He is regularly uploading his photos to Streetfashion MagZZine's Flickr group. Meanwhile we have seen lots of great photos of him in the group and asked him for an interview and to provide some of his photos to be published in the magazine. He agreed and so we finally today can introduce you photographer Harry Wilcken, who is based in Utrecht, Netherlands.
My name is Harry Wilcken, born in Bogota (Colombia) in 1968, actually based in Utrecht (Holland). I have two professions, Dr. in Veterinary Medicine (La Salle University - Bogota) and Photographer (Art & Design College –Utrecht).
As a professional photographer, I have been working in portrait, product, event and fashion photography. In the last two years I became more interested in making street portrait photography, a combination of two disciplines that gives me the opportunity to make short stories using the city landscape as a background.
I prefer to work with women, who have little or no experience in modeling, because it is more challenging. During the photo shoots I take care of every small detail that can compromise the esthetics of the final picture, like dirt, garbage on the street but sometimes the same items are important for the picture, so I leave them in place.
Seeing your remarkable work, I am curious where your creativity comes from?
Well, real creativity is not shown on my street portraits, rather than that, I like to think that I make good combinations between the model, the outfits, the poses and background. The end result is a short story with a bit of the essence of the women on the pictures. I consider myself a very sensitive person, with a good eye for detail, very intuitive and with passion for photography.
Could you share with us how you first became interested in photography?
I have always been fascinated with photography, but back in the day, photography in my country was not considered a real profession and more like a hobby (expensive by the way), so I decided to follow my other passion and became a Dr. in Veterinary Medicine in the 90’s. But, photography was always by my side and the real connection started when I developed my first 35 mm b/w roll by myself, that was the beginning of an endless love with this art.
What equipment are you using now and with what did you get started? what is your favorite lens?
I started with a 110mm cartridge-based film Kodak camera (those with cube flash) back in the late 70’s; since then I have worked with wide collection of Canon 35mm film camera’s and lenses, nowadays I am using a Nikon D-810 and an 85 mm 1.8 f lens for my street portraits. But I am still shooting with 35 and 120 mm film cameras when possible.
I have no favorite lens per se, but, I love the 50mm, for film or digital it’s a great lens to work with, it has its particular way of showing the world through it.
Everything starts with a plan and a route for the shoot based on the outfits the model wants to use, usually I choose 5-6 different locations where something special about the city is to be seen (i.e. architecture, street, sculpture, urban furniture). The day of the shooting, I meet with the model and occasionally a MUA - Georgiana (Vivid Loox) – who takes care of the make up. I make a few shots to break the ice and show the model the end result on the iPad, once she sees the images on a big screen, the session can start fluently and we have some fun. I try to avoid giving to many commands for posing, as I prefer the natural portraiture technique. I use the city as a background and I put a beautiful woman in it, the end result is always a story, which you need to read between the lines. I work fast, not staying for too long in one location and trying to maintain the model’s enthusiasm up during the whole session. I usually prefer to have an assistant, but I manage to work alone with the model on a street full of people. I love when men on the streets stop by to give the model a compliment: they make them feel beautiful.
Do you see a particular influence, be it a photographer or school on your work? Any subject that attracts you?
My principal influence comes from the b/w film masters like M. E. Mark, H. Cartier-Bresson, A. Adams, I. Penn, R. Avedon, D. Lange and L. Matiz among others.
What would you say characterizes your work in comparison to other photographers?
I try to mimic the old school of photography by preparing myself to capture a more natural portrait of women. I don’t repeat myself; every shoot is different from the previous one. Also, I consider myself as a photographer that makes portraits with the camera and not with a photo editing software (let me clarify here that I respect and admire some of the amazing images made by few photo-editor artists).
Among your works, which is your favorite and why?
The ones I have made with my 120mm cameras (Rolleiflex, Mamiya), it taught me how difficult composition can be when your frame is a square and you look everything mirrored!
Tell us your funniest or most awkward photography story.
I was doing a street life reportage with a 35mm film camera and saw a silhouette of a man standing in front of a shop like in the 40’s or 50’s and I decided to take the risk and I did it, I took the picture, but then I was trying to calm down a very angry man who wanted to have the entire film roll off my camera. Luckily for me, I just could convince him to stop fighting me and to give me his e-mail address. I sent him a digital version of his picture a few days later asking for his permission to use it, but until today I have not received an answer at all. And I can tell you; the picture was (is) really good, in the style of Ed van der Elsken.
What would you tell a newcomer who asks for your advice on how to start?
Go back to film, try it once – at least – see the magic of a b/w photo developing before your eyes in a dark room, go visit art galleries, take a look at the paintings, try to understand the mind of the artist, read about the history of photography let yourself be influenced by everything (art, music, architecture, landscape, street life, children, older people) and then choose your own way. Let the camera be a part of your daily life.