Streets Ahead Interview: Armineh Hovanesian – Mobile Street Photography

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This week, the Women’s Street Photography Collective (Streets Ahead) is pleased and honoured to feature Armineh Hovanesian in our interview segment. Born in Paris and raised in Tehran and Boston, Hovanesian is now based in Los Angeles. She has had no professional training and photography is currently a hobby for her. 

Her work been featured in numerous blogs; TheAppWhisperer.com, NEM, Mobiography, Art of Mob, iPhone Photography School, Los Angeles Times, 43mm, F-Stop Photography Magazine, Platform 58, Artist Portfolio Magazine, Environment to be blog, EyeEm, iDownload Blog, iPhone Life Magazine, Grryo, Tarnished and True. She has received Honorable Mentions in Mobile Photography Awards in 2013 and 2014 in the Landscape and Portrait categories respectively, the GoPix Awards 2013, Mortal Muses, Hipstography, Photo Wars, Ianyan Magazine, A Pocket Camera and Phoozl.

Her work has also been included in several exhibitions; 11/11/11 group show at a local gallery, 12/12/12 group show at a local gallery, The SoHo Gallery for Digital Arts (New York), Anzoh Gallery, Stop Violence Against Women (2013 and 2014), NEM Kansas City.

I highly recommend a visit to her galleries:

Flickr: Armineh Hovanesian

You can follow Armineh on Instagram @armineh29 and Eye’Em @armineh

Armineh Hovanesian

Image ©Armineh Hovanesian

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. Have you always been interested in photography?

I work for an insurance brokerage firm and my work is administrative, doing paperless paperwork. I have always been fascinated with photography and ever since 2008 the fascination has become a cherished hobby.

‘Hats’ – ©Armineh Hovanesian

Where do you currently live? Is this a place that gives you energy and inspiration for your street photography or do you have to travel to find it?

Currently I am a resident of great Los Angeles area. Where I live does not give me the energy or inspiration I seek, so most of my street photography is done in other areas where life and colours are different.

‘Friday afternoon on Hollywood Blvd’ – (Oggl) – ©Armineh Hovanesian

Does your location, be it a big city, a small town, or the countryside, heavily inform all your photographs in general, not just your street photographs? How do you choose the places that you go to photograph?

Yes, most of my photographs are taken near and around where I live.  Since I do not have the luxury to travel on a whim, I try to find the interesting in the mundane!  I do short and local trips for change of scenery and discovery.

‘May I take your order’ (Snapseed) ©Armineh Hovanesian

What first drew you to street photography and how did you discover it? What is it about street photography that compels you go out to shoot on the street? What are the subjects that are of the greatest interest to you?

Seeing old photographs of street photography was what triggered my interest. I find this genre of photography fascinating and hope to get better at it with practice and perseverance. Street photography captures “real time life in action”. I love capturing people off-guard. I love capturing emotions and “off guard” moments.

‘Did you forget about me?’ (Snapseed – part of 24 Hour Project 2014) ©Armineh Hovanesian

Do you sometimes secretly pose or direct the subjects in your shots or do you always shoot spontaneously? Do you think there is a “right” way to take a street photograph? There are those who feel that a photograph is only good if it follows certain guidelines and fundamentals such as “the decisive moment” or that street photography should never be posed. How do you feel about this?

I prefer to follow my instinct and “the decisive moment” on the street. If the subject is directed or asked to pose then that cannot be “street photography”, that would be a “photo shoot session on the street”.

‘Mini and the couple’ – Oggl ©Armineh Hovanesian

How do you feel about shooting from the hip as opposed to looking though the viewfinder?

Actually I have been doing more of “shooting from the hip” and since getting the COVR lens for my iPhone, I no longer have the need to hold up or look through the viewfinder to shoot. I find the results to be more interesting.

‘Strides’ – Oggl ©Armineh Hovanesian

These days, the genre raises many questions with regards to the morals and ethics of taking photographs of strangers in a public environment. It is becoming increasingly difficult to shoot freely as a street photographer. What are your thoughts on this?

I feel when someone is on the streets then anything goes. I do believe in respect, however. If someone objects to being photographed, I respect their decision. It’s okay to take reasonable risks to get the shot you want. If you see the potential for a great moment, chase it and remember, in most parts of the world you have the right to be in the public domain with your camera.

‘He said hi and we snapped each other’ – Oggl – ©Armineh Hovanesian

How do you feel about using model release forms and re-publication of images of the public? Are we morally, if not legally responsible?

I have been lucky and have not had the need to use one however I do carry them with me (yes, there’s an app for that). I am not sure where this road is going to take us but I don’t feel it is fair to have this burden on street photographers. However, I do understand and respect the need for a model release form under other circumstances.

‘Las Vegas Blvd in the morning’ – Snapseed- ©Armineh Hovanesian

Do you have any personal rules when it comes to street photography? For instance, are there any situations that you feel are morally unacceptable?

At the moment I haven’t got any rules and so far I haven’t encountered a situation where I had to bring my morals into play.

‘Venice Beach Skatepark’ – Contrast ©Armineh Hovanesian

Do you think women street photographers share a different perspective to men? If so, can you elaborate on your thoughts?

I haven’t been able to find a difference in perspective between women and men street photographers. To be honest, I haven’t paid much attention to this. The only thing I notice is one’s style, one’s eye and what has been captured.

’55 Degrees at night’ – Snapseed, Polamatic©Armineh Hovanesian

As a woman street photographer, do you find yourself drawn to shooting other women and children or do you prefer to shoot men or is this irrelevant? Would you feel uncomfortable if a male street photographer were to take a photograph of you?

No, I have no preference and when shooting on the streets, the moment is what matters.  I will not feel uncomfortable if a male street photographer were to photograph me.  I am on the street, after all. I do practice what I preach!

