Every day we see stunning photos from our peers in the 500px community, but not often do we turn the lens back upon the photographer. The Portrait series focuses on remarkable 500px users who may have something to teach us about their field of photography. This week's feature is Kostas Maros, interviewed by Matt Knight.
Hi Kostas, could you tell us a little about yourself?
I am a 30 year old photographer from Basel in Switzerland. Mostly I do street, architecture and reportage photography. I also like portraits and creative, available-light shootings. Since September I have been working for a Swiss newspaper as a photographer. In January 2012 I started a world trip until the end of November 2012. When I get back I will assist a fashion-and commercial photographer.
What’s the best thing about being a photographer?
I love the creative part of photography. If you have an idea in mind and you try to realise your idea. Sometimes it works out very well, in other situations you face problems with your gear, the light, the image layout etc. Another thing I love about photography is to travel, to discover new places and cities. I usually prepare for a trip by searching interesting places I want to see on istockphotography.com. I also appreciate the moments of coming home, connecting the camera to the computer, looking over the pictures I made, selecting the good ones and erasing the bad ones.
Are there any parts, or things you would change?
Photographic material got cheaper in recent years with the sales on the Internet and the SLR-cameras, but there is room for improvement. It is already very easy to get really good stuff in the non-professional domain, whereas it is still very expensive to get complete equipment for professionals. Another thing which disturbs me is that there are still not enough Internet platforms which offer integral links for workshops, work-placement, photo gear, gallery links etc.
Do you have any memorable stories from any of your experiences with photography?
I have had a lot of good moments due to photography up to now. An example of a memorable happening for me was to meet and talk to René Burri, Magnum Photographer, at a private view in April 2011 at the Oslo Galerie (Switzerland). It was a few days after he got the "Swiss Photo Lifetime Achievement Award". Other exciting moments for me were to take pictures in Soweto (South Western Township) in South Africa and in the favela of Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro.
What makes your work different to anyone else’s?
I always try to create expressive pictures, to improve the perspectives, sometimes to combine the picture with a statement. My first goal is to show different/new views. I try to improve my work every day. There are a lot of good photographers out there. It is a hard job to reinvent yourself all the time but it keeps the creativity alive.
What makes a good photo?
For me a good picture isn’t a technically perfect shot, but a photo which touches people with an intense expression, a never seen perspective, an innovative idea or a profound topic.
If you’re going out on a day trip what camera and what lenses do you take, compared to a more planned out photo shoot?
For a day trip I try to take light stuff with me: I only put my Canon 5D Mark II and 2 or 3 lenses like the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L , the 50mm f/1.4 and sometimes the EF 85mm f1.8 with the filter system in my bag. If I want it even more light-weight I take the Leica M9 along. That is also the equipment I don't want to miss when I travel around. For longer trips I also bring my tripod. For photo shoots or weddings I take more different lenses, the tripod, reflectors, some flashes, more memory cards, additional batteries etc.?
Do you plan projects? Or take photos with a particular shot in mind?
When I started with photography 3 or 4 years ago I just shot whatever pleased me. In the last few months I started to think about different projects and series. I have a lot of projects in mind: one of them is the world tour which started on the 5th of January 2012 in Christchurch (New Zealand), across Australia, Fidji, Indonesia and will lead us through Asia where I want to visit countries like the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, Bangladesh, India, Japan, China etc. to complete with the Trans-Siberian from Peking to Moscow (with stopovers in Ulan Bator and Irkutsk). I have planned different photographic series but will also have time for unplanned shoots.
I've heard that from a set of 100 photographs, a photographer may only be happy with 1 of them. How many shots do you take, and do you shoot for insurance?
It depends on the situation. Sometimes you need hundreds of shots to get a good one and another time you take a few shots and almost all of them are according to your expectations. In certain cases you have no choice because the motive is gone after a couple of seconds. But it certainly has become much easier with the digital era and the possibility to erase failed pictures without losing a lot of money.
What’s better, photographing by yourself being able to do what you want? Or shooting with friends?
Both sides have their advantages. It depends on my mood. If I work alone I am free to decide about my plans. I like to photograph alone when I travel, or to travel with someone who doesn't mind if I take my time to take pictures, but I also enjoy working with a friend on a project/series.
How important is it to have the best (and potentially the most expensive) gear? How much do you own yourself, and what couldn’t you leave the house without?
In my opinion it is not the most important thing to have the best & most expensive gear. It is more important to have a good eye, interesting ideas and a good deal of fantasy. It is possible to realise interesting views with a digital compact camera or even an iPhone. As far as I know there is a photographer who made an exhibition of photographs taken with his iPhone.
I own all the stuff I mentioned before. I am not a fan of renting, sometimes I share lenses with other photographers/friends. I have no problems to leave the house without my equipment, even if I often experience situations in which I miss my stuff.
Street/Landscape? People/Animals? DSLR/ SLR?
If I had to make a choice I would say Street, People, DSLR.
Which photographers, or artists, inspire you the most?
There are a lot of different photographers who inspire me every day. That can be photographers in my surroundings, friends and photographers in different photo communities, but also photographers like Josef Hoflehner for his black & white fine art works and Sacha Goldbergerfor his creativity and advertising photography. To mention some stars of the business: I am especially inspired by the works of lot of Magnum photographers like Martin Parr(for his sense of humor), Alex Webband Alex Majoli(for their strong photographs and ability of exceptional composition) and Bruce Gilden(for his approach and use of flash-light).
How important is post-editing? To what extent do you use computer software to improve your photos?
In my opinion the importance of post-editing grows every year. Most of the photographers are also good users of Photoshop/Lightroom and other post-production software. You have to hold the level if you want to be able to produce attractive photography. I personally use Lightroom and Photoshop to improve my pictures, but I still have a lot of work to do to increase my skills in post-editing. I hope that I will be able to spend more time on this part in the future.
How can new photographers improve their photography?
I think it is like in other domains. You have to practice a lot; the more you practice, the better you get. For my part, to get my equipment under control, it helped to read books & technical literature, to watch tutorials and to talk to experienced photographers. Further assistance came in the form of photo communities on the web, exhibitions or galleries where you can track good photographers and learn from their ability.
More and more people are gaining popularity through photo sharing sites such as 500px; are galleries still important?
In my judgement people can gain popularity through photo sharing sites such as 500px, and other ones. In any case, there are plenty of experienced and talented photographers in these communities and a few of them have gained popularity through these sites and have established themselves in the tough market of photography. However, galleries are still very important in my eyes as a gallery owner can provide individual support to photographers which is not always possible through a sharing site. Probably the number of online galleries & photo sharing sites, and the possibility to sell artworks on the web, will increase in the next years. From my point of view a good solution is a mix of both types of representation for photographers.