The urban photographer: „The street is always changing and that attracts me“

Interviewing Jesús León

Photographer of daily life and the reality of the street, Jesús León reflects the life around him into his work. Based in Seville and a professional journalist, Leon has been seduced by photography, which is his current job.

The Seville photographer has understood better than anyone the value of Internet and social networking to promote his work. He spreads his work and gives photography tips through a blog , publishes his shots in his photoblog , and also has a large portfolio and a Twitter account. All that work on the network, as he explains, is „to meet other photographers, share concerns and, of course, to learn and share“.

The black and white and urban are two of the hallmarks of his extensive work. The Andalusian photographer gives us hints of how to capture with no tricks the reality around us so that your work would be the most authentic possible.

Jesus Leon-Skate
Source: Jesús León. Album: Urban Action. Photo: Skate

You are a journalist who specialized yourself in photography. Have you believed from the beginning that a picture is worth a thousand words?

In communication, images are extremely important, especially with the rise of digital media. Photography has gained much weight, getting more fans, together with a technological boom, so my interest has been paralleled.

Talking about your work, your photography specializes itself in capturing the reality of the street. You even include in your portfolio a section called „urban shadows“. Why this focus on daily life? What attracts you in the anonymity of the people you take picture of?

I have always being interested in street photography. It may be a direct, simple topic, trying to capture the life around us in cities, their activity, their scenarