Interviews

Interview with Tom Lazar – Street Photographer

Photographer Tomasz Lazar finds that the Fujifilm X100S is the best choice for his brand of street photography

Tomasz Lazar is a photographer from Poland and a graduate of the West Pomeranian University of Technology. His black & white documentary images of street culture have won numerous accolades, including placing in the Sony World Photography Awards and the International Photography Awards. “I also took second place in ‘People in the News’ category of the 2012 World Press Photo contest and received Picture of the Year at BZ WBK Press Foto 2012,” he tells X Magazine.

X100S Lens: fixed 23mm Exposure: 1/15 sec  ISO: 400

X100S Lens: fixed 23mm Exposure: 1/15 sec
ISO: 400

 While Tomasz was still at university he planned a trip to Spain with his girlfriend, but didn’t own a camera. “I was given [a camera] by my parents, a Nikon D50 – and that’s how it all started,” he said. “After coming back from Spain I wanted to learn more about photography. I read books, looked at photo albums, talked to people about it – and I still remember the first photography book I bought, by Jeanloup Sieff. I really felt that photography was what I loved and what I would like to do in the future. I’ve always liked to talk to people and listen to their stories, but photography also enabled me to capture their stories.”

Street life

After a year living in Warsaw, Tomasz is now based in Szczecin, and tries to constantly be on the move. “I travel around Poland and Europe, and try to visit New York at least once a year,” he explains. As a long-time member of the un-posed photography group, which focuses on street photography, Tomasz devotes most of his time to taking pictures. To Tomasz, the street is an almost magnetic place, which he describes as being like a ‘living organism’. “Everything is constantly changing,” he says. “Street photography gives you a kind of freedom but also allows you to converse with people and observe situations.” He also points out that despite the name, you don’t have to be on a street to take street photography. “Street is a combination of factors that are relevant to each other – moments that together, give you this kind of mood.”

Whether on the street or not, Tomasz is always searching for images that, in his words, ‘enchant reality’. “The photographer Ernst Haas said of photographs, ‘the less information, the more allusion; the less prose, the more poetry’, which works to stimulate the imagination,” Tomasz explains. “This is what I’m really looking for. Some people say that I’ve got my own black & white style in photography, but I think that I can try different approaches to develop my consciousness. With my pictures I like to tell stories about places and people or try to show the mood.

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Question time

Tomasz has come to the conclusion that there are two kinds of photo projects: “One kind answers questions, but the other aims to force the viewer to think, and actually asks questions. My Theatre of Life is such a project – its point is to raise questions and make the viewers consider what to do next, what impact is had on our lives by technological development and the media.” Theatre of Life is a project that Tomasz has been working on since 2008, an exploration of surrealism. “It’s an essay on my experiences and thoughts about what surrounds me,” he says. “As a result of fast-changing technological developments, many people seem to feel disconnected from the world. Some seek refuge and create alternative realities: some dress in costumes, play role-playing games or pretend to be heroes from movies or Japanese anime. We all find our ways to cope, but these ‘off’ moments are what interest me.”

Tomasz frequently works in black & white, enjoying the dark and mysterious perception that people have of monochromatic pictures. “I also like to use natural light mixed with a flashlight,” he says. “I’ve learned a lot of my black & white technique from the classical darkroom – such as how to develop and work on the images. I like to work on all the details to make the picture better. To make really good black & white, everything is important: composition, light, people’s faces – and that’s why I like monochrome images.”

Tomasz often works with the Fujifilm X100S and has high praise for the camera’s capability at delivering black & white images. But it’s not just the inner workings of the cameras that Tomasz enjoys: he loves their style and size as well. “I like the way they are built. When I’m going on assignments for The New York Times I take the X100S: it is small, but the quality of the images, even set to high ISO, is very good. That’s why I like to work with it on the streets and during my journalism work.”

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Trying the X-E2

During a series of workshops run by Fujifilm Poland Tomasz was able to spend some time with the new X-E2. “Last year I was working on Beer Project, a collection of images about beer culture in Prague for Fujifilm using the X-E1, and for me it was a very good camera – but after holding the X-E2 I can tell it is even better. For me, lenses and cameras are like kitchen knives, pots and pans for cooking: different projects mean I’ll choose different cameras and lenses.”

Along with a decent camera in his pocket, Tomasz recommends any keen street photographers find themselves a good pair of walking shoes – “because sometimes you can spend more than eight hours shooting” – and also advises that in order to be as creative as possible photographers shouldn’t close their minds to other genres. “I’ve tried many types of photography – I share the view of Alec Soth from the Magnum agency that you should try everything, because you never know when you might need this kind of skill,” he says. “Besides, this opens up your mind and makes it easier to become a ‘humanist’”.

VISIT TOMASZ’S WEBSITE HERE

X Magazine Issue 3This interview was first published in issue 3 of the Fujifilm X Magazine. Click here to read it for FREE.

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