Matt Weber – “I’m just shooting my way through life”

All photographs ©Matt Weber

After years of following his work online, I finally got a chance to interview Matt and have a conversation about his photography. For some, this conversation might be on the long side, but it’s worth it to hear Matt talk about his work and experience photographing on the streets of New York.

You can view more of Matt’s work and buy his book ‘The Urban Prisoner’ on his website. He’s also very active on Google+.

Are you still driving a taxi? When I first read that (can’t remember where) I was instantly intrigued. I know it’s rather superficial, but I’ve always been interested in photographers who make their work on the job, or in between the job, or despite of the job. Maybe more specifically, how do you think your perspective as a cabbie (or blue collar guy) impacted the way you shoot?

I started driving a taxi when I was pretty young. I was twenty years old and had been a truck mechanic at a shop in Brooklyn. As a skinny kid, I could barely lift the truck’s tires off of their axles and I would come home exhausted with skinned knuckles. The minimum wage was $2.50 per hour and after taxes I was taking home $80 a week. Someone mentioned that I could make a better living driving a cab and I knew that being a mechanic wasn’t any fun, so I showed up at a taxi fleet in Long Island City.

The taxis were Dodge Aspens which were some of the worst taxis, let alone cars, America ever built. They were ugly underpowered vehicles but I was young and found cruising around NYC actually pretty cool. Even though I’d spent my entire life in New York, there were many neighborhoods which I had never been to and I felt like I was an explorer as well as a driver. I’m not sure if I’d ever been to the Bronx other than to see Yankee games. Maybe I had one trip as a kid to Staten Island.

Unlike most cabbies, I was thrilled to take people to the outer boroughs. I’d just blast some tunes and take my time whittling my way back to Manhattan. Working the night shift was preferable because I was full of energy back then and I had already spent a couple of years driving muscle cars at speeds which made me wonder if I shouldn’t consider racing school. I loved speed and as I said, the V6 Aspens were like molasses compared to the Pontiac’s I had driven.

It took almost three years before the job became boring and even then, I realized that not having a boss was precious. I bought a medallion in ’82 and installed a nice stereo into my brand new Crown Victoria, and decided to try and make a career out of the taxi business. Having been arrested many times as a minor, this phase of my life seemed like a good decision and part of me wishes that I had been able to stick with it over the long haul.

In 1984 I was robbed at double gunpoint by teenagers which was a ridiculous experience. I had been robbed at single gunpoint before, but to feel two barrels at my stomach and head simultaneously, wiggling nervously under a pair of trigger fingers, is something hard to imagine. I installed a bulletproof partition a few days later and shrugged it off. I never even contemplated giving up the taxi as a way to make a living. How else could a high school drop out make $100 a night? Besides, the “No Boss factor” was as I said, priceless.

I had seen so many things on the streets that I kept saying “If only I had a camera.” I had seen knife blades flickering under the street lights of Hell’s Kitchen and punk rockers having sex on the hood of a car at dawn on Houston Street. A camera seemed like the only way to capture the crazy stuff which was happening almost every night. I wish I’d kept up my shooting as a kid with my grandmother’s Kodak rangefinder. It was a lousy camera, but if I’d stuck with it, I’d have documented the ’70s which I think were more interesting than the 80′s. So one day in December 1984 I walked into Competitive Camera and bought an AE-1 and a 50mm lens.

At first I shot a lot of color film and then at one point in 1985 I decided that black & white was the best for me. I had built a darkroom and found that color was too tricky to develop. Also, most of the few photographers I had ever seen used B&W. I did make a point of shooting a few rolls of Kodachrome 64 each year because it did seem like a good thing to do. K-64 was like reality in a tiny canister. I wish I had shot more. Between 1984 and 1987 I did some decent work but I was still smoking a lot of weed. The amount of mistakes I would make started to bother me. I’d be shooting at F 16 late at night or F 1.4 in bright sunlight and in 1988 I stopped getting high and sure enough the mistakes became a thing of the past and my work started getting better.

Around that time I started to go to a few exhibits and also started to buy some monographs at a little bookstore in the village. Just as soon as I thought I was hot shit, I went to ICP and saw an exhibit by Marc Riboud, the French photojournalist and left the museum feeling two inches tall! It’s not good to live in a bubble because you need to occasionally gauge your work based on a truthful assessment of the work of others.

