Interview with Street Photographer Tanya Nagar

Tanya, tell us a little about you.

Hello! A bit about me.. I’m a born and bred Londoner, with a fundamental passion for people and cultures. By day (and many evenings!) I work for a large financial software firm, and I spend a lot of my spare time (which is sometimes quite scarce these days), shooting the streets of whatever country I happen to be in, capturing candid moments of people being people.


You travel a lot and shoot London, Mumbai...where else?

I absolutely love to travel, and I’m fortunate enough to travel a fair bit with my day job, so I always ensure I have a camera with me, whether I’m on business, or on a personal trip. This year I’ve been to New York, Philadelphia, India, Egypt, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Israel, and extensively around Europe including a recent trip to Munich for Oktoberfest, which is highly recommended. When you put beer, fairgrounds, Bavarian music and fancy dress together, it’s the perfect recipe for great photography!


Tell us about your book “The New Street Photographer’s Manifesto”:

Trawling through all of my photos a few years ago, I realised that all I really ever did with these images was post them online (spending a lot of time doing so), and every now and again I’d sell images for use in a variety of publications. I wanted to widen my audience, and felt a book would be the perfect medium by which to do this. My work piqued the interest of a publisher who floated the idea of writing a book to help others develop their skills of street photography. The New Street Photographer’s Manifesto was born from this idea, and the concept was to guide those who are interested in this genre using example images. We decided to have a chapter dedicated to other photographers around the world to showcase their work. Street photography is such a wide and subjective area, that I strongly felt that the book should have a good representation of photographers to reflect different styles and perspectives. I’m honoured to have been able to feature these diverse and awesome photographers.


You shoot both film (Leica) and digital (Canon)? How does shooting film make you feel versus digital?

I started shooting film with a Nikon EM, until it broke, and then Nikon F3, until that broke. I then moved onto a Leica M6 which is a very nice camera, but I have to admit my heart remains with the Nikon film cameras which is where I first found inspiration with film. There’s something very special about shooting film. It’s not just that it’s an authentic form of original photography, but more about the aesthetics and feeling like you’ve actually ‘made’ a photo. Particularly in today’s times of instant gratification, I find that there’s something quite therapeutic almost about shooting film and having to wait to finish a roll and then having it developed (or developing it yourself even). I strongly believe that to truly become a great photographer, you should understand how to shoot manually with film – it gives you a much greater appreciation of photography and those photography greats out there who didn’t have the luxury of point and shoot cameras which they could instantly view their images on. You can’t be a lazy photographer if you know the technicalities behind the camera.


Do you sometimes feel with digital that photos don’t really exist until they are printed? (I find myself shooting less and less, or more carefully as years go by as tired of accumulating so many digital files)

I’m definitely more selective when I shoot now than, say five years ago, when I’d shoot multiple images of the same scene. As time goes by, you learn to know what works and what doesn’t, and you can gauge whether a shot is going to be terrible before you press the shutter button. I enjoy prints of film images than digital, and although I do tend to print my favourites out, it’s not essential for me in order for them to feel ‘real’. It’s a sign of the times really where things are becoming more and more paperless. Of course there’s nothing quite like the feel of a print in your hand, just like digital books haven’t quite replaced the experience of flicking through pages of a book.


I hear you are working on a new book. Is there anything you can tell us about it?

I’m working on a second book which is a larger format than the New Street Photographer’s Manifesto, and also on the topic of Street, although it’s quite different from the first. It’s still in its very early stages, so you’ll have to watch this space for now!


"Particularly in today’s times of instant gratification, I find that there’s something quite therapeutic almost about shooting film and having to wait to finish a roll and then having it developed"


Any current street photographer out there you admire?

Of course there are all the greats out there like HCB. My most inspirational photographer is Steve McCurry. I always admired his work in India and I found that his portraits really struck a chord with me, particularly when I visited India for the first time. Street photography and photojournalism are similar in many ways, and his images really did inspire me to work harder to bring out the best of people through my camera. In terms of ‘modern’ photographers, I love the work of Seamus Travers and Severin Koller – both of whom contributed to The New Street Photographer’s Manifesto. Seamus has an incredible knack for capturing the most hilarious and unusual scenarios, whilst Severin’s black and white film work is simply stunning. It’s inspiring to watch him shoot.


What is the single most important piece of advice you’d give yourself the first day you picked up a camera with the knowledge you now have?

Be brave! Be confident and don’t be afraid to shoot. Society is often so paranoid of people with cameras, and in turn this frightens photographers into thinking they shouldn’t be shooting. Only the other day a friend of mine asked if I’m sure I should be taking a picture of someone’s dog – almost as though they’re scared of the repercussions. You’d be surprised at how easy going people can be.

Thanks Tanya!

Visit Tanya's website for more of her photography:

All photos © Tanya Nagar