We all know that moment as street photographers. After an afternoon of shooting there is this one shot, we look at the camera screen and we know it's THE shot. Almost as if it was the definite shot and we could stop photography forever and be happy. It doesn't last though.
I get that kind of feeling looking at Juergen Buergin's urban photography: Big fat satisfaction.
There are different schools of street photography. Personally when I look at Juergen's near cinematic work I completely relate to it. Hope you will too.
NG: Juergen, please could you tell us a little about you?
My name is Jürgen Bürgin, I was born in a small town in Southern Germany. I’m living and working in Berlin, in movie business. And apart from that I’m a street photographer, or an urban photographer, or whatever. I take pictures.
NG: Surprisingly, you only fairly recently got into photography is that right?
Yes, roundabout four years ago. And for a street photographer it was quite a weird start. One day I realized that I hadn’t left Berlin for half a year, so we decided to check what’s happening in the area around Berlin. But there’s nothing really happening except birds flying around and foxes wandering through the forests. So I bought a camera and took photos of the birds and the foxes. Some months later I realized, that I can take pictures in Berlin too, and so I did, and that’s how it started.
"I think consistency is the religion of the photography world. Sure, I too try to produce series that have something in common, that are telling a story. Hey, but we’re street photographers, our pictures have something to do with life, and life isn’t consistent. It’s chaotic, surprising, ever-changing. And I think that’s what street photography is about."
NG: I’m an urban photographer myself and relate a lot to your photography. Do you observe a lot other people’s work for inspiration?
Sure I do. I’m obsessed with buying photo books, running to my local library, coming back with a full backpack of photo books, I’m at every photography exhibition I can find and sure I’m cruising through the internet to find interesting stuff. But there’s another source for my visual inspiration: As I’m working in movie business I’ve seen some thousands of movies in the last years, and they have become a collective source of inspiration for me. And I think that’s why my pictures have some kind of narrative, cinematic aspect.
NG: Some of your black and white street shots have the most stunning contrast of light and shadow (like that shot with rain and just legs jumping) Do you consciously try to achieve this or is it just as it happens?
You're speaking of my Marathon series. I made this in two hours during Berlin Marathon some years ago, in one single spot. There was a fire hose installed for the Marathon runners to run through and get cooled. It’s not rain. So the water, the sun and the bodies of the runners gave the perfect combination for those pictures with their contrasts.
NG: You were earlier this month included in the Top 100 Most Socially Influential Photographers, congratulations! I take it social media works well for you?
Sure it does. There was one moment last year when I experienced, that social media isn’t only about virtual followers or friends, but about real people. I had a big solo exhibition in Berlin at Fotogalerie Friedrichshain and lots of the people attending the show were visitors of Berlin, tourists. And they all told me, that they were coming because they’ve seen my work on Instagram or Twitter. There were real specialists for my work, people who knew every photo. That was amazing. And practically today as an artist you have the chance to be seen by many more people than every artist in the past. It’s amazing that possibly at this moment someone in Siberia, or Alaska, or Indonesia or wherever in the world is looking at your photos.
NG: There’s a lot of buzz around Vivian Maier and the documentary Finding Vivian Maier has been released this week in the UK. Have you seen it yet? If so, what did you think?
John Maloof had it at the Berlin film festival and I’ve seen it there. I absolutely loved it. I love her work, I love the story about it. I hope to see her work in the big galleries and museums around the world. And I do not understand those parts of the art world that do not accept her work, as she never printed her own photos. I don’t care. I love the photos. Go show them.
NG: I hear some people saying you should commit to either B&W or colour for consistency…do you agree?
No. I’m in a constant fight with myself whether to prefer black and white or colour. Many of my photos are colour, but sometimes I’m having my black and white phase. I think consistency is the religion of the photography world. Sure, I too try to produce series that have something in common, that are telling a story. Hey, but we’re street photographers, our pictures have something to do with life, and life isn’t consistent. It’s chaotic, surprising, ever-changing. And I think that’s what street photography is about.
NG: I couldn't explain it in a better way and completely agree!
NG: Finally, what is the single best piece of advice you could give any beginner photographer?
Discover your passions and try to find ways to express them in your photographs. Don’t try to imitate, because art is about expressing yourself. And try to find a job that has nothing to do with photography because it might happen, that you have to do lots of photography jobs that aren’t creative or funny at all. So: focus on what you really love to do.
Thanks very much Juergen!