those moments where people are in their own world equally compelling. And I guess I also just like colourful things!
What do you think makes a memorable street photograph?
Something that makes you feel something when you look at it, and transports you somewhere else for the briefest of moments. I love that feeling when you see an image that makes you shake your head and wonder.
What do you want your viewers to take away from your work?
I guess some of the above. To be transported away for a brief moment, and to show some of the amazing moments that are happening out in the world.
What do you do to keep motivated, and not lose your passion for photography?
Good question. I currently live in Leeds in the North of England, and I really have tried to enjoy shooting there, but I’m just completely uninspired! I’m originally from London and there are just so many areas to go to that are so different to shoot in, which keeps things interesting. If one area isn’t working, you can just pop on the tube and travel somewhere else. It’s just a matter of inspiration though, as there are moments happening everywhere, all the time. I’m personally greatly inspired when I’m abroad, and I usually book a two week trip away somewhere that I’m really excited about photographing – a couple years ago it was Colombia, and next year will be Ethiopia, and also Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, Mexico with some of the other members of the 8 Street.
What is the best compliment you received so far?
Just having my work recognised and appreciated like this is a massive compliment to me.
Which photographers have inspired you?
Alex Webb and James Nachtwey were my original big influences. The way they composed moments really shook me up and showed me a whole new way of seeing. Since then I’ve gotten into Harry Gruyaert and Constantine Manos, but away from the big hitters, there’s so much inspiration on Flickr, particularly in the well-curated groups.
What camera and lenses do you use the majority of the time?
Fujifilm X-T2 with a 23mm 1.4 lens, but have recently bought the 27mm pancake lens to shake things up a bit, and make the camera more compact.
Any favorite photography books?
Here are some of my favorite books:
Apart from photography, tell me about your hobbies and interests?
Until recently, I honestly had no other hobby! But weirdly enough I’ve just gotten into online chess and I’ve been playing that loads recently, much to the annoyance of the girlfriend.
Thanks again for providing 121 Clicks with this opportunity to interview you. Any final thoughts for our readers?
Thanks so much for having me, and all I’d say is take your camera out with you as much as possible, head somewhere that you’re excited by, and trust your gut.
You can find Kristian Leven on the Web:
All the pictures in this post are copyrighted Kristian Leven. Their reproduction, even in part, is forbidden without the explicit approval of the rightful owners.
Love your work Kristian – very inspiring. I’m like you – I live, eat, sleep and breath ‘street’. I nearly drive my poor wife mad. You are very lucky though, you make your living as a photographer and then do the street in your spare time – means you always have a camera in hand. I have to work a crappy job and get to shoot a couple of times a year when I travel. I also use two X-T2’s. Please never lose your passion – we need more photographer like this.
Hey Philip, thanks so much, truly touched to read that, and amazing to hear your passion for it as well. Sorry to hear about your job though – even though I take pictures for a living, I still spend far too much time in front of the computer editing or running the business, which means countless amounts marketing, blogging, and general admin. But I’ve probably shot more street this year in the UK than I ever had, simply because I’ve decided to take the camera out with me as much as possible, even if I’m just doing the grocery shopping with the girlfriend! Can’t say I’ve been in the right frame of mind every time but it’s been an interesting switch. Thanks again for the kind words, and all the best to you. Kristian