RAW Streetphoto Gallery


Recently I had an interview with Alexey Shifman from RAW Streetphoto Gallery. He started this urban gallery to give upcoming street and urban photographers a chance to exhibit their works in print in stead of only through on-line platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, 500px and the likes...

Web adress: http://www.rawstreetphotogallery.com/

WJ: Hi Alexey, thank you for taking the time to have this interview with me.

AS: You're most welcome.

WJ: Where does your interest in urban photography come from?

AS: I have a great interest in photography in general and urban style is only part of it. Freedom of expression with photography that can take any shape and form, possibilities are making me feel excited.

When photographer is showing the world and it touches me, I do not much care if it is urban photography, fashion photography or nature photography - feeling of inspiration.  This feeling at the fingertips which can bring to the new level the consciousness, think it is the source of my  my interest in photography.

WJ: In your opinion, what is urban photography? Do you have any expertise yourself?

AS: As you know, I am a gallerist and art curator. My expertise in photography has more art historical perspective rather than technical. I prefer not to give to the artists advice how to make photography. Photography is an art, that means there is no expertise, it is not mathematics with established formulas. Each artist, photographer has its own style, I can only indicate the interesting points in the works, but never how to do the work.

However when you ask me urban photography, I would rather speak about street photography. This way my definition of the street photography is the photography that was not staged or planned.

Photography of Life from the point of view of an artist, and it does not matter the subject of photography: people, animals, urban or space. Street photography is about interconnection of life, time and photographer.

WJ: You started a gallery for upcoming talent. Why did you choose to exhibit upcoming talent in urban photography?

AS: That is good question, thank you. This decision came very spontaneously: I was very upset that so many talented photographers have no place to exhibit their works outside social media. Such situation prevents photographers to grow, develop the skills and find public recognition. Thus, decision was easy - change the current situation.

WJ: Recently you moved to another location. How is that transition going?

AS: It is going on very well. Now location at Coolsestraat 75 gave me much more freedom to curate more sophisticated exhibition than I could do before.

WJ: What are your criteria for talents to have an exhibition in your gallery? Do future exhibitioners (photographers) have to share some of the costs? If yes, how much would that be approximately?

AS: Oh, many questions in one go! Talent and money, well, unfortunately it should go together but it is not always the case. I love experiment. I love when photographer can go out of established frames and permit himself to create despite the disapproval of public. Art and photography should be sometime provocative, rough, RAW if you prefer. That is my criteria. Not making nice picture, but looking for the true picture.

I understand the expenses of exhibitions are relatively high, so usually we share the cost of production. And naturally, there are always special cases that should be discussed with every artist. So the participation cost can vary. For example if photographer wants to edit a book, or the website is not good enough, or photographer wants to have very special material for printing the works. All is possible but as you can imagine, costs will go different way, nevertheless everything is still possible.

WJ: What is the duration of the exhibitions in general? How do you get a consistent flow of visitors towards your gallery?

AS: Usually an exhibition time is one month, sometimes two - it depends on time of the year.

RAW Streetphoto Gallery host many events: art meetings, photography workshops, cinema nights, workout sessions - so gallery is always busy. There are many visitors to the gallery and it encourages to develop the new activities.

WJ: It seems to me you have a Social Media marketing plan. Do you have any plans to promote works from exhibitions in bars, restaurants, etc. in the city?

AS: Indeed, social media and virtual world are the parts of our daily life, I can not avoid it. Actually it is very interesting to see how the virtual reality influences the real life, for me it is not very clear what has bigger influence on decision making, very peculiar.

Personally, I do not think that promotion in bar is good for any gallery. But I work with publishers like Art Index of Rotterdam or Where to go to, even Rotterdam tourist information….

My target is to give a solid platform for emerging artist, by promoting artist in a bar or restaurant I can ruin his/her artistic career before it even begins. I do a lot of care with artist I am working with.

WJ: You have a team of four persons and it seems you are the commercial driver. Do you see any future collaboration with third parties to gain more traction for your initiative?

AS: You want to know all my secrets, I like a lot your questions. Naturally I have a team. The secret is that I can not do it alone. RAW Streetphoto Gallery consists of 5 outstanding persons and we all our different responsibilities, that we have selected. It is an amazing to work with such talented people: Maxim Shifman (my brother), Tatiana Shifman (my brother's wife), Kseniya Serbina and Imad Gebrayel. So we are family.

I make naturally business collaborations like with printing studio Oppa or now I am working with photography center of Athens in order to make photography exchange, also developing very creative collaboration with German Urban Street Diving group and much more.

