A Glimpse into the Mind of Street Photographer Eben Felix
Updated: Dec 20, 2019
Candid conversations with Mumbai based Street Photographer and India SPC Member Eben Felix.
Bhabani Sankar Mishra: You say you are a walker, but what makes you a shooter though, why the camera in the hand?
Eben Felix: The reasons have changed from why I first picked up the camera to why I shoot right now. I’ve always been fascinated by cinema. I wanted to study and make cinema, thats why I picked up the camera, it was actually a gift from my ex girlfriend. I wanted to see how the camera saw light, I wanted to learn to compose, I wanted to learn how to create a frame. Little did I know that I would find myself enamoured by the world of street photography.
Reality is ugly. Photography is how I create my own reality, atleast how I would like to remember it, it is a lie, like a hit of heroin, beautiful, but only a temporary distraction. Photography for me is an existential endeavour rather than a creative one. I do not shoot to create art, I shoot so that I don’t have to kill myself.
When you come across a scene that interests you, how do you approach capturing it, what's your process?
I don’t know if I have a process. It is more of an amalgamation of sorts. My understanding of space, of human beings, animals and other creatures, how they interact and behave with each other and with themselves in the world, the understanding of light and its direction, the passing of time, what I love, what I detest, how I interact with the world, my fear, my inhibitions, my disillusions, all of these coinciding into a single moment when I press the shutter. I can’t articulate how it happens, it's an organic experience.
Your images have details, tiny elements that create and change the viewer's interpretations, shows how observant your are. How can one develop such senses?
One has to be disillusioned with what is, in order to see differently. One has to go beyond the surface to see details. One needs to pause to experience the passing of time. You know, there are times when I consciously include or exclude elements in a frame, but there are also times when I don’t see these tiny elements that you talk about, they only reveal themselves later, when I go home and look at the images on the computer. It’s fascinating when that happens, a strange serendipity. Quite a few street photographers echo this experience.
We know you have your camera with you all the time, and you shoot regularly, but you do not share your photographs as often. What's your process to pick your keepers? What goes on behind the scene after the image is captured?
It’s true that I have my camera on me all the time, but I don’t shoot as much as I’d like to, and I really don’t like most of what I shoot. I go through all the images I shoot in a day, and I delete 99% of it. I only keep the ones which I feel has something in it. As far as sharing is concerned, Instagram is the only place where I share my work with the public, and other photographers. What is also conflicting is the medium through which photographs are viewed these days— the phone, it’s a fucking disaster! Photographs should be viewed on a much bigger interface. I’d like to see my images in big print, I’d also like to have a website someday, but I’m too lazy to make that happen.
As humans, we usually tend to look for external validation, does it bother you too? How do you deal with it?
Does it bother me that humans need external validation? You bet it does. But who else is there to understand us? This need to be validated, to be understood, to be accepted, all these seem to be signs of weakness, but what are we if not for our weaknesses. The fact is I do it too, only, I’m aware of it, and I don’t know if that's a good thing or bad.
There's so much of repeated and cliché images on social media, it feels like we have seen everything before, how can one be original?
That’s a million dollar question isn’t it? My question is, can we be original? Especially in today’s time? They say the golden age of photography has gone, does that mean we stop making photographs? I feel everything is a repetition. Life itself is a repetition, but it’s also new for the one who is experiencing it. That’s what makes it beautiful and contemptuous at the same time, its a paradox. I think I really don’t care about originality, photography itself is a process of copying.
What is more important for you? Composition or Content? What makes a photograph good for you?
The frame is most important, without the frame there is no context, it’s just space. Having understood that, what one includes and excludes in that frame is all subjective isn’t it? There’s also something else which is in play here, certain universal phenomena, such as symmetry, patterns, layers, form, emotions, which our minds relate to, something we call ‘making sense’.This ‘making sense’ is what I feel composition is, you can also see that in music. A good photograph is when all these things come together to form some kind of harmony, a certain balance, even in chaos, I must add.
Many say art can't be taught, but can it be learnt?
If you look at the definition of art, it says: it is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination. Skills can certainly be learnt, but can creativity be taught? or imagination? I believe it is something one needs to invoke within oneself. “All art is quite useless” said Oscar Wilde. When asked to explain, he said, “Art is useless because its aim is simply to create a mood. It is not meant to instruct, or to influence action in any way.” I quite agree with that.
Any advice to aspiring street photographers who want to explore this genre?
Yes, don’t do it.
To know more about Eben Felix, visit his page at India SPC