TPL: Documentary photography is important to you but you also do some street photography. Talk to us about the similarities and the differences between both genres. What happens when you go out with your camera? Do people respond positively to you, or do you sometimes get negative reactions? If yes, how do you handle it?
JS: I love the ability to pause a moment in time. Not staged one, a real moment in time. Recording history correctly including life’s emotion, humour, sadness, ups and downs.
Whilst I’m out on daily street photography walks, I like to give myself little challenges such as window reflections shots or each photo must contain purple. I think little games like these help to develop your "photographer's eye". Photographing people can be difficult, you definitely need to be street wise. On occasion, in the UK, people can get paranoid or annoyed. I feel that I have a good rapport with people in general and I treat people with respect. Most of the time I do take the photo and worry about the reactions later. Humour always comes in handy. I won’t just take a photo of a homeless person and walk off I will hang out with them for a while and make sure they are happy (and usually buy them some food). I nearly always try and show the image to the subject. If I get any negative reactions I just quickly move on and apologise. One time I took a photo of a butcher in Sheffield market chopping some meet and the staff all got annoyed with me. They all had their meat cleavers raised. I hung around and explained myself and apologised for the distress I had caused them. I explained that I was working on a project showing hard working people in Yorkshire. They were worried about my motives. There was way less photography paranoia in India. I had people jumping in front of my camera and wanting me to take photos of their friends and family.
I suppose when out doing street photography I am looking for the photo, but with my documentary photography it is more about the project as a whole. When I was spending time in Dharavi Slum, I was generally trying to make friends and contacts with the residents and workers. I spent time getting to know my subjects and gaining their trust. Two years later I am still in contact with people from Dharavi. I do find it wonderful the people and places my camera has taken me!