Wish I could have 50 hours per day or copy of me to make more work! And there are still so many things to do!!

WJ: On the website info it seems it's mostly for Dutch photographers. I saw one line that stated you are open to photographers from other countries as well. What's the story?

AS: Really? Probably I should change the website. RAW Streetphoto Gallery is open for international photographers too. The coming year it will be French, Finnish, Italian, Israeli, Mexican and American photographers, as you see not only Dutch.

My wish is it to widen the limits so frames are avoided as often as possible.

WJ: You have a five year lease for the new location. Where will you stand in five years from now with this initiative? What's your goal?

AS: That is true. In this location I will stay 5 years, indeed if i like it, may be longer. Rotterdam is changing very fast and I am happy that gallery is making the influence on the city too by making its culture more vibrant.

My wish now is to open the second RAW Streetphoto Gallery in Tel Aviv. I found out so many incredible photographers at Middle East, so it is my personal obligation to bring these talents for the large audience.

In 5 years from now RAW Streetphoto Gallery will become a part of street photography movement and not only in the Netherlands but in much wider spectrum. My target is to create a platform for emerging photographers and support the photographer's career development. By that time 2022  I will definitely be there.

Finally, I am sure that photographers the gallery is working with will find their auditorium and will go for the new artistic heights.

Using the opportunity of our kind interview, I would like to invite all the readers for the new exhibition of street photography opening “Timeless Istanbul” the 4th November at 16:00. It will be french photographer Veronique de Suerte and her reflection about crossroads of the city, history and people inhabiting it. Join the opening and if you have more questions you can ask me directly in the gallery.

WJ: Thank you for your time and we'll meet again.

AS: Thank you for the interview and we'll definitely will.

Street Photography: Insecurity

One of my first shots that day. They were stopping along the way and kept looking and talking about me which made me even more insecure. Never have that feeling, but that day was different...

Click to enlarge

In a previous blog I wrote about overcoming your fear. This article isn't about fear, but rather about insecurity. Especially how I got over this that particular day.

On Friday the 10th of July my wife Sandra and I went downtown to shoot the streets. The moment we arrived I had this unsettled feeling that the atmosphere was very different from what it usually is and not in a good way. I didn't mention it to Sandra although she later told me she had the exact same feeling. 

We decided to have lunch and a drink first and walk the streets after that. After we finished we both went our way. The feeling was still there and made me insecure which I normally don't experience at all when going out shooting the streets. I decided to hang out in front of a building where the sun was reflecting in the windows and try to shoot with that scene as a decor. Immediately after my first shot that feeling of insecurity was confirmed, seeing my subjects stopping after they passed me, talking to each other while watching me in the back. It made me very uncomfortable and even more insecure. Besides that, I still hadn't succeed in taking the shot I was looking for. After a few more of those failures, I finally got it... These subjects also stopped at the opposite of the street and kept watching me while talking to each other. I just kept shooting the building without subjects pretending I didn't see them and was just making pictures of the building. This 'sneakyness' is not really my style and it kept giving me that uncomfortable feeling.

Going on like this for the rest of the afternoon wasn't an option for me, so what to do next? Many past life experiences have tought me that the best way to deal with a problem is to confront yourself with it as head on as possible. This made me decide to seek the confrontation with my subjects if I would notice that they would behave as I've described earlier. So when I went on and took a shot (see below) I noticed that the subjects were unsettled, but walked on. From the corner of my eyes I saw them stopping a few times and watching me. They were already at least 30 meters away, but I decided to start walking towards them (as they moved on, I even ran a bit) and catched up with them. They immediately started asking questions, but in a decent way. Of course they were decent, why wouldn't they be? After all it was me taking the initiative to engage with them. After explaining myself, offering them my card and to email them the photograph, they smiled and everything was fine. We all went our way and I noticed my feeling of insecurity started to come down a bit. After my second and third engagement my feeling of insecurity disapated completely. 

Not a good shot, but these are the people I described above... Click to enlarge.

She actually appologised to me for being in my way. When she moved on, I walked towards here and explained what I was doing, gave her my card and we said goodbye. Her boyfriend contacted me to get the picture. They were very happy with it.

Click to enlarge

Mother and daughter. The same approach here... I walked towards them after they moved on and explained what I was doing before. They also contacted me later to get the picture and were very friendly about it.

Click to enlarge

When Sandra and I met later that day and told her about my experiences, she told me she had that same feeling all day and had two verbally aggressive encounters that day which never happens to her in that way. By that confirming the unusual uncomfortable vibe in downtown Rotterdam that day.

