“My passion is street photography and I tend to make quirky and humorous photos,” says the photographer Eric Davidove. He continues, “perhaps this is because I was a street mime for ten years and have a knack for spotting and exploiting situations such as this.” Davidove recently submitted his series Mission District to our arts team, and we’re sharing it with you.
Eric Davidove has a strong range of street photography galleries on his website. He could have submitted any of his collections, and we would have happily featured it–it’s all that good! As it is, Davidove chose to submit Mission Direct, a series of candid images taken in one of the oldest neighborhoods in San Fransisco. The series is full of vibrancy and action and offers an off-the-cuff insight into one of San Francisco’s subcultures.
The Essential Photography Gear of Eric Davidove
“I shoot with the Sony a7RIII camera and a G Master prime 35mm lens. This is my camera of choice for Street Photography because it is a full frame with a high quality sensor, it quickly and accurately focuses on moving subjects, has a high frames per second rate, and there are plenty of good lens options.”
Phoblographer: Why did you get into photography?
Eric Davidove: I suddenly found myself unemployed and feeling like it might take up to a year before I secure my next “right” position. This was the third time I found myself in this predicament during the previous five years. Needless to say, my anxiety and stress levels were relatively high and I desperately needed to find a fun and healthy distraction. Then it dawned on me. My new camera (purchased primarily for use during holidays) was quietly collecting dust and I had a bunch of free time on my hands. Off to the city I went, for long periods of time, walking aimlessly with no specific route in mind and taking photographs of anything that caught my eye. Just what the doctor ordered! I was having fun, getting exercise, discovering new locations, meeting new people, and doing something creative.
Phoblographer: Which photographers are your biggest influences? How did they affect who you are and how you create?
Eric Davidove: Some of the well-known, famous street photographers strongly influence me (no surprise there), as do my contemporaries. I tend to spend more time studying street photographers who are active today to understand and learn from new techniques and approaches. This includes pursuing social media (primarily Instagram and Facebook) as well as online galleries of street photography competitions. In addition, I like to look at fine art photography, experimental photography, and photojournalism. Looking at the work of other photographers often triggers new ideas and challenges me to experiment more.
Phoblographer: How long have you been shooting? How do you feel you’ve evolved since you started?
Eric Davidove: I started shooting photos (other than family and holiday photos) about six years ago and feel like my work has dramatically changed and improved. At the start, I pretty much took a photo of anyone doing anything and was not too unique or creative in the way I used my camera. My instincts of what to shoot were fairly good but my camera skills were quite basic. Over the years, I feel like I have done a better job of creating less easily repeatable photos, have stronger narratives, are more artistic, more memorable, and more consistent. I also take fewer photos when I shoot because I have become much more discerning and precise.
Phoblographer: Tell us about your photographic identity. You have an identity that fundamentally makes you who you are. Tell us about that person as a photographer.
Eric Davidove: I shoot for myself and try to place less importance on external “rewards” such as the number of social media likes and followers, competition awards, photo sales, etc. Easier said than done. I want to shoot photos that speak to me, that fit my “voice”, and without too much influence from extrinsic motivation. Sometimes it’s very tempting to succumb to the pressure of becoming a popular photographer and perhaps start imitating other successful photographers. Public and commercial rejection and failure can truly suck. I hate it when my photos are not selected for an exhibition or do not win awards. My ego and confidence are negatively affected. I try to forget the rejection and failure as soon as possible and just move on.
Phoblographer: Natural light or artificial light? Why?
Eric Davidove: I mostly shoot outdoors during the daytime and prefer natural light. Using a flash brings too much attention to me and spoils the candid moment or angers some people who believe I should have asked for their permission before taking their photo. Some photographers skillfully use flash, and I would like to improve my flash skills for those situations where the subjects expect or want a photographer’s attention (i.e., festivals or events). Night photography with artificial lights intrigues me and I want to spend more time building this skill set.
Phoblographer: Why are photography and shooting so important to you?
Eric Davidove: Photography has enhanced my life because it has provided an opportunity for me to develop and grow new skills. Also, it has taken me outside my home to discover and appreciate new locations and people, and it has fed my need for a creative outlet.
Phoblographer: Do you feel you’re more of a creator or a documenter? Why? How does the gear help you do this?
Eric Davidove: I have been working as a paid freelance photojournalist for two regional newspapers and a company that specializes in food photography. In addition, I have been hired by individuals who are interested in family photos, and portraits of themselves or their dogs. I have also sold my photos to individuals and magazines. My passion, however, is photography as an art form where I have the freedom to shoot the photos I want to shoot, the way I want to shoot them. I like being both a creator and documenter but think I am more of a creator who prefers independence and who has complete control over everything.
Phoblographer: What’s typically going through your mind when you create images?
Eric Davidove: Oftentimes, I stop to shoot photographs because of a strong feeling that something interesting is about to happen. Sometimes it’s because an interesting moment is already happening. Other than that, I am triggered by lighting conditions, the presence of intriguing shapes and forms, vibrant colors, and interesting-looking people.
Phoblographer: Please walk us through your processing techniques. Also, tell us about how you’re achieving your look without Photoshop if you’re comfortable with that.
Eric Davidove: I am a processing minimalist and do as little as possible, and only what I think is necessary. I strive to shoot a photo in my camera that is nearly perfect, and that requires very little post-editing. My processing workflow includes the basic adjustments such as white balance, exposure, highlights and shadows, contrast, and noise reduction. I will occasionally crop my photos a bit. In most cases, I am trying to achieve a photo that looks natural, whereby my edits are not easily noticeable. Sometimes I make an exception when editing photos that have silhouettes, reflections, or very distracting elements.
Phoblographer: Tell us about the project or portfolio you’re sharing. Be descriptive with the who, what, when, where, how, and why.
Eric Davidove: I call this photo project “Mission District” which is one of the oldest and most exuberant neighborhoods in San Francisco. The Mission is an evolving neighborhood with Latino roots and a hipster vibe, brilliant artwork, and beautiful architecture. The project I sent to you includes photos of the lowrider community that I have taken over the past four years. I grew up in southern California and students in my high school (during the mid 70’s) were generally referred to as lowriders, surfers, or other. Though most of my friends were surfers, I did have a few lowrider friends. Perhaps my high school experience with the lowriders nudged me in the direction of the Mission District and formulated my interest in taking photos like the ones I have shared with you.
Phoblographer: What made you want to get into your genre?
Eric Davidove: Street photography was a good genre for me to start my photography journey because I did not have to spend a great deal of money on equipment, I did not need models or studios, and I happened to live near a city that has interesting people, architecture, geography, festivals, and events. The weather and lighting conditions are also very good. I was also attracted to the spontaneity and challenge of hunting for and acting upon those special and quick moments.
Phoblographer: What motivates you to shoot?
Eric Davidove: My biggest motivating factor is my progress. Each time I shoot, I feel as if I learn and improve a bit more. I am also motivated by the satisfaction of being in the right place at the right time, and not making mistakes when using my camera.
Phoblographer: Explain why the readers want to see your work, or why your project is really cool.
Eric Davidove: My Mission District photo project is fresh, colorful, and interesting. Most of your readers will not have attended a lowrider festival or event, and won’t know much about the lowrider community. They will think my project is cool because it is unique.
All images by Eric Davidove. Used with permission.