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Streets Ahead Interview: Liz Traynor – Mobile Street Photography

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This week, the Women’s Street Photography Collective (Streets Ahead) is pleased and honored to feature Liz Traynor in our interview segment.

I first noticed Liz’s work when I joined the Streets Ahead group on Flickr. Her photographs immediately stood out for me – she has a great eye and ability to capture the narrative. It is fascinating to read the stories behind her photographs and I love that she has a gift for titling her images just right, and often with a sense of humor. I highly recommend a visit to her galleries.

You can find Liz @Ferguscat1 on Flickr.

 

Liz Traynor

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‘Liz Traynor’ – ©Liz Traynor

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

Hi, my name is Liz Traynor. I am a Primary School teacher. At the moment I am teaching Physical Education and I do one day a week on a Year 1 class. I’ve always had an interest in photography and cameras but have only started to take it more seriously in the last couple of years.

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‘Reading Takes You Places’ – ©Liz Traynor

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?

I live in a little town called Glass House Mountains. It’s part of a region called the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. It’s a rural area but only about half an hour’s drive from beautiful beaches and about an hour’s drive to the capital city of Queensland, Brisbane. I have taken some ‘street’ photos around my town but find that being such a small place, it’s very hard to be inconspicuous. I take a lot of my street photographs when I’m visiting the beach towns nearby. I occasionally get into Brisbane and spend a lot of time taking photographs while I’m there.

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‘Boy & Board = Blood’ – ©Liz Traynor

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?

I think I’m probably influenced more by the beach than any other location for my street photography. I think this is mainly because it’s where I spend a lot of time at the weekends and I love it. People are naturally very relaxed at the beach and I like to try and capture that feeling.

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‘Nuclear Family On A Clear Day’ – ©Liz Traynor

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?

I discovered Flickr at the beginning of 2013. Until then, I didn’t even know there was a genre of photography called Street Photography. I discovered many street photographers on Flickr. I was completely drawn to the images these photographers posted and the stories that each photograph conveyed. I also loved seeing the different ways that people photographed the street. Each street photographer seems to have their own style. The thing I love about street photography is that it makes me look more closely at all that is around me and to see things that I might ordinarily walk straight past without giving it a second thought. I also love that it captures people and times exactly as they are in that moment.

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‘Do You See What I See’ – ©Liz Traynor

This image I created last year. It is the same setting as ‘Searching 4’. Many people sit on this bench and stare out the wide, blue ocean in front of them. It’s a great place to take photographs of people. I think this would have been a good street photo in its original format but I really wanted to create my own narrative for this picture.

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 haven’t ever posed or directed subjects to take a street photograph. I don’t think that a street photograph has to follow certain guidelines but I also don’t agree with setting a photograph up. If the photo is staged or directed in some way then I don’t think it can be classified as street photography. To me, street photography is about being candid. The type of street photography that I admire the most is where the photographer has seen an interesting background, for example a large advertisement on a wall or shop window, and then waits until the right subject walks into this frame. I love the juxtaposition between the subject and the surroundings. I am constantly on the look out for these types of photos and they are the ones that are the hardest for me to find because I don’t live in a place where this interaction can take place very frequently.

 

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‘Everybody Needs A Bosom For A Pillow’ – ©Liz Traynor

This is just one of those brilliant moments that do not come along very frequently. I was so excited when I saw this man leaning up against this particular advertisement. I nearly completely stuffed the whole shot up because I was so shaky with nerves and excitement! He looks so snuggled in there and the lady is looking down so lovingly. Ah, just perfect!

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

Oh gosh, this is a hard one for me. I really admire people who can shoot from the hip. I think it shows great mastery over their phone. I wish I was better at this type of street photography. I couldn’t count how many out of focus dud photos I have taken trying to shoot this way. And, I am always so disappointed if I completely miss the scene in front of me because I was off aim when shooting from the hip. I prefer to stand still, hold up phone and just shoot. It’s nerve wracking, but, for me, it has produced the best results so far.

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‘Lady in Red’ – ©Liz Traynor

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?

Yes, I’ve had a couple of run in’s with people who have realized that I have taken their photograph. When I first started getting into street photography, this fear of being caught was actually one of the thrills of doing this type of photography. My main objective when taking photographs of people is to tell a story. I don’t think there is anything wrong with telling stories.

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‘Tutti Fruity You’re So Cute’ – ©Liz Traynor

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

The street photos I take and post on line are all photographs of people in public spaces. I’m not going into their homes and taking photographs. I’m photographing my surroundings and the people I encounter in it. I can’t imagine how candid street photographers could be true to being candid if they had to get permission for every photo they took.

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‘Elbow Partners’ – ©Liz Traynor

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

I don’t really have any rules when it comes to street photography. I trust my instincts. If I see something but can’t raise my phone to take a photo of it, then it’s not right. I don’t generally take photographs of homeless people but I will take photographs of kids because they are so naturally uninhibited. I will take photographs of people doing embarrassing things but I don’t usually post them.

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‘Disconnected By Connection’ ©Liz Traynor

This was another great moment for me. I was on a train traveling into Brisbane for the day. Not many people were on the train so it was really hard to get this shot. I had to move seats so that I was sitting directly in front of this couple. Then I had to try to look inconspicuous as I raised my phone to take several photos of them. It wasn’t until I got home and really looked at the photographs that I realized what a great story they told. Here they were – a young couple on a train. They seemed to be a couple by the way they interacted but at the same time they were disconnected from each other by whatever it was they were listening to. I love how both their expressions capture this disconnection. This photo, for me, has a really strong narrative.

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

No, I don’t think so. Everyone sees the world through their own eyes and everyone sees things differently to others. Each street photographer that I follow has their own definite style.

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‘Mary, Joseph and The Little Tracker’ – ©Liz Traynor

I love to make up stories for the characters in my photos. As it was Christmas time when I took this photo, I decided to make this a modern day nativity story. It’s one of my favorite photographs of my own. This was my story: It’s the day after Christmas and the famous threesome have some frankincense and myrrh to return. Mary decides to use the gold at the Boxing Day sales. She needs new shoes and bed linen. Joseph, much to his annoyance, has been left holding the baby. “Jesus

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?

That’s a really interesting question. I don’t really find myself drawn to men or women or children. What I really like is just the situation that presents itself in front of me. I don’t really have time to go out and deliberately look for specific shots. My photography just has to fit in with what I’m doing at the time. I take most of my photos on the weekends when I’m out and about with my husband and son or sometimes by myself. So, if something or someone grabs my attention then I have to be quick to get a photograph. I would love to have time to be more deliberate with my photography but at this stage of my life, that’s just not possible. I don’t think I would feel uncomfortable if a male street photographer or any photographer were to take my photograph. I would rather not know I guess. I’m quite self conscious, so the idea of someone asking to take my photograph would freak me out a bit.

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‘The Water Boy’ ©Liz Traynor

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?

That’s a tricky question to answer. I don’t personally know any other street photographers so I’ve never really discussed this question of being accepted. I do, however, think that as a woman, it might be a bit more acceptable especially when taking candid photos of children. I can fully appreciate that men would be far more wary in this endeavor. And really, that’s just a sad reflection on our society that we would associate male photographers with more sinister intentions. I have a 6 and a half year old son so I can see how the general public would be quite wary of people taking candid photographs. If I noticed this happening to my son, I would probably just approach the person and ask them about what they were doing. I have been challenged on a couple of occasions and it has completely thrown me and made me feel sick. I live in a small town so I don’t feel comfortable taking photographs of people around town. I find it a lot easier when I’m in a bigger crowd of people and everyone is too busy getting from one place to another to really worry about what I’m doing. The times that I have been challenged have been when I’ve taken a photograph of someone when no-one else is around. It’s really confronting and does make me question why I do what I do.

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‘Spinning’ – ©Liz Traynor

Which street photographers have influenced you?