Fortunately despite feeling useless, I didn’t fold up my tent and quit. I think that failure is important. Failing over 99% of the time and not giving up is something to be proud of. I still take awful pictures on a daily basis and I always will. There aren’t too many other types of photography where that’s the expected result. If you can live with constant failure then you’ll also be rewarded with the occasional gem. I never tried to be frugal with my film. I never shot crazy amounts like Winogrand, but I also didn’t try and stretch out a roll. Any glimmer of hope is a fine reason to press the shutter. The shots that didn’t seem to matter when you took them do yield some great images, and the no-brainers often suck. No way to know as things unfold on the street, so hesitating would be a lousy strategy.

After almost six years of shooting pictures while driving a cab, I realized that I was driving around New York looking for pictures more than I was looking for my next fare! I didn’t care about money and was behind on my bank payments for the medallion. I made what was one of the worst decisions I ever made financially, and I sold the medallion in 1990. I wanted to be a photographer and had been driving a taxi for over twelve years. The problem was I didn’t know how to shoot now that I was on foot and I guess I didn’t know how to walk as well as I did drive, so my work started to suffer. I would suffer from the photographic equivalent of “Writer’s Block” for many years and it would be the crazy decision to spend most of my savings on a pair of M6′s and a few lenses, that would help me make a comeback.

The Leica’s were something which I knew I might never buy if I waited till I could afford them, so I took the plunge anyway. I’ve often compared the decision to buy my Leica’s to buying a new sports car. You’ll obviously want to drive the sports car all the time and you’ll drive it more often, with more precision. If you have a new lover, you’re very likely to make more love and probably with considerably more enthusiasm. I suddenly loved the feel of this new camera in my hands. I wanted to shoot more pictures. I loved the precise focus which yielded razor sharp results. The quiet shutter was great too.

Most people have some fear when out on the street and not having a loud clapping mirror helped deal with that issue. I would take a picture and not have heads spin instantly. I started to take pictures which previously had seemed off limits. Twenty years later, I still live month to month and know that a $600,000 medallion and a $1,800 a week job would be a nice thing. The pictures I have taken don’t put me on easy street and if I had still been taxi driver, I know that I might have been shot or gotten into a head on collision.

No turning back the clock. Having a kid to support and trying to make street photography pay off is an almost impossible task, but despite the struggles I’m glad that I am a photographer. The camera saved me from myself once and has helped me through some other rough times since then. I have more work than I will ever be able to complete and that’s a blessing! I’ll never be an old guy watching Seinfeld reruns and wishing I had done something else with my life.

Are you out photographing on the street every day? Where are some of your favorite spots in NYC to shoot?

I don’t have the energy or the money to really go out and shoot every day any more. My recent attempts at shooting color have been very rewarding because of all the challenges of adding an additional element to my thinking as I shoot. Now things that I may have passed on seem to hold promise, which is fun. The problem is that after experimenting with several different films, I have decided that Kodak’s Portra 800 is the way to go. At over $10 per roll and then another $5 for dip & dunk processing it is costing me around $16 a roll and as you know, there are rarely more than a couple of shots per roll worth even considering. If I really get into a groove I can shoot between five and ten rolls a day, and the cost is killing me!

The heat is also a factor for me. I sometimes find that running around the city when it’s 95-100º can leave me faint sometimes. I’m all of sudden a middle aged guy who may think like a teenager, but my body wants none of it. The last time I went to Coney Island it was one of those 102º days and I needed to sit down with a bottle of water and recover for almost an hour! I’m dedicated, but my daughter’s the most important thing and I gotta take care of myself better. As far as my favorite locations to shoot, I’ve always preferred areas which are not completely gentrified.

Even when I was young and driving a cab, all I wanted was the leftovers from Walker Evans’ days. The older bars with their neon signs and the crumbling buildings in Harlem were some of my favorite things to shoot. Old cars, and the non renovated parts of the subway system were also very important to me. Anything which I might have seen in a Berenice Abbott photo would make me happy. I’m not sure why I was, and am so drawn to the older artifacts but I am. That’s why I’ve spent a lot of time at Coney Island during the past 8 years. It was one of the few places which retained much of its atmosphere from the post war days when everything cost 5¢.

The garment center is also cool because you see all sorts of people pushing those carts around in any weather, and the neighborhood looks much like it did thirty years ago. Times Sq was a terribly dangerous place back then and luckily I took a few pictures, but as usual wish I had shot a lot more! Regrets of missed opportunities have plagued me, but also helped me greatly. I can lament a missed shot for a very long time, if I think it may have been epic. Those type of shots are far and few between.