So feeling insecure? Approach your subjects and have a conversation. It helps... They do not expect you to take their photograph, but also not that you would approach a complete stranger to have a conversation about what you are doing. Remain calm, polite and friendly... Nobody will be agressive then...

Feel free to contact me through the contact form, in the below comment section or Facebook.

Good luck and all the best!



Street Photography: Focus Techniques

Click to enlarge

Fujinon XF14mm f2.8 - On the lower ring I set my aperture. In this case at 16... On the middle ring I set my distance to my subject which in this case I've set to 1 meter. Above that setting you can see that at f16 my focal range will be from 0.50 meter towards eternity.

Although most people I know use autofocus while shooting the streets, there are two more techniques that are interesting to use: Zone focussing and Range focussing. In this article I will try to explain both techniques and the pro's and con's of using them.

Prior to 1978 when Polaroid released it's SX-70 Sonar OneStep single lens reflex camera, there was no autofocus available and most street photographers used range focus or zone focus to get their images as sharp as possible. While those techniques will never produce the sharpness from using the autofocus, it does give you an "acceptable sharpness" which of course is a bit arbitrary. So why do I use it then? Autofocus tends to be way too slow for focussing on moving objects on the streets. Also if I see a scene evolving right before my eyes, autofocus can be a bit too slow and the moment has passed. By using the zone or range technique, I don't have that problem.

What is zone focussing?

By setting my camera to manual focus and my apperture to a certain setting,
I create a zone where everything will be in focus (approximately 90%). This can be from one meter away towards a maximum of two meters away, or 2 meter away towards a maximum of 4 meters away, etc. This sounds a bit strange, so let me clarify with an example using a DoF calculator (DoFmaster.com) where
I use the Fuji X-Pro 1 which has the same crop factor (1.5) as my own X-T1. And use my Fujinon XF14mm lens which has a zone focus ring where I can set my distance to my subject and my aperture (see image above).

So here you see that with my distance setting at 1 meter and my apperture at f8, I have a focal range of about 4.57 meters. If I'm at about 0.5 meter from my subject,
I can just click without focussing first and everything from that distance all the way up to approximately 5 meters away will be in focus. The wider I set my apperture, the less DoF or range I will have.

If I apply the same settings on my Fujinon XF23mm, I will get a much more narrow range which is much more difficult to use. In order to increase my range, I have to increase my f-stop as shown in the two examples below.

Increasing the distance to my subject on my focus ring will also increase the range as shown in the next example.

So in general, the less wide your lens, the more difficult it is to use this technique. At about 35mm (full frame) is the maximum focal length in which you can use this, but then you would have to take a larger distance from your subject or an f-stop at 16 to get a workable range. Using my 8mm lens which has no autofocus, I just can set my f-stop at whatever I want, because that lens is so wide, everything will be in focus from a distance of 30cm and beyond.

Using this technique with a wide open aperture, you better know how to estimate the correct distance or else everything will be blurry. If you use a 23mm (35mm on my crop of 1.5) and an aperture of 1.4, you'll have a 60cm range which will be in focus, so you'll have to be very close.

Usually I use f8 or higher on my 14mm with 1 meter distance or f16 at my 23mm with 1 meter distance. Just to be on the safe side...

23mm  - f5 - 1/500 - iso 500 | Zone focussing technique | Click to enlarge

23mm  - f16 - 1/400 - iso 3200 | Hyperfocal technique | Click to enlarge

What is range focussing or hyperfocal distance?

When I set my lens distance at eternity, I will have a minimum distance towards my subject from where I can shoot (depending on my apperture setting). In the above examples you can see the hyperfocal distances as well. Basically, from the minimum distance towards infinity will be sharp. This is an ideal way to go on the streets if you don't want a shallow DoF.


Sometimes if I see a nice background, I pre-focus. This is fairly easy by focussing (withing the range of my settings) on the background and wait until an interesting subject passes by to take the shot. Just focus on a point where you expect the subject will pass and take the shot as it happens.

14mm  - f16 - 1/400 - iso 2500 | Hyperfocal technique | Click to enlarge

Why use manual techniques?

  • No focus hunting;
  • Much faster in reacting to situations or subjects;
  • In full control;
  • Saves time.

The described techniques take some patience. The first few times I came home with all blurred shots which can be a bit frustrating, but learning without mistakes and error just isn't possible I guess. If you need a DoF calculator because your lens doesn't support a zone focus setting, then visit an app store where there are many available which are easy to use.

Hope to have given you fellow street togs something inspiring or maybe you already knew all this, but still liked to read it just to freshen up a bit.

Feel free to contact me through the contact form, in the comment section below or through Facebook.

Have fun!