I was drawn to street photography via many of my Flickr contacts. There are just brilliant street photographers posting their photos of everyday life on Flickr. My own love and obsession with this type of photography started because of the photographs that I saw on Flickr. I started posting a few of my own and was surprised and delighted that many of the street photographers I admired also liked the kinds of street photos that I was posting. I am truly a novice when it comes to this type of photography but I am trying my best to develop my own style as I think this is a very important aspect of any type of photography. I learn from others but try to interpret my own surroundings in my own way.

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‘Silhouettes and Frames 8’ – ©Liz Traynor

Recently I put together a series called ‘Silhouettes and Frames’. I wanted the post processing to be quite minimal and just let the photographs to speak for themselves. I don’t live in a city so this photograph is not typical of my street photography. I liked the way that his head was perfectly position between the two buildings. I also like how these ‘back’ shots always imply a certain amount of contemplation. This is always a good narrative. I used Snapseed only to make this image. I changed it from color to almost Black and White. I also lowered the brightness and increased the contrast.

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 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.

At the moment I am using an iPhone 5s. I have had it for about 8 months now. Prior to using this mobile device, I had an iPhone 4. I do post process nearly all of my photographs. My favorite apps for post processing street images are Snapseed, Monocrom, Alt Photo, VSCO Cam. After I’ve taken many photographs, I transfer them to my iPad. I prefer to work on my iPad simply because it’s bigger and I can see what I’m doing better. When I’m ready to post an image to Flickr, I do this via my iPad. I never take a photo, edit it and post it straight away. I prefer to let the images sit for a bit, work on them at home and I usually post at night when I have time to sit and think about what I want a particular image to say or be. I also like to use my street photography shots in more creative ways. I’ll use the characters I take photographs of and use them to make a completely different image. The apps I like to use for this are many and varied. The main ones are Juxtaposer, Image Blender, Painteresque and Snapseed.

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‘Girl At The Fair’ – ©Liz Traynor

I took this photo at the same event as ‘Man At The Fair’ but processed them in completely different ways. This is an example of how I like to use the characters that I take photos of and be a little more creative with them. To create this image, I used Hipstamatic, Snapseed, Image Blender, Percolator, Glaze, Retouch, Alt Photo and Repix.

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.

My street photography is all spontaneous. If I see something I think looks interesting, I’ll grab a quick photo. Many do not work out, but sometimes I’m lucky enough to jag a few.

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‘The Three Bears In An Unguarded Moment 9’ – ©Liz Traynor

The day that I took this photo, I was deliberately trying to get some framing happening in my photos. So while this image is spontaneous, it has a deliberate focus. Luckily, it’s a busy walkway so many people pass by this location. I only had to sit for a few minutes before I knew that I had a story to tell with these three characters.

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‘H2O’©Liz Traynor

This one is pretty simple. I was going for a ride on my bike – iPhone in hand, as always. I spotted this man sitting contemplatively looking out over the water. Then I realized that he also had a bottle of water sitting on the ledge next to him – Bingo, story told!

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?

When I look back over my photo stream on Flickr, I can see that the focus has really changed. Becoming involved in street photography has really given me a main focus for my photography. It is a style that I have come to love. I like to try and capture a story and my stories have to have characters. My story, as the photographer, might be different to your story as the viewer, but I like for the stories to be character driven. People are infinitely interesting I find and I am completely obsessed with photographing them in their natural environment, without being disrespectful or invading their privacy too much.

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‘The Man, the Van and the Garbage Can’ – ©Liz Traynor

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?

At the moment, the only audience I have for my photographs are my Flickr contacts and my family and friends. I love sharing my photographs on Flickr because it’s a way for others to view my world and a way for me to view the world through the eyes of others. I would love to be able to produce a body of work that I was really proud of and be able to share this with others through a gallery show. I find street photography to be so full of beauty and I would love for others to see this beauty and to find something of themselves in the photographs that I take.

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‘Searching 4’ – ©Liz Traynor

This shot is all about being completely at ease with yourself – a state I find very hard to achieve. The girls seemed so relaxed and unselfconscious. Just perfect for candid photography. I used only Snapseed to make this image. I changed it from color to Black and White.