‘The man and the sun’ – Oggl ©Armineh Hovanesian

Do you think women street photographers are more accepted by the public when taking photographs or do you think they are more likely to be challenged? Do you have any experience of this?

I have no predisposition where this is true or not since I have had no experience of being challenged.

‘What’s your pleasure’ – ©Armineh Hovanesian

‘What’s your pleasure’: Shot with Contrast.  Trendy pizza parlor in Pasadena, California

Which street photographers have influenced you?

This is a fairly recent venture I got into the last 5 years or so.  My influences are some of the best photographers I currently know and have had the pleasure of meeting some in person: Rob Pearson-Wright, Michelle Robinson, Anthony Ginns, Cara Gallardo Weil, Ryan Vaarsi, Duane Hall, Donna Donato, Susan Rennie, Connie Gardner Rosenthal, Lisa Peters, Paul Brown, Mohsen Chinekesh, David Ingraham, Sheldon Serkin, Brenden O Se, Alon Goldsmith, Maktub Street-Dog (Sacha) and of course Arjan van der Horst.

‘Crosswalk lunchtime shadows’ ©Armineh Hovanesian

Shot using COVR case, native camera, edited with Snapseed.

Which mobile device do you use to take your photographs? Do you post-process your photographs? If so, what are your favorite post-processing techniques/apps? If you post-process on your mobile device, do you usually transfer the images as soon as they have been processed to social sites (in other words, capturing and editing the image while in situ) or do you prefer to have more time to work on your images? Please share some examples of your workflow process.

My weapon is my iPhone5s. My first go to app is Oggl, second app is Contrast and the third is the native camera.  The post process would depend on what and how the image has been captured.  If with Oggl (generally I shoot with a preset Jane + BlacKeys Supergrain) I may change the Lens and film combo to achieve what I feel works best for the shot.  Contrast doesn’t require any post-processing. As for the native camera shots, Snapseed for initial post-processing and then depending on the shot, I may then use Distressed FX, Rainy Daze or Pixlromatic+ for further edits.

As far as transferring final photos to social sites, it really depends.  All my photos are first uploaded to my Flickr page.  I then decide when and where I prefer to share my photos.

Café Trieste – ©Armineh Hovanesian

Shot with Oggl. I managed to capture this moment as we were walking out of this café in San Francisco.

Do you pre-mediate the capture of your images? Do you have a plan or structure in place or do you prefer to act spontaneously? Please share your thoughts about some of your images  what you were thinking, or felt when you shot those photographs.

When it comes to street photography, I cannot pre-mediate for there is absolutely no way to know what may come your way. Being spontaneous is the golden rule in my book.

Meeting a friend’ – ©Armineh Hovanesian

Shot with Oggl. On a stroll in Venice on the boardwalk you comes across the most colourful and interesting characters. This is one of those moments. This young girl was screaming her friend’s name as she was walking to greet him.

What is the importance of street photography within the entire body of your work? To what extent is street photography a major focus for you?

Street photography does take a major stance in my body of work. So long as I am living in a society, street photography will be a large part of my life. I like to believe that my focus is extended to all aspect of my photography almost equally. Street photography becomes a major focus when I’m out and about or in a different environment.

The Tunnel – ©Armineh Hovanesian

Shot with Oggl. Out playing with fellow photographers on a photowalk.  As we were heading towards the tunnel to get to the L.A. River, I managed to take this shot.  Wasn’t hopeful that it would work in the darkness but it did.

Who do you think is the audience for your work? Is this who you want your audience to be? What is it you hope to achieve, either on a personal or professional level, with your body of work?

I’m not quite sure who the audience is for my work. I suppose fellow photographers and people who like and appreciate photography.

I hope to be able to support myself with doing photography so that I don’t need to work full-time. I’d love to have more time to go out and shoot on a whim. I’d love to get all inclusive paid assignments to travel to different countries. I’d love to have books published someday and hope there will be interest in how I do what I do!

‘Another happy customer!’ ©Armineh Hovanesian

Shot with Oggl. Waiting for my daughter in a clothing store, I noticed this woman climbing up the stairs with this dissatisfied expression on her face. How could I resist?

What do you think distinguishes your street photography from others in the group?

This is a very tough question to answer and I only have a comment. Having been on a few photowalks with dear fellow photographers, I have learned one essential thing: given an object, a person or a situation even though we are all shooting at the same time, we all “see” something totally different. We all have a different eye/vision, a different way of seeing.

Engage – ©Armineh Hovanesian

Shot with Oggl. I had to make a phone call and used a colleague’s office at work. I noticed the man crossing the crosswalk and was hoping to get the moment with my iPhone. I was quite surprised that I was able to capture what I saw considering I was quite far and on the 4th floor, behind a window.

Where do you show your work? How has social media played a role in your photography? Which platforms are you most active on?

I like to show my work in galleries when possible or given the opportunity. I have and do submit to various photo exhibitions and challenges. Social media has and is playing a super-major role and I would not be where I am today without its influence. I’m active on Flickr, Instagram, EyeEm, AMPt Community, Mobile Photo Blog, and my Facebook page.

‘The texter’ – ©Armineh Hovanesian

Do you have any tips that you would like to share with us? Is there anything else you would like to add?

Keep shooting. Don’t get discouraged by negative comments or criticism. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t win a contest (most judging are partial to personal preferences and doesn’t mean your work is not good).

I wish to thank Cara, Joanne and The App Whisperer for giving me this opportunity. The App Whisperer has been one of my main encouragements during the past couple of years. Having been featured in showcases has forced me to become a better photographer.

‘Do not walk’  – ©Armineh Hovanesian

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