The Brussels Street Photography Festival (BSPF) interviews Forrest D. Walker!
Forrest D. Walker is an American photographer who’s been traveling around the world photographing over 100 cities for his project “100 Cities: In Living Color”. If you are in the street photography community you surely have heard about Forrest or his blog Shooter Files where he puts all sorts of advice of every city he visits as a street photographer. Forrest D. Walker has been a finalist for several international competitions including the Brussels Street Photography Festival in the 2016 International Singles category with not 1, nor 2, but 3 photos! He’s also a member of The Street Collective, an international photography collective featured in the 2016 BSPF edition.
BSPF: While traveling you discover new cultures and meet new people, opening your mind and rewiring your brain. Over these months/years of traveling and photographing so much, have you seen an evolution in your photography? Maybe you have adopted new ways of photographing?
FDW: When I travel to new places, I try to approach and photograph in the same way I would anywhere else. I don’t want to be a different photographer for a different place, but I do take in each city I visit and see/feel what things attract me or stand out in my eyes. What I’m most looking for are bits of life, no matter the place. The more cultures and people I experience, the more life I see, which I think has helped me notice things I wouldn’t have before. You stop being blinded by culture shock and visual differences and see the people for who they are, which really isn’t much different no matter the place.
As far as an evolution, I’ve noticed a focus on including more complexity, be that layers, character, emotion, color, composition or anything else that can add something more to a photo. More simple or close-up photos don’t interest me as much as they used to. At the same time, I’ve become more and more turned off by mess, I like clean shots that are aesthetically pleasing, as well as having some depth and interest at the core. Documenting life, place, and time has also become increasingly important aspect, as I don’t want to short change my travels and opportunity when I feel this is photography’s greatest and most unique power. Balancing all of this together is the challenge and hopefully my photographic evolution is at least following in the right direction of this challenge.
BSPF: Traveling is fun and exciting, but it is also physically and mentally exhausting. How do you cope with this and what keeps you going?
FDW: Yes, normal traveling is very fun, but my current traveling isn’t as fun as people think. I don’t do tourist things or relax while on the road during my 100 City project, as I need to put all my focus on my project, photography, and blog. It’s non-stop work and not much sleep, walking an average of 20kms a day and another 40+ hours a week on the computer. So there’s not much time for fun, but fun isn’t why I started this. Hopefully, it will all be worth it in the end, though.
Travel in general is never perfect paradise, either, though. I live out of a backpack and had to leave and sacrifice everything behind so it can be stressful and exhausting. More mentally than physically for me. Walking all day is rarely a problem because I’m so obsessed with photography, but at night, or anytime outside of photography, is when the mental aspects can get very trying at times. Trying to block all of that out and stay focused on my goals is what keeps me going. The less I think about the bad, the doubts or stress and the more I think about what I want and am working for, the better and less mentally exhausted I am. The excitement for exploring and photographing the next city helps a lot too.
BSPF: You have visited so far (May 2017) 59 cities out of the planned 100. This has surely been an amazing experience for you. If you could give a top 3 advice for photographers looking forward to traveling what would they be?
FDW: I actually just added one more too, and finished #60 in Seoul, South Korea. As far as tips, the obvious would be bring good shoes/sandals and lots of batteries. An extra charger comes in handy too. But after that, bring as little as possible. Traveling light, especially as a photographer, makes things so much easier.
Location is important. You don’t want to be stuck far away from all the places you want to go for photography. It might not seem like a big deal when you book the place, but once you’re there, it can really hurt your experience and waste too much time. I hate losing day time stuck in transportation so I always try to be in the heart of the city near some places I want to go. In bigger cities, being next to a metro station is key too. Being able to walk out your door and start shooting is the best feeling. Hassle and hours wasted in transportation is not.
And of course, check out my blog ShooterFiles.com 😉 Hopefully, it can help give an idea of different cities for photography, find what looks most appealing to you, and then give you a head start on places in the city to go for shooting, among other things. Maybe it can even provide some extra inspiration to get you to grab your camera and catch that flight too. That’s why I started it.
BSPF: Maybe too early to ask, but do you have an idea of what you would like to do once you reach the 100 cities? What are the next steps in your photography after finishing your 100 Cities project?
FDW: Well, I’ll be spending a lot of time putting it all together, as the planned theme for the book is much more complex than photographing 100 cities. I don’t even want to think about that right now, but it will take a while. I’m thinking I’ll want to photograph a few more than 100 cities at the end too, but we’ll see. Other than that, it depends on how some of my other goals are going. I’d like to work on more specific and centralized long term projects in the future, with a stronger documentary focus. I have a few ideas, but so much depends on where I’m at in a couple years. In life, work, goals and location. I won’t be traveling non-stop like now, but I doubt I’ll ever stop traveling.
BSPF: You are one of the London Street Photography Festival judges and you have been doing workshops with The Street Collective member Dmitry Stephanenko (Another BSPF 2016 International Singles finalist), street photography all over the place. Tell us more about these involvements/initiatives.
FDW: Yes, we’ve quickly become good friends and share a love for color photography that works well together, while still having very different styles. This helps us provide an even wider view and experience for our photography students, while keeping it a connected vision that is able to give the most help where needed and desired by each student.
We also aim to incorporate the full travel and city experience with the photography teaching in order to give our workshops even more value. Traveling, researching, exploring and photography so many cities the way I do gives me an advantage in being able to do this. And Dmitry is also a traveler himself so the partnership just made sense and has been working out great. Our next joint workshop is coming up at the end of September in Budapest, one of my favorite cities in the world, so we’re really looking forward to that one.
As far as the London Street Photography Festival, that is something Dmitry has been putting together and I’m just honored to be included as a judge. It’s looking to be a great festival with many talented photographers visiting so it will be a good time. London in August is a perfect place for it too.
To participate in the 2017 Brussels Street Photography Festival contests simply follow: https://www.bspfestival.org/en/contests/. Deadline: August 1st.