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INTERVIEW

December 21, 2022

WELCOME TO STREET LIFE

IN CONVERSATION WITH THE CREATORS BEHIND THE STREETLIFE PODCAST:
JOHN ST. & MARK J. DAVIDSON

Introduction by Karen Ghostlaw Pomarico
Interview by Melanie Meggs

STREET LIFE is a street photography podcast filling a void in the podcast world of photography. It is hosted by two photographers, John St (aka Giant_Evertonian) and Mark Davidson. Together they share the passion for street photography, and have a comradery and chemistry that makes for interesting discussions with street photographers in the industry. They share their thoughts and opinions on a diverse range of topics as well as engage with well respected professionals in the industry, while highlighting some inspirational less known street photographers making their mark in the field today. Each artist is different, giving them great material for asking brilliant questions that create meaningful dialogue, that one can learn from and apply to how they may approach their own work. With a casual feel, their quick wit and charm make the exchanges with their guests not only informative, but delightful and easy to listen to.

Both John and Mark are Australian based photographers, but reside in different cities along the southern coast of Australia. About a day's drive between them. What started off as mutual respect for each other's work on Instagram, eventually turned into a meet and greet in John’s city of Adelaide, where they inspired each other's work on the street, and where the interactive personal exchanges became a unique and comfortable dialogue between them, and where the magic of their chemistry began. I asked John about this ‘chemistry’, and this is what he shared.

“We get lots of comments about how well we compliment each other and our on air ‘chemistry’. I'm not really sure where our chemistry comes from to be honest. I guess we have a similar sense of humour, beliefs and our moral compass points in a similar direction which all go to make a solid foundation. I believe you cross paths with particular people at different stages in your life. You never really know how long they'll stay 1, 2-3 years or lifetime friends. Maybe the cosmos arranged for Mark and I to cross paths. Jesus, I sound like I'm on an Oprah show!”

Much of their work together is done online, giving them the ability to give this project the attention it deserves and requires. They started this endeavour with no expectations, and only short term goals, that have already surpassed the initial targets they’d loosely set at the beginning of the project. The street photography community has embraced their podcast series, finding it to check a lot of the boxes they felt were missing in the photographic podcast community. Tune in to their interview below and find out more about what is making this podcast so successful.

THE PICTORIAL LIST: Hello John and Mark, firstly congratulations!! Please start off by introducing the Streetlife Podcast to us. What is it about?

JOHN ST: StreetLife is a podcast on all things street photography. It’s a casual, pub-like chat where we have conversations with inspiring, creative and influential photographers from around the world. We also sprinkle in a few episodes where Mark and myself share our thoughts or opinions on particular topics on the genre street photography.

MARK DAVIDSON: We felt there was a gap in the photography world for a podcast dedicated to street photography; there are a number of podcasts on photography more broadly - fashion, adventure, portrait, gear etc - but none that focused solely on street photography and we wanted to be having those conversations. We have loved hearing from street photographers about their work and what makes them tick.

TPL: Tell us something about yourselves. How did you both first become interested in street photography and what keeps you drawn to it? Personally, what experience do you bring to the podcast?

JS: I fell into street photography when I was forced to get a 'smart' phone for a new role at work. With that phone came a camera so I started to take pics of myself and my dog on our early morning runs as well as images of coffee (another love affair of mine) as I’d write coffee shop reviews. I then progressed into taking pics of the architecture and buildings in my home city of Adelaide which led to some frustration as people would walk into my shots! So, I thought I’d be clever and try and work those people into my shots not realising that this could be considered street/urban photography. My journey into street photography was complete when I stumbled across a Sean Tucker video when trying to learn how to make my terrible images look marginally better using apps. It was watching lots of Sean’s videos that made me take the plunge into buying a real camera. I’ve been shooting different cities around Australia for almost 4 years now. I guess I’ve stuck with street photography because it allows me to be present in the moment neither worrying about the future nor concerning myself about the past. As for what I bring to the show? Ummm…a witty charm that keeps you engaged instead of yawning and falling asleep at the wheel? I’m thinking the people listening would be able to answer that question better than myself.

MD: In my day job I’m a breakfast radio producer, so from a technical standpoint I brought that experience to the podcast. As far as street photography is concerned, I still consider myself a work in progress, a novice. I have been shooting on the street for roughly three years, with COVID interrupting most of that. I’m very much still learning the craft. But I don’t feel that lack of longevity is an issue being a co-host of a street photography podcast. Each episode is very much about our guests and their journey, not so much about myself. John and I have opinions on street photography and we very much want these conversations to be relaxed chats rather than intensive interviews. But at the same time want the spotlight to be firmly on the guest.

TPL: What do you hope the podcast is able to address, and what topics are you interested in pursuing? What position would you like for the podcast to occupy in this large world of photography?

JS: Street podcast world domination of course! So be sure to tell your friends! Yeah, narrrr...I just want to be a conduit that gives old and new street togs out there the opportunity to listen and learn from the people we have on the show. We’ve been incredibly lucky to have spoken to some pretty heavy-hitters and some not so well known but no less talented shooters. Maybe listening to the stories about their journey will inspire our listeners to grow further themselves or perhaps stick with the genre when things aren’t going so well. The ultimate goal is to remain relevant, fun, humorous, interesting and as informative as possible and hopefully this recipe will encourage our audience to grow.

