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An Interview with Street Photographer Babak Kanaani from Iran

RK : Say something about you.

Babak : I'm Babak Kanaani! I was born and still live in Tehran, Iran. I graduated in civil engineering in 2014 with master’s degree. I started photography in 2005. Since that time, I have collaborated with several domestic and international magazines, on an ongoing basis. Also I have participated in several national and international group exhibitions.

RK : What are your favorite genres of Photography?

Babak : Street photography, documentary and portrait are my favourite genres and I photograph continuously these genres.

Also “staged photography” is my enthusiasm. I enjoy watching the photos of this genre, especially the artworks of outstanding photographers such as Jeff Wall and Gregory Crewdson.

RK : Was there anything specific that you can remember that made you want to become a photographer?

Babak : In 2005, with one of my friends' recommendation, I started photography. At that time, under specific circumstances, I couldn’t pursue my deep interest in cinema and that made me takes photography even more serious and focus on it.

RK : What was the first camera that you received?

Babak : I started photography with my father’s camera, a Canon AE-1. That was my first camera. At the beginning, my photos had various subjects and topics but eventually I found myself being more interested in portrait photography.

RK : What camera & equipment do you use now?

Babak : I currently use the Nikon 5300 camera for documentary and portrait photography, and for street photography I often use my cellphone (iPhone 7). The mobile camera has good features, It is always available everywhere and provides the possibility of photographing the candid moments as quickly as possible.

RK : If you were told that you could only keep one camera and lens combination, what would it be?

Babak : Canon AE-1 50mm Lens!

Photography with this camera has memorable and nostalgic feelings for me.

I’d like to experience photography with the Leica mirrorless cameras.

RK : If you were to give advice to a rookie about how to become a photographer, what would you say?

Babak : Strictly discovering photos of the great classic photographers and contemporary photography helps a lot for novices photographers. I would strongly recommend discovering photo books and series of different photographs!

Surely pursuing and not disappointing is very effective in the advancement of rookies. Never stop trying to capture a photo and analyze your photos so in this case any of defects will be compensated in the subsequent photos.

RK : Among your works, which one is your favorite? Why?

Babak : Honestly, choosing a photo from all my photos is difficult and impossible! Therefore, I prefer to limit the selection to photos of a recent year. Among my photographs from the beginning of 2018, I would love the photo number 1 because of the mood of the subjects and their sadness. The senses and faces are meaningful to me and affect me.

RK : What does ‘street photography’ mean to you?

Babak : To me, ‘street photography’ is a way to interact with the environment, in a delicate and artistic way. It makes me look at the world around me more precisely and for me that makes the process of taking a photo full of joy and satisfaction. The joy of capturing that moment and makes it immortal is what moves me to take a photo, making that moment lasts forever. Each photo has a story to tell and that story is what makes it special and keeps the photographer’s idea and view within the photograph alive forever. I believe photos have their own unique ways of defining perpetuity and that’s what makes photography mesmerizing to me; an endless way to eternity.

RK : What do you want your viewers to take away from your work?

Babak : I always try my photos has interesting forms and combinations to attract my audiences in first encounter. So my audience's mindsets engage with the photo and they spend more time for discovering to find the inner meaning of my photos.

RK : What do you think are some clichés in street photography you steer away from yourself?

Babak : The resemblance photos that we have been seen a lot, they become clichés. When a photo produced with a repetitive idea without an innovative vision, there's a probability of getting into the clichés.

I try to present a special condition of a subject or a unique moment in my photographs. Avoiding photography the moments that appear on the street regularly or in common situation let me to keep distance from clichés.

RK : Who are some of your favorite classic photographers, and how did they influence you?

Babak : There are many photographers who I interested in their works and influenced by their creative outlook such as Richard Avedon, Erwin Blumenfeld, Philippe Halsman and Andre Kertesz.

But if I want to focus on the selection of classical street photographers, I must mention Hanri Cartier-Bresson, Elliott Erwitt and Robert Doisnew, which in addition to capturing fascinating combinations and decisive moments, their photos are full of special moments and unique and valuable moods of subjects on the streets.

RK : When you are out shooting—how much of it is instinctual versus planned?

Babak : When I’m taking photo on the streets, more than pre-planned for something I try to entrust myself in the events of streets, mostly I'm waiting for unexpected and exciting moments, Like the photo number 2. Capturing of unpredictable moments like this, makes me excited!

RK : What is your approach with the camera when you find yourself photographing strangers on the street?

Babak : My base in street photography is candid photography, so in this case I continue shooting strangers, if my subjects notice my camera presence and ask or protest me I’ll talk with them.

RK : When you are shooting, do you have an image in your mind? Do you build the final photo before shooting it or are your images also a result of a post-production phase?

Babak : Yes, sometimes before I press the shutter button, I think of the final picture. This helps to reflect everything I have in mind on my photos.

RK : Do you have any tips for photographers to help them grow artistically?

Babak : As I mentioned earlier, studying and watching photographs of classic photographers and other great photographers is a great contribution to fostering artistic vision.

RK : Have you ever been to India and anything you know about Indian Art & Culture?

Babak : I have never been in India. Traveling to India and photographing there and their rich culture is one of my wishes that I hope will come true soon. I have seen many photos from India and its culture. Steve McCurry's collection of photos from India is spectacular and inspiring. I believe that India has a very talented and capable photographer that I’m enjoying seeing their works.

RK : We (Retro Kolkata) are trying to make a bridge between National and International Art & Culture By featuring some National & International personalities who already have made their own path in their respective fields and we think your story and tips might help the newcomers to build their career. Please say something about our initiative and any special message for your Indian followers.

Babak : I would recommend to my Indian followers to photograph and illustrate the beautiful cities, country and its rich culture to show them to the whole world. I also wish you success in achieving your goals!


Follow Babak Kanaani on Instagram

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