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K a r o images, which also feels empowering because, not only has Samoilova given these women a platform to show their work, but she has also literally let them speak. Julia Coddington describes a day shooting in Sydney, in which she spotted a pair of red shoes picked out by the light, chasing after them over to Brooklyn. Linda Hacker took a totally different approach, setting up at an interesting location and waiting for someone to walk into view. Some works feel gritty, documenting a particular time and place, but many others – including Hacker’s – have an ethereal, timeless quality.
“[With] Betty [Goh] and Linda, I was so impressed that they could go to the streets and create an abstract atmosphere,” says Samoilova. “I was blown away.” And, in seeking out this type of boundary pushing work, Samoilova is admirably unsnobbish. She’s completely unfazed by practitioners who make work with their phones and says emphatically that you don’t need to have training or expensive equipment to have talent. In fact, she says the growth in camera phones has helped more women take up the medium because they’re accessible and also discrete; they’ve helped “more and more to get brave”, she comments. Perhaps surprisingly, she doesn’t feel women face more barriers or risk than men when shooting in the street, no matter which part of the world they’re based in – and her book is admirably international, departing from Eurocentric traditions to include slices of life shot in many different countries and cultures.
Samoilova has also personally photographed many different landscapes and locations and says she can only remember encountering one angry response. To her, it’s all a question of how you present yourself. “I always approach people with a smile and with my camera next to my face – I
don’t pretend I’m not taking pictures, but I’m friendly,” she says. “In fact, what I love about this type of art is that it teaches you how to read people: to be aware and use your intuition. It teaches patience and how to really look – you don’t have to see someone’s face to know what’s going on. “All of those techniques and skills are useful in other areas of photography too,” she adds. “When I’m teaching people portraiture, I encourage individuals to go out into public spaces and gain experience there. You need to use body language – you can talk and smile with your eyes; you need to think about how you come across to people, whether you’re nervous or relaxed, and the connotations of this.”
It’s not surprising to hear, then, that she’s not fazed by the current pandemic, and the associated lockdowns and quarantines, though they have made it difficult to go out, or find passersby. She’s been making new work by painting on top of images, boasting a well-established art practice as well. There are always things you can do, she adds, whether it’s creating collages or really getting to know your camera.
“Maybe this is a great time to do something else. Danielle Goldstein took pictures from her balcony [during the first lockdown]. If you can go outside, you can train your eye. You can practice. This is what I do, I stand in one corner and look at the light. You can create abstracts. Anything! Creative people always find an outlet.” It’s a typically positive response, from an inspiring individual and artist – and maybe proof that in life, as well as in street photography, you can get good results if you both go with the flow and seize the day.
“From my own experience, when you put your mind to something and really want it, you can achieve it,” she says. “When you have a passion, nothing can stop you.”
Right: Linda Hacker, This Way Out, Brooklyn, New York, USA, 2019 © Linda Hacker .
Words Diane Smyth
Women Street Photographers is published by Prestel prestel.com