This week, the Women’s Street Photography Collective (Streets Ahead) is pleased and honoured to feature Connie Gardner Rosenthal in our interview segment.
Connie has a great eye for composition. Her recent street shots of her trip to India are beautiful and capture the character of people and the atmosphere of the location.
I highly recommend a visit to her galleries
Connie Gardner Rosenthall
‘Connie Gardner Rosenthal’ – ©Connie Gardner Rosenthal
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. Have you always been interested in photography?
I was born and raised outside of Philadelphia, went to college at the University of Pittsburgh, and then moved to New York City for graduate school at NYU. I lived in the city for fifteen years, first working as an elementary school teacher, next as manager of a commercial photography studio and then as a caterer and chef in corporate dining rooms. I moved to Los Angeles in 1982 to live with my husband. In LA I continued to cater and then taught school again until my son was born in 1990. I have designed and sold jewellery since 1999.
I have always been interested in photography, especially works in black and white. After taking a basic class in the 70’s at the New School, I setup a makeshift darkroom in the bedroom of my 4-floor walkup and enjoyed shooting and creating whenever I could. Though I gave up my darkroom long ago, I have always enjoyed shooting photos of my family and on trips and vacations.
These days any free time I have is usually spent doing something related to mobile photography shooting, reviewing, editing, reading articles and interviews, watching tutorials, checking out blogs and websites, taking workshops, going to museums. I also enjoy travelling, cooking, reading and hiking.
I post my work on Flickr, Facebook, EyeEm, and sometimes Instagram. I have been interviewed on The App Whisperer, Hipstography, Art of Mob and have had photos featured in iPhone Life, on P1xels at an Exhibition, Mobiography and iPhoneographyCentral. I had a photo on the shortlist of Mira Mobile Prize and also had a photo in the online exhibit of NEM Kansas City.
‘Man with the red bag’ ©Connie Gardner Rosenthal – Shot with the iPhone camera, tuned with Snapseed
“This was shot in Santa Monica, California in front of a building covered with street art. I liked this particular wall, the colours and the eyeball and patiently waited for my subject to come by”.
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 Los Angeles, California where I find it can be a bit challenging to find inspiring places to shoot. I enjoy going to the Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach and museums to shoot but find it more difficult to find interesting, safe ‘city-like’ locations. I’m continually trying to learn about interesting, inspiring places to explore as I know I can’t blame living in Los Angeles as a good reason to be uninspired. My trip to India offered many incredible opportunities to shoot and I love going to New York City where there is life and energy on every corner.
‘Fulton Ferry, Brooklyn’ ©Connie Gardner Rosenthal – Shot with Hipstamatic with Loftus lens and DC film
“I attended a fair in Fulton Ferry, Brooklyn where I spent the day with JQ Gaines. This was another example of spotting interesting street art and waiting for the right subject to go by. I like the movement we see in the woman and the fact that she and the figure in the mural seem somehow connected”.
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?
Though I spend most of my time in Los Angeles, it definitely does not inform all my photographs. In LA I choose the places I photograph because I know them or from suggestions from other photographers. LA is so spread out and unique in its setup and design I know there are many areas I don’t know about where it would be interesting to shoot I just haven’t gotten to a lot of them yet. As a woman, I am also mindful of how safe an area might be there are many places in LA that would be interesting to shoot in but not comfortably safe for me to go to.
“This was shot in Aspen, Colorado while I was attending another workshop with Karen Divine. If you look closely, you can see my hat and hands reflecting in the store window. I enjoy capturing reflections and liked the colours and composition of this image”.
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?
In 2013, soon after I started shooting with the iPhone, I was lucky enough to go on some amazing trips. I visited Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo, Paris, and New York City. Each of these incredible cities are great settings for street photography. I love the energy, diversity, culture and action of city life, capturing the people and the activity as it is happening. I am also drawn to interesting architecture and continue working on different angles and ways to see things and shoot.
This spring I was fortunate to be part of Karen Divine’s ‘India and the iPhone’ workshop. Karen is an incredibly unique and talented artist as well as a perceptive and intuitive teacher. Both collectively and individually she guided each of the five participants to capture our experience through our iPhones. We each gained a beautiful perspective of the people, their culture and their way of life. We were welcomed in homes, invited to an all-male opium party, visited markets and festivals capturing images that will forever tell a story of this amazing journey.
I like the challenge of shooting at the skate park in Venice. It is obviously a place in constant motion and capturing the skateboarders in action takes patience and some luck. I like this shot because it captures several skateboarders in action.
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 shoot spontaneously and rarely interact with subjects. I think the “right” way to take a street photograph is the one that works. Though capturing “the decisive moment” can be rewarding, I don’t believe in following guidelines and fundamentals to that end. On occasion I have asked permission to take someone’s photo but I have never asked someone to pose I don’t think it should never be done if it helps a photographer achieve his vision and purpose.
This was also shot at a fair in Fulton Ferry, Brooklyn. I liked the balance of the three superhero figures in relation to the excited little boy. The colours, his gestures and his smile all grabbed my attention.
How do you feel about shooting from the hip as opposed to looking though the viewfinder?
I think it’s a terrific idea but I’m not very good at it. I need to keep practicing.
‘Windows and wires’ – ©Connie Gardner Rosenthal – Shot with ProCamera7
This photo was taken in Old Delhi. It was amazing to see how precariously the electrical wires hung everywhere. I liked the lines and squares that the windows and wires made together. I wondered what was behind the windows and where the wires were leading to.
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 have been stopped a few times and asked not to take a photo or to delete one I’ve already taken. I try to be respectful, quick and unobtrusive when I’m shooting.
This was taken in Chelsea in New York City. The posters and street art were a great background for this woman wearing the striped shirt.
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 feel a model release is necessary if you are using the image for commercial use. By not getting releases, I definitely limit being able to sell my work.
This was taken on Hollywood Blvd. It definitely seemed that the mannequins were watching the man as he was staring at his phone.
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 am not comfortable shooting photos of homeless, disabled or people who are clearly in stressful, compromising situations. When photographing children, I try to ask for permission from the adult they are with or be certain to obscure their faces.
‘Passing by’ ©Connie Gardner Rosenthal – Shot with Hipstamatic with Diego lens and Uchitel 20 film.
I was at an outdoor art fair and was taken by these three people passing each other. I like how the hats frame the shot.
Do you think women street photographers share a different perspective to men? If so, can you elaborate on your thoughts?
I believe that each of us bring our own personal and unique perspective to our photography no matter whether we are women or men. However I do believe that men don’t have the same safety issues and concerns that women do.
‘Under the pier’ ©Connie Gardner Rosenthal – Shot with Hipstamatic with Gsquad lens and Uchitel 20 film. This was cropped and tuned in Snapseed.
The lighting under the Santa Monica pier was so varied and interesting the day I shot this. I wanted to capture the lines, the lights and the silhouettes.
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?
Who I shoot isn’t really a factor. When I’m on the street taking photos, I try to capture people, scenes and situations that draw my attention; scenes and situations that are interesting, exciting, and unusual. I don’t love having my photo taken but it doesn’t matter what sex the photographer is.
From across the street I liked how the white umbrellas stood out in the gloomy grey day.
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 am not sure it matters to the public what sex a photographer is. I think what’s important is how thoughtful, respectful and sensitive they are. Being aggressive and obtrusive isn’t good no matter who is shooting.
‘Straw hat’ ©Connie Gardner Rosenthal – Shot in Hipstamatic with Yoona Lens and D-Type Plate film.
I was so impressed with how hard the people in India worked. As we walked through the village of Narlai, this woman walked by. I was impressed with how strong she was and how tall she looked as she carried the straw on her head. I like how we caught each other’s eyes.
Which street photographers have influenced you?
I am inspired by so many of the great master photographers including Vivian Maier, Bruce Davison, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eugene Atget, Lee Friedlander and Robert Frank to name just a few. And I am definitely inspired by many current street photographers including Richard Koci Hernandez, David Ingraham, Maktub Street-dog, Sheldon Serkin, Gina Costa, Cara Gallardo Weil, Susan Rennie, Lee Atwell, Grace Brignolle, Alon Goldsmith and JQ Gaines.
‘Man at Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi’ – ©Connie Gardner Rosenthal – Shot in Hipstamatic with Wonder lens and D-Type Plate film.
It was very crowded the day with went to the market in Old Delhi. This man with his long white beard, rugged face and his big watch made him stand out in the crowd. He seemed off in a world of his own.
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.
