The Link Between Street Photography and Directing
I’ve always taken photographs, but with the arrival of Instagram, it’s brought a different dynamic to my work. I’ve been doing it for about 10 months now and I've found the act of taking a picture and then almost immediately putting it up online quite a liberating experience.
It’s so different from directing which is such a collaborative job. You really can’t direct alone. Every project starts with a script meeting and ends with an online artist. During that 4-5 week journey (or eight years in the case of my movie!) there are so many people for me to give direction to, or who want to direct me.
With my photography, it’s just me and the subject. Everyone who's creative and who works in advertising has to respond to many different opinions - it's a part of the job. The spontaneity of street photography is a great antidote to this.
The way I approach my photography is very similar to the way that I like to direct. I’ve always loved telling stories and showing the subtleties of the human condition. It can be something as small as a simple facial expression, or just the way someone stands. When I’m out on the street with my camera, I’m always looking for these little moments. I find it highly beneficial, as it often gives me ideas that I can take into my commercials, adding to the credibility and reality of my work.
Street photography makes me much more aware of my surroundings. All to often it’s easy to rush from A to B with your head down and your headphones on, drowning out the world around you. Photography makes me take the time to really look around me and take it all in, which is something that I find extremely rewarding. Just seeing all the countless human stories that take place on virtually every street corner has really put me in touch with humanity, which as performance-based director can only be a good thing.
I’ve always tried to add warmth and a sense of reality to the commercials I shoot. I'm quite an inquisitive person and when I'm out with my stills camera I often end up chatting to the people that I photograph (the ones that don't threaten to punch me, which has happened on several occasions). Getting total strangers to relax in front of a camera is something I’ve learnt through street photography and it’s a skill that I've taken with me into the commercials world, as I’m often asked to work with non-actors, or famous people.
When I started as a director I mainly did documentary style realism. However, as my career developed and new opportunities presented themselves, my work became a lot more glossy. I’ve enjoyed trying different photographic approaches, but to be honest, my real love has always been getting a great performance which is reinforced by my street photography.
Like all photographers, I’m always looking for beautiful light and a great composition. I love it when this adds to the emotion of a shot, but these attributes are always subservient to a shot that can get across someone's personality, or tells a story. I'd always choose an interesting shot of a fantastic character (there are loads in South London) over a beautiful shot of someone vacuous.
As a commercials director there’s a lot of hanging around that comes as an inevitable consequence of the process. The gap between meetings - one at 10am another at 5pm - waiting for it all to come together on set, or changes to edits can be quite frustrating for a fidgety person like me, so I use that time to take photographs in places I might not naturally find myself, which in turn gives me some really unexpected results. Someone once said, “you're never bored with a camera” and I agree.
Steve Reeves is a director at Another Film Company. To see more of his street photography go to his Instagram page here.