MD: To be the greatest street photography podcast in the world, of course! Joking aside, I’d hope the podcast is a resource for people getting into street, as well as a forum for passionate street photographers to learn from some of the current greats of the industry. We’ve been very fortunate to have some world-class photographers on the podcast already. And I’d also like the podcast to be a vehicle for up-and-comers to get their work out there and to chat about their love of street photography.

TPL: Has working on the podcast so far, changed how you view street photography. If so, how?

JS: I would say it would be that you need to have a purpose for doing what you’re doing. I always appreciate listening to other people’s opinions and thoughts (even those that are different to my own) on the often polarising genre that is street photography.

MD: In a sense it probably has. We recently had a chat with Jesse Marlow and I was interested to hear him talk about the length of time it takes for him to finish a project. It was a good reminder that there’s no rush. It’s important to take your time. Shoot for the love of it.

TPL: So far, what is the most enjoyable and fulfilling aspect of being a host of a podcast?

JS: Having the opportunity to speak to so many photographers from around the world and then sharing that with others. The biggest reward is the feedback from people who took the time to listen to the podcasts and letting us know how much they’ve enjoyed listening to them. It’s very much appreciated so thanks everyone.

MD: As I mentioned earlier, the access we’ve been getting has far been astonishing! It has definitely exceeded my expectations. It’s been a pure joy to have spoken to some of the world-beating photographers we’ve had on the podcast thus far, people I have long admired. Also the fact that it seems to have resonated with the photographers who listen. John and I have had incredible feedback so far. I feel lucky to be doing this.

TPL: Street photography is a very complex genre, so in some sense there are many views on what street photography is. What catches your eye among the flood of images that are on offer? What kind of image is groundbreaking for you these days?

JS: I like and appreciate all the different styles of street photography. I’m drawn to images that make me look and see the world differently than I, myself may see it.

MD: I like something that challenges me or hits me in the guts when I’m scrolling through Instagram. I get excited when I see a photo and I don’t know how the photographer got the shot. I’d never want to impose my views or preferences of street photography on others - people can shoot whatever they like - but I do have an unapologetic bias towards candid, undoctored photography.

TPL: Recently you mentioned on the podcast that you were told by a photographer that “all the good photos have already been taken”. You both disagreed with this photographer’s comment. Why?

JS: I couldn’t disagree more with that somewhat cynical comment/statement. There are still future moments that have yet to be captured. None of us know whether those moments will be better or worse than those previously captured and we never will be if we aren’t there to freeze and capture time with the press of our shutter button.

MD: I agree that stylistically there is a lot of repetition in street photography but I have to disagree with the notion that every good photo has already been taken. Of course that’s not true. Society is constantly changing and street photographers are going to continually document the world and way we live in it. If someone had made that statement 15 years ago, think of all the things that would never have been photographed. The iPhone for one!

TPL: What photographer has made the most impact on you and that you would like to interview for the podcast?

JS: Garry Winogrand, Gordon Parks and Saul Leiter. Going to be a little tricky getting any of them to agree to join us on a podcast as they’re unfortunately no longer with us.

I’d really love to speak to Trent Parke, Alex Webb or Tatsuo Suzuki.

MD: I’d love to interview Joel Meyerwitz and Trent Parke. I don’t think Trent does many interviews these days, so that might be tricky. Speak to Joel would be an immense privilege.

TPL: Where do you discover the photographers that you want to interview? If someone wants to be on your podcast, how do they submit? What can photographers do to stand out from the crowd?

JS: We started with a list of people that both Mark and I admire and love. People we interview will often bring up names of photographers that neither of us were aware of and they will get added to the list too! I’m always flicking Mark links to photographer’s accounts I’ve come across over Instagram.

MD: Before we started we had a list. We’re still working our way through that list and to our wonderful surprise we’ve had around a 95% hit rate so far! We’re always on the lookout for new and exciting photographers. Hit us up with a DM or send an email to podcast.streetlife@gmail.com

TPL: Do you ever feel nervous before/during a podcast? If so, what do you do to overcome any fears? What would you say to someone who wants to aspire to start a podcast?

JS: You’re always a little nervous as you don’t really know the personality of the person you’re going to be talking to and they don’t know us either!

MD: I find gin and tonic helps! Any nerves that either John and I have are quickly dispelled once we start the conversation. Every one we’ve spoken to has been so lovely and generous with their time. We’ve not had any awkward or tricky moments so far!

TPL: Finally, what are some of your goals for the Streetlife Podcast? Where do you hope to see yourselves in five years?

JS: Wow! 5 years is a long way down the line. I really hope the podcast continues to be enjoyed but most of all continue to be relevant to street photographers everywhere which then hopefully manifests itself into more people tuning in. As for advice on starting a podcast? Ummm JUST DO IT!

MD: I said to John my goal is to record 50 episodes. He nearly spat out his Cornflakes when I told him that! We’re getting close to halfway there so I think that’s a realistic goal. In truth, I don’t have an end point in mind. I just know so many podcasts run out of steam after a few episodes. That hasn’t been the case with us. I think our conversations have become easier and improved as we’ve gone along. I’d love to be doing this for many years to come! I’m having a blast doing it now. It’s been incredibly rewarding. Let’s hope Street Life is kicking goals in five year’s time!

Together both, John and Mark saw the need for a platform that would create discussions around street photography. They have worked hard cultivating a fine diverse group of street photographers to support their mission and inspire other like minded individuals out there in the industry. If you have not listened to their Podcast, give it a go, you will not be disappointed! Be careful, you may binge listen, don’t say I didn’t warn you!