Interview with street photographer Jeff Karp

Jeff Karp is a street photographer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.

Jeff Karp

Tell Us a Bit About Your Background

I’m Jeff Karp from Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.  I am a self-taught photographer who enjoys making images. This is my creative outlet from my daily work as a teacher and dentist.

In Spring 2017, I became passionate about street photography.  I am active in the street photography community on Instagram. This is a consistent source of inspiration, feedback, networking, and friendship. Above all, I enjoy black and white photography, minimalism, abstract light studies and creating digital art.

What Do You Feel Makes a Good Image?

The best images are those that cannot be easily copied and those that candidly capture life. Although not a requirement, an immersive story in the image is a bonus.

Certain composition ideas appeal to me:

  • geometric elements
  • leading lines
  • clever use of color
  • sense of scale
  • sub-framing
  • presence of people or their silhouettes

I work hard to notice scenes where there are intense light and deep shadows. However, there must be little to no background clutter. I often set my camera to aperture priority mode (f8-f11) and ISO 400. After that, I use exposure compensation to meter for the highlights in the scene. This deepens the shadows in the frame to the point of being black negative space.

Generally, I shoot on full sun days, so my shutter speed is usually faster than 1/250 so as to freeze motion. I find and compose my scenes first. Then I wait for the human presence to complete the image.

How Do You Find Your Locations?

I don’t have any plans when I go into the city to take photos. In short, I simply walk using light as my guide.  My images tend to be taken in routine locations with the light and shadows providing interest.

There are many walkways above the street level in Minneapolis which cast geometric and diagonal shadows below them. They also provide perspectives on the streets below. Intense light flowing across intersections provides captivating scenes for my work. It is enjoyable to make images, where people are on the walkways but being framed by buildings and blue skies.  

Do You Have to Wait a Long Time for the Perfect Scene to Form?

Firstly, I will find a scene with great light and architectural elements and shadows. Secondly, I will spend time exploring different perspectives for capturing the space. Finally, I will wait for scenes to unfold. The best time is during busy, midday hours when people flood the streets as they begin their commutes.

Usually, the changing position of the light will lead me to move on. Sometimes I can spend 15-20 minutes in a single scene if all of the ingredients for an engaging image are present. I often return to locations in the pursuit of seeing the elusive perfect scene.

What Is the Most Bizarre/ Interesting/Out of the Ordinary Scene Captured or Experienced?

Since I capture candid, quiet moments in public spaces, most of my scenes develop and fade within seconds/minutes. The spaces involve the interplay with light, shadows, architecture and people.

I photograph regularly in the downtown district of Minneapolis which has many glass-walled buildings. They reflect light differently every day as the sun direction and height changes.

The challenge and satisfaction of my photography lie in recognizing mundane scenes that are changed briefly into art by the noon sun.  

Does Your Social Media Popularity Affect or Sway Your Goals?

My goals in photography are simple. I focus on having fun, seeing the world photographically, and pushing myself to the next level each day. Social media is a way to share, get feedback, be inspired, and be part of a community.  I am thankful for every person who chooses to authentically follow, support and interact with me on social media.

What Is Your Go-To Gear?

I enjoy street photography because I do not have to carry a lot of gear during photo walks. My art does not need cameras with many lenses, tripods, or filters.

Images are made mainly with my Fujifilm X100F. This mirrorless camera has a fixed 23mm/f2 lens on a cropped APS-C sensor (35mm equivalent). I like the color profile in the images, especially when using the classic chrome film simulation.

Related Article: Best Fujifilm Cameras

Smartphone photography is also enjoyable. To clarify, I often use the native camera app with Noir filter enabled on the iPhone X, to capture high contrast black and white images in intense sunlight.

Related Article: Apps for photographers

My standard Apple ear pods are great as I like listening to music when walking the city. I also find that the headphones help me to blend in and capture moments.

What Are Your Editing Thoughts for an Image?

It is important to have a consistent portfolio of images that are of high contrast, distraction-free, minimal and geometric. Color should be used well and with purpose. I may convert my images to black and white during editing if the image color adds little visual impact. I tend to deepen shadows and increase the black colors.

At times, I may need to increase the highlights and brightness. I commonly use the vertical perspective correction panel in Lightroom. Here I remove spot highlights in the black negative space of my images. I like to maintain a clean, orderly look. Primarily I use Snapseed for iPhone and Lightroom on my Mac in my workflow. I do not use presets or multiple image composites when editing.  

What Is Digital Art?

During the cold weather months in Minnesota, I do not get outside much to do photo walks. These months give me a chance to review my photography archive and to create other types of visual art.

Over the last 6 months, I have digitally created a series of black and white images in a mixed media approach. I create art by using a variety of Smartphone apps and small human silhouettes extracted from my street photography. I have tried to create surreal places that depict one’s journey into the unknown. They also explore motifs around uncertainty, hope, persistence, power, and despair.

Who Has Inspired You in Your Journey?

I follow many working photographers and enthusiasts on Instagram, who see photographically and take the craft seriously. However, I also draw inspiration from painters, filmmakers, graphic design professionals, architects, and other artists. Specifically, those who use light, shadows, lines, geometry, color, and scale to bring order to their art.

If you would like to see more of Jeff’s work, check out his website or Instagram.

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About the author

Jennifer Venter

I am a passionate trained photographer currently living in China. I love travelling & meeting new people so my photos tend to fall into those categories. I love coffee, fashion & Christmas. Contact me via email ([email protected]) or Instagram (@fleetingtimephotography).

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