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

Now that’s such a hard question to answer. This question of style is one that plagues me. Others have said to me that they can tell a photo is mine without seeing my name on it, but I just can’t seem to see a style of my own emerging yet. To be honest, I can’t actually say what distinguishes my street photography from others. I hope that with what I’m doing, I’m evolving and learning and getting better at it as I go along.

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‘You Go Your Way, I’ll Go Mine’ – ©Liz Traynor

I took this photo last year when we were on holiday in Melbourne. Again, I think it would be an okay street photo in its original form, but I love to create little stories for my characters. This has a real Sci Fi feel to me.

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

I only post my photos on Flickr. I have a Facebook account and an Instagram account. I hardly ever post my photographs on Facebook and I only have a handful of photographs on Instagram. I just don’t have the time to post in more than one spot. For me, posting my photographs is only part of what I enjoy about photography. Through Flickr, I have discovered a whole world of different styles of photography. I like to have time to view all these different styles and learn from others as I go along. I also like to have time to work on my own creations. That doesn’t actually leave much time for posting and commenting on others work. So, I am a one site poster. The role that Flickr has played in the development of my photography is enormous. There is no way I would be doing what I do now if I had not discovered Flickr a couple of years ago.

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‘Man At The Fair’ – ©Liz Traynor

While visiting an Antiques and Collectables Fair recently, I spotted this man resting on the seats. He seemed to be dozing. Even though there were a few other people sitting on the seats near him, I wanted the composition to be all about him. I composed the shot so that he was the only one in it. I liked the story it told – an elderly gentleman, all alone with just his bag. It conveyed a sense of loneliness – another strong narrative for me. To create the strong colors in this shot, I used Snapseed HDR effect and Image Blender. I like to blend the original photo with a HDR version to really make the colors vibrant.

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

If you find that you have a love for street photography, just do it. Trust your instincts, think about composition, be respectful of others, be creative, tell your own stories, view the work of others on a regular basis, engage in a dialogue with like-minded people to learn as much as you can, don’t worry too much about what other people think, don’t negatively compare the work you do with the work of others, have fun and be proud of the photographs you take.

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‘Golden Breed’ – ©Liz Traynor

I really couldn’t believe my luck with this one. We were holidaying at a place called Byron Bay earlier this year. The brightly coloured wall was the shop front of a surf store called ‘Golden Breed’. I really wanted to get a shot of people passing by this beautiful backdrop. I kneeled in the gutter for a few minutes while my son scooted on the footpath. I took several photos but none were really telling much of a story. I then glanced down the street and saw this woman walking her dog. She annoyingly stopped at the shop just next to this one and was in there for ages. Meanwhile, I’m squatting in a gutter and my son is getting bored waiting for me. Just as I was about to give up, she leaves the shop next door and walks straight into frame with her golden breed of dog. This made me happy for the rest of the day – good things come to those who wait!

By Cara Gallardo Weil

Cara is a Graphic Designer and amateur photographer with a passion for mobile photography. Born in Hong Kong to Filipino parents who moved there in the early 60s to work in publishing, her early life was spent in Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines. She studied graphic design in London and spent more than 20 years here before returning to Hong Kong, where she currently resides.

Cara brings to her street photography a wonderful international and cultural perspective.

8 replies on “Streets Ahead Interview: Liz Traynor – Mobile Street Photography”

super interview, cara and liz!
liz – i adore your street photos so much – you inspire me regularly! knowing you on flickr is a joy and i alway appreciate so much connecting with you there via your photos and also your comments.
wonderful to get to know you better with this interview, too!
xo

Liz is such a wonderfully clever and witty artist. I have enjoyed following her work on flickr and although I have never met her, I can tell that she is a good soul!! So nice to see this feature!

Thanks so vey much Anne. That is such a lovely thing to say. I am overwhelmed with the generosity and thoughtfulness that I have received via this interview. Thanks again Anne.
xoxo

Great Liz – enjoyed viewing your stories here and always enjoy being an arm chair tourist down under 🙂

Thankyou so much Tracy. I love that I can bring a little bit of Aussie into people’s lives. Thanks again,
Liz xoxo

Thank you so much Alon. That really means so much to me. Thank you for having a read. 🙂

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