In order to spare myself the self inflicted torture which follows missing a potentially great photograph, I’ve learned three things from my mistakes. Never leave home without your camera. Never do it! Always keep at least one extra roll of film, or these days an extra battery and CF card I suppose. Lastly, don’t hesitate when you see something fantastic. Fear and or embarrassment, has cost me a handful of images which I’m certain would have been very important to me. It’s hard to block out emotions sometimes, but if you want to be a “Nice Guy” and never upset a soul, you’ll be better off doing something else.

These days street shooting is more of a game to me. I look for interesting faces to pop up from the masses. If I’m lucky I might find threesomes which for some reason I’ve always enjoyed shooting. Three of a kind is always something I try to get. Four of a kind is much harder. The geometry of the street is also important when just wandering around without a subject in particular. If I see tall, short, tall, short or combinations which just look good because of their size and shape. sometimes that can be enough.

Of course an actual moment when something exciting is happening is much better, but there are times when you can’t buy one! A really funny moment sometimes seems cruel when photographed or not as funny when you look at it as a photograph. I think its important to shoot things which might not be easy to do and may often make people angry. If you only shoot safely, you’ll have much less worth editing. I don’t think you have to get super close like Gilden either. Some people think hipshooting with a 21mm lens is the way to go.

I have never liked ultra wide lenses because the resulting image is so obviously distorted. I only shoot from the hip when it seems like a good shot and my safety may be threatened. I hate finding that I didn’t frame an image well because of fear, so I try and take a quick peek through the viewfinder rather than just hope I nailed it. The 28mm & 35mm lenses are the perfect tools in my opinion, but everybody has their own comfort zone and will chose accordingly. It kinda annoys me when I see people with a 200mm lens shooting people from fifty feet away, but from what I’ve read on Flickr many people fall in love with bokeh which I always thought had something to do with flowers.

I can relate to fear and embarrassment causing one to miss shots. I’ve been shooting street off and on for five years and while I feel I’ve picked up some insights and have a better idea of what I’m doing these days, it’s still a struggle sometimes to really do what it takes to be fully immersed when you’re out there, especially when it comes staying alert at all times and taking risks to get the shot. You’ve been doing it much longer naturally. You’ve mentioned a few of the challenges you face these days, but how much has your approach evolved over the years?

I feel that after twenty seven years of photographing New york, I have some off days where I just don’t care or maybe I just don’t have the necessary focus to react and take each opportunity that comes along. I don’t want to compare SP to sports, but I think that some days you’re in a “Zone” where not only do you see better, but you also respond quicker and with more confidence. In that respect its exactly like sports. Sometimes when I’m not feeling it, I’ll find myself in a very awkward situation where I have to weasel out of a potentially bad confrontation. Other times, nobody has a problem and everything is wonderful.

Expecting people to want to be photographed is something which will rarely happen. I think women have a huge advantage in this area. They are much less likely to get into a physical confrontation with men, and will also be likely to get along better with other women. I have been threatened so many times that it is necessary for me to be immune to insults and just try and keep moving along. When I was starting out, I did a lot of landscapes and I’m glad that I did. The city has changed so much that the skyline of 25 years ago is no longer dominated by the Empire State Building and it’s prettier cousin the Chrysler building. The world trade center was so ugly that I never really cared to photograph it very much. I only took one picture of it that I really liked.

Of course there were a lot of crazy people in New York back then because you could rent an apartment in Manhattan for not much more than $100 per month. Groups of artists could share a railroad flat for $25 a month each, and almost anyone could scrounge up the rent one way or another. These days, most of the interesting people have been purged from their affordable apartments and the city is much more generic in its flavor. I think that all of these digital point and shoot cameras are making SP much more accessible to photographers because there’s very little overhead to jump in and build a body of work.

You don’t need to build a darkroom and spend a few months learning how to process film and make decent prints. The cost of being very prolific on the street was pretty high. I usually spent around $300 a month on film, paper and chemicals. Today you just shoot and then see what’s worth keeping when you get home. I still love the way film looks as I take my negatives and look at them through a loupe. Having never made contact sheets, I became pretty good at reading negatives, which is something I’ve been criticized for doing. I admit that I might give digital a try if someone gave me an M9, but that doesn’t seem likely, and a well exposed and developed TRI-X negative is still “state of the art” in my opinion.