I currently shoot with an iPhone 5S. I transfer all my photos to my iPad where I do any post-processing.
We went to the rooftop of a building in Chandni Chowk. From this vantage point we were able to see the rooftop dwellers cooking, bathing, doing their laundry; we even saw several children playing. It was a firsthand view of how people make their lives work for them.
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.
With many street shots there really isn’t time to pre-meditate how to capture an image; they are most often shot spontaneously. I have been trying to find backgrounds that I like where I can stay in one place waiting for different people to walk by. I also like returning to certain locations to capture moments during different times of the day.
‘Woman at Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi’ – ©Connie Gardner Rosenthal – Shot in Hipstamatic with Wonder lens and D-Type Plate film.
This was one of those lucky shots where I was at the right place at the right time. I was struck by this woman’s posture and pose while Sai Baba in the poster stares at her. Their head coverings are so similar and they balance each other in the composition. The woman almost seems to look Greek to me for some reason. The seated man, though part of the image, seems so unconnected in the scene.
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 makes up the majority of my work though I also like shooting landscapes, things in nature including flowers and trees, close up food shots, cars and interesting architecture. I continually try to improve my photos in new and unfamiliar ways, approaching composition differently and from new angles and perspectives. I am always hoping to learn to see more when I am out shooting.
‘Boys at home in Narlai’ – ©Connie Gardner Rosenthal – Shot in Hipstamatic with Diego lens and Uchitel 20 film.
While in Narlai, we were able to take walks in the village with one of the hotel staff. We went into homes, shops, schools and enjoyed walks through many parts of the village. These sweet boys were in their home when we went to visit and were happy to have their pictures taken. I love their connection and the smile on the older boy. I love that he has a tie on as he is probably dressed for school.
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 haven’t really thought about my audience. My photography is very personal I have no ambitions to take it to a professional level though I appreciate the validation I’ve received from the social media where I post, and from websites, blogs and exhibitions that have featured my work. Not only has it helped build my confidence, it has also introduced me to some wonderful new friends.
‘Pink turbans and a mop’ ©Connie Gardner Rosenthal – Shot with ProCamera7
Walking with our guide in Varanasi, we came across these men. I loved their pink turbans and how ready they seemed to have a picture taken. Not knowing the significance of the pink turbans, I don’t know what kind of work they did and what they were doing sitting on the bench. I was just glad they were there.
What do you think distinguishes your street photography from others in the group?
I continue to be surprised that my street shots have been so well received. I think I have a good sense of composition and an intuitive ability to identify interesting shots but I also think I’ve been lucky to be in some amazing places to capture the honest, moving life on the street. I shoot a lot of photos but of course only end up with a few good shots.
‘Happy guy at the Sufi Temple’ ©Connie Gardner Rosenthal – Shot with Hipstamatic with Jane lens and Blanko Freedom13 Film.
I loved meeting up with this man. He loved his hand gesture, his eye contact, his colourful clothes, and his pose. I even used him on a t-shirt.
Where do you show your work? How has social media played a role in your photography? Which platforms are you most active on?
I show my work on my Flickr page, groups on Flickr, on EyeEm and on the Facebook groups I belong to. As I said above, the recognition has been very validating for me.
‘Man in Narlai’ – ©Connie Gardner Rosenthal – Shot with Hipstamatic with Jane lens and Blanko Freedom13 Film.
This man was sitting at home as we were walking through Narlai. I was taken by his stillness, solitude and concentration. The red turban and white outfit contrast well with the texture of the wall offering a strong silhouette.
Do you have any tips that you would like to share with us? Is there anything else you would like to add?
Keep challenging yourself. Keep shooting. Look at other’s works in books, in museums, on the web. Try new things. Read all you can about photography and from photographer’s you admire point of view and approach.
‘All dressed up at the fair’ – ©Connie Gardner Rosenthal – Shot with Hipstamatic with Jane lens and Blanko Freedom13 Film.
While in Jodphur we went to a fair that was happening. I was taken the colourful harness on the horse set against the colourful posters. Though the horse was festively dressed, I wondered how the horse could see through the tassels.
‘Friends at the fair’ – ©Connie Gardner Rosenthal – Shot with ProCamera7
These girls were also at the fair in Jodphur. I loved their colourful clothes, their hennaed arms, and their intimate conversation. As they giggled together, I thought they must be very good friends.