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Gideon de Kock’s Approach to Analog Street Photography

Playing fast and loose with his camera, South African-born Gideon de Kock captures evocative images of Hong Kong street life. Attuned to his surroundings, Gideon captures the minutiae of life in the city and makes them extraordinary. It’s not just his style and approach that creates pictorial magic, though. Gideon chooses to shoot mostly with analog film cameras, a choice that adds extra depth and intensity to his work.

Bamboo Scenes Photography Artist Gideon de Kock
Bamboo Scenes Photography Artist Gideon de Kock

He also attributes his development as a photographer to the fact that he prefers to shoot with film. “Analog really helped me evolve into a better photographer, but beyond that, the overall process is quite cathartic and enjoyable. I love the imperfections that film can bring and seeing the images from a finished roll of film is like a gift every time."

Shooting analog usually changes my pace,” says Gideon. “The process becomes a little slower, more personal, and more conscious.”

With this attitude, it’s no wonder he’s drawn to street photography, which requires the photographer to engage with and be present in his environment in order to capture easy-to-miss moments. “I find street photography to be a unique shooting experience every time,” adds Gideon. “A million different variables force me to make many quick decisions on the fly. I find it to be both a wonderfully stimulating and meditative experience. Observing life like this is also just quite fascinating."

So what’s Gideon’s camera of choice? The Leica M6, the brand’s most advanced mechanical rangefinder camera. “It’s just such a well-built and fundamentally sound workhorse. It’s the bare essentials in an incredibly reliable package.”

Five Things To Know About Street Photography

Street photography is more than just pointing your camera at a subject and hitting a button. If you really want to understand photography and take captivating photos, here’s what Gideon says you need to know.

"Pink" by Bamboo Scenes Hong Kong Photography Artist Gideon de Kock"Pink" (2020) by Gideon de Kock - Tai Kok Tsui, Hong Kong

1. You need empathy and consideration

The more I matured into the medium, the more I learned the importance of recognizing the power dynamic between a photographer and his subject. Although I’m essentially capturing the same façade that you and I inhabit, my subjective experience has shaped how I view or frame it. Empathy and consideration for the subject take precedence, but the viewer derives their own explanation of an image.

2. Film stock matters

Budget permitting, experimenting with various film stocks gives one an insight into how alive the medium is and how wonderfully variable our options can be. At this point, I don’t like to be bogged down by choice, so the fewer options I have, the quicker I can get to shooting.

My current go-to for street photography is Colorplus 200—a color-negative consumer-grade film that leans a little warmer, has a pleasant grain structure, and has been relatively easy to track down in the past. If I’m shooting client work then I’ll use Portra 400 for its wonderfully fine grain, skin tones, and exposure latitude.

3. Limitations can be helpful

Having only 24/36 exposures on a roll of film was probably one of my greatest teachers. It taught me quickly to be considerate and conscious when shooting and framing, to trust myself, and not be wasteful. Constraints extend to choice of lenses, location, lighting, and situations, and give you the opportunity to dig a little deeper. As Orson Welles eloquently put, “The enemy of art is the absence of limitations”.

"Bus VLT" (2019) by Bamboo Scenes Photography Artist Gideon de Kock
"Bus VLT" (2019) by Gideon de Kock - Mong Kok, Hong Kong

4. Choose your gear carefully

This boils down to the individual, but for me, I prefer a “less is more” approach. Chasing a more functional camera body or a sharper lens is natural, but it can be easy to forget that you probably need less than you think. Is the pursuit of “more” getting in the way of your creativity?

My current film camera body of choice is incredibly simple — ISO, shutter speed (up to 1/1000) and aperture are the only adjustments available to me. This is subjectively ideal for my usual shooting scenarios—one body, one lens, one film stock.

5. Natural lighting

Natural lighting is such a wildly alive and variable entity, and it’s capable of really transforming a scene into something magical. Observing natural light really opened my eyes to the ultimate importance of light in photography and pushed me to start to notice nuanced changes in my environment. I never came from a learned background, so I guess one could say the sun acted as a guide of sorts.

Five Tips for Shooting Analog

These days, anyone with a smartphone can capture a reasonably decent digital photograph quite easily. But for anyone really interested in photography, shooting with an analog camera can teach you a lot about the craft and how to become a good photographer. If you’re ready to take the plunge, here are Gideon’s top tips.

1. Film’s becoming increasingly more expensive. Do your research and look into various film stocks and price points before you purchase anything.

2. If you have a digital camera lying around and are thinking about getting an analog SLR or rangefinder, make sure to practice shooting on your digital camera’s manual mode first. This will help you understand the relationship between your ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. Utilize digital for the freedom it offers you to make mistakes and explore your camera to its fullest, before making the jump to film.

3. Seeing as there are seemingly infinite film camera options, think about what you want to shoot, and how, then make a purchase based on your realistic needs. There’s still a lot of hype around particular cameras and as a result, prices can get expensive. Don’t be discouraged from trying more budget-friendly options—you’d be surprised how great these can be.

4. If you’re not going to do it yourself, find a good place to get your images scanned and developed. In the beginning, I often thought my choice of film stock or gear was letting me down. In actual fact, I was just receiving poor scans. Again, do your research and try out a few places to see which gives you the best results.

5. You’re going to collect a lot of negatives while shooting analog. Early on, find a way to catalog and store all of your negatives before they become a messy collection with no order.

Curious to learn more about Gideon de Kock? Then check out his artist video on our YouTube channel:

Bamboo Scenes Hong Kong Photography Artist Videos on YouTube

Need a little inspiration? Check out Gideon de Kock’s collection of analog street photography art prints in our Bamboo Scenes collection!!


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