I just have to keep looking at everyday as an opportunity even if other parts of my life are not going well. Having went through a brutal divorce over the past few years, I have plenty of days where I’m not feeling happy at all. To force myself onto the subway to shoot passengers who are usually not very friendly took some self motivation. It is important to keep going when things aren’t going well, because to sit around and pout is pathetic. Unless a true tragedy strikes, I think one must try and do something with each day. I’ve surprised myself with some of the work I’ve done during a period in my life that I never saw coming and wish I hadn’t had to endure. The good work has made me feel a lot better than if I had been stagnant.

When I walk around town, I know that most of the time there are going to be very few exciting moments to photograph. I have to have a very optimistic view of what I see on the street. Each time a traffic light turns green and I see a new group of people coming right at me, I see possibilities. Most of the time, what I thought I saw starts to diminish and falls apart, but every now and then the people fall into place perfectly and at least one of the people has something special about the way they look. Happy, sad. Pretty, ugly. Tall, short. Fat, thin. The simplest details when seen side by side or caught in a perfect stride can turn a very average picture into one which is worth taking.

Of course as I said, failing almost 99% of the time is life on the street. A great photographer, David Hurn once said that he had to expose 100,000 frames to get one image worth hanging in a museum. That is something to think about. Naturally as you get older and hopefully better, what once may have seemed acceptable is no longer enough to please you. That makes the game a lot harder to play. The simple “Poster with a person” type of juxtaposition is less likely to make me feel happy. I’ll still take some silly shots but I’m not looking to only make cute visual puns. The streets of New York have a lot of things to shoot which aren’t pretty. I want a little bit of everything.

What I like about my better pictures is that they are full of questions. Why are they laughing or fighting? What’s the old woman thinking about as she passes a couple of teens making out? Are they going to be married and live happily ever after? Was the homeless guy a veteran who spilled blood for us, or was he just spilling wine? I see lots of questions and that goes against an opinion that SP is boring because it gives you answers. I never understood that, but I don’t have a PHD.

In some of the discussions I’ve observed and contributed to in the last year, there’s been a sentiment that for many people street photography is just a phase for most people. They’d essentially use the street as a training ground, a place to exercise  the photographic muscles before moving onto more serious work. I think it’s very rare to find a photographer who sticks to street photography for the long haul. You certainly seem to be one of those guys, which is very admirable.

Looking over your body of work, are you perhaps taking a different perspective on it? Are you noticing themes and ideas now that you may have over looked in the past? I think the best ‘street photography’ often is about more than simply capturing the ‘flow of life on the street.’ I guess I’m wondering if you’ve started to look at your photography differently now that you’ve accumulated such a large body of work.  

I find myself at a very difficult time in my “Career.” I have done more much than I thought I would and at the same time less than I wish I had. Meaning, I never expected to have a decent body of work, but looking at it, I wish that I had become a “Concerned Photographer” like some photojournalists. It’s not that I don’t love street photography, but I think most of us would like to make a difference with our work, even though as a
street photographer, its almost impossible in the first place.

Photojournalists risk their lives and yet only a few have taken pictures which made a difference. Most people are totally saturated from being bombarded with images on their TVs, computers and magazines. It’s amazing how much bloodshed I’ve seen in my life going back to the age of seven when my grandmother took me to see “The Battle of the Bulge.” Growing up in the city during the 1970′s I saw quite a lot of real blood and I guess I’ve become uncomfortably numb to violence.

I once found myself watching a couple of teenagers shooting back and forth at each other in Washington Heights. All of a sudden it hit me that this wasn’t a fucking movie and that I should step on the gas and get the hell out of there. It seemed like a scene in a movie and I was watching it as such! That’s why it’s hard to take pictures that have a lot of punch to them. I still try, but its all soft compared the pictures coming back from the middle east. Those photographers have my total respect, because even though I’ve taken a few chances, I know that the guys and ladies over there are extremely brave.

This leaves a “Street photographer” who wants to do really good work, a real challenge. Funny pictures are very popular and I still find myself taking a few. Sad pictures are criticized by many keyboard warriors as being mean and heartless. I use the term keyboard warriors, because most of the criticism comes from anonymous writers who feel very brave.

To portray NYC in a funny or loving way is to be very selective and I’m trying to show a true view of the city. If my life’s work is basically a document of this great city, then I’d like it to be totally honest and as complete as possible. In a perfect world I would love to have each picture I take be a decent photograph one way or another. Since very few will be good, I’d like to have as many different subjects as possible.

Therefore, even though women are the most beautiful subjects, I force myself to photograph men and lots of old people as well. I’ll be old in a few years and I feel unsure as to how many years I have left as a photographer. If I don’t shoot a little bit of everything now, I may not have a chance later. I want to publish a few more books and the more strong images I have at my disposal, the better the books will be.

Anytime I leave the house, I might get very lucky and a great picture will always make me happy no matter what category it is, and why it happens to work. I want good pictures of everything, and I don’t care if it makes me sound greedy. I see some people working with almost mathematical precision, and at the same time almost no humanity. The pictures are very intelligent and take great foresight. I have a few which took some planning but mostly I love pouncing, when out of nowhere something just happens.

What seems like a potentially great shot can lift my mood for the rest of the day. I bet when a musician suddenly comes up with a good riff or a great line for a song, they suddenly feel much better. It’s so quick and in that split second, something special is created which is actually the result of many years work.

Once again, I don’t know what I want and I have to trust that my eyes will take in all that’s in front of me in a way that allows me to quickly process the possibility of a nice picture. Just like an athlete who is having a good game, sometimes everything is apparent and you just do everything right. Other times, like a guy who hasn’t had a hit in 40 at bats, one good scene after another finds you out of position or just too slow to react.

When I try too hard, I get nothing and when I just stop thinking about it, something good tends to happen. So maybe I am just capturing the flow of life on the streets, but I want all of it and not just the photogenic parts. A good friend once told me that I try too hard to capture exciting moments and that sometimes just a subtle expression on someone’s face is all that a picture needs. He’s right of course. I am looking to hit home runs, when some of the best pictures are very quiet ones.

The one type of photography which has bugged me lately, is when someone goes out and takes a lot of very simple and bland photographs, and then using the all too popular “Typology” bullshit, proves that people all over the world smoke cigarettes or wear striped tee shirts etc. I really find it hard to believe that such mediocre work can be celebrated just because someone accumulates a ton of similar subjects. Does that ever bother you when you see crap at a hallowed institution?

I don’t really get upset about what the galleries or ‘hallowed institutions’  are showing. It’s part of the machinery of the art world. One of the great things about the web is that alternative voices have been able to blossom and really thrive, to the point where the art world looks to some of these outlets as authorities. Sure, there’s certainly some silly and rather bland photography getting promoted but I think we’re also seeing some galleries take chances on work that’s surfaced from the web. I’m not sure how much it matters at the end of the day though because the fine art and documentary photography audience is very small relative to the larger art world.

Most of the people who appreciate photography tend to be other photographers I think. Street photography is having a moment right now because I think it’s easy to conceptualize – ‘street life, we’re all photographers capturing it!’ But I think that’ll fade eventually.

I think it’s interesting that you mentioned you wish you’d become a ‘concerned photographer.’ There’s no shortage of them either and I’m not really convinced that most of that work has much impact, or produces societal changes. So it makes me wonder what’s inside you that makes you feel that street photography is somehow inferior, or not as worthy.

I think one thing that’s important with street photography is that the photographer clearly communicate what compels them to go out and make these photographs. For me, the philosophical framework and biographical circumstances are important to understanding the work. I know that’s somewhat contentious because the photographs should stand out on their own but I’m not sure that’s enough any longer. I think we need more and I think adding more context only enhances our understanding of the work.

Just by learning a bit more about your background, your photographs have taken on a new life for me, and I think that’s pretty damn cool.

I use to think of SP as photojournalism’s little brother. I guess traveling half away around the world and risking one’s life in many various ways contributed to my feeling that way. I have gotten over it though. I was writing in the past tense. The same insecure guy who crawled out of ICP after seeing the Marc Riboud exhibit.

I’m totally comfortable with my place in the medium now. I’ve been threatened and attacked so many times that I don’t have to worry about whether or not I’ve paid my dues at this point. Trying to make ends meet in 21st century NYC as a high school dropout has had its ups & downs. I’ve spent almost all of my available time and money trying to document New York for a long time and I would like to make a few pictures which have enduring qualities. As I mentioned, only a select few will get a chance to take pictures which can actually change history. The rest of us should be very grateful for the opportunity to make some pictures which are worth looking at for more than a split second!

If I were trying to take autobiographical pictures, I would have tried, and probably failed at something more along the lines of Larry Clark. All the stuff I did as a teen in the 1970s was rarely documented. Cameras were definitely not allowed, and to try and photograph the stuff we did, would have been a reason to be hurt very badly by the people I would have been taking pictures of. I had a good friend who was a talented boxer and he’d constantly slap me upside my head, in order to make me fight him.

There was quite a bit of fighting on the streets back in the old days. Whenever I see people fighting, I sort of feel like a sports photographer. After all the decisive moment is something which sport photography have always been about. I often say Motion & Emotion are my two favorite things when I’m wandering around town looking for things to shoot. Kissing is nice because love is certainly the best emotion, but a good fist fight is motion and very strong emotions in one picture. How can a street photographer want to photograph only interesting juxtapositions when life is spinning out of control in from of them?

I say that and a few very talented photographers feel exactly the opposite way. They’d never bother with something as obvious as a fight. They are better at finding wonderful abstractions and often humorous duplications on the street. I take whatever comes my way but I need to have a faint hope of promise. I can’t just shoot a roll every two blocks like the famous guy from the Bronx did. At ten bucks a roll, I’d need a Guggenheim to be half as prolific, and without a very good ghost writer, I doubt my application would get me lunch money.

I think it’s interesting that you mention fighting. On the web you frequently find this attitude that people need to prove how tough or aggressive they are in order to validate their photography. What is it about street photography that so many people equate it with aggression and danger?

Even the term ‘street’ often invokes the gritty, dirty, rough and tough. Listening to you, I get a sense that you’ve actually lived that life, so you can speak to it honestly. But for many people, it seems street photography becomes a way to assert themselves. A good example are a few videos that are floating around of young dudes going out on the street and aggressively photographing strangers.

Well, you know more than I do about what’s happening these days. You curate a group of 40,000 photographers, so if anyone has the pulse of street photography, it’s you! I just hate being sneaky, and I don’t want a fight at this point under any circumstances. After all these years, and many tense encounters, I’ve only been injured once. A very nerve wracking situation happened on the Broadway local a few years ago, and left me wondering why  I keep doing what I do. I hate to be scared. The TV networks have half this country cowering because of Al Qaeda.

I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. I may have already said this. I almost never take pictures of extremely fat people or midgets. The same policy extends to people with terrible birth defects and burn victims. I reserve the right to take pictures of anyone if the picture is more than just a document of their own misfortune. Anything is possible and I suppose in the right context, I could shoot a picture of almost anybody.

As I always say, it’s still possible to edit what you show people after taking the pictures. A picture where I may have crossed the line of decency, can never be seen again. If I don’t see any redeeming value in a picture, I wouldn’t want it to be seen. Once again, I don’t want to photograph only women because they are beautiful, or older people because I have issues with getting old (like most people my age). I want everyone, and that includes men.

There have been famous street photographers who barely photograph any men and it’s possible that their selection was partially based on self preservation. I mean if 85% of their subjects are senior citizens, then they have been very careful to avoid people who could do them any harm. That’s wise, but leaves an incomplete view of which ever city they may be shooting in.

You’ve been around for awhile, but you’ve got plenty of time left. How do you see your work progressing in the future? What’s next?

So what am I gonna do next? Sounds like a simple question but it’s not! I never knew what I was doing in the first place. I never had a project until I realized that I had already been photographing something for quite awhile. Once I realize that I have a substantial amount of images in a particular subject, then I figure there’s a lot to be gained in pursuing it further. So there is a chance that I will just fall into something
else down the road, even though it would be simpler to just figure out what I want to do.

Assuming that I don’t have an epiphany and realize what I must shoot, I can continue wandering around, just snapping whatever I come across that intrigues me. This may sound weak, but its worked for over twenty five years. If I had money I could buy a Widelux and start doing panoramas like many other great photographers have done.

A new camera with a different format would certainly give me a kick in the butt. Since money is not usually a trait of street photographers, I don’t think a new camera is happening anytime soon. What about this? “A Kickstarter campaign, “Bored Street Photographer needs $10,000 to buy a new camera and a ton of film, to inspire him to keep shooting” Think that might work?

I was lucky enough to have a chance to work with Todd Oldham on my subway book. He has the “Midas Touch” and did a wonderful job designing the book. Finding a publisher these days isn’t easy and even though Blurb has improved, I think most would prefer having a real publisher take a chance on one’s work. I will also try and design another Coney Island book down the road. The one I did last year with Mike Peters was very satisfying. Most photographers want to do only books of their work, and I think that from a reader’s point of view, a collaboration can sometimes be more interesting. So publishing a few books that are worth reading is something I hope to achieve.

I always say “I’m just shooting my way through life” and since its been a great ride so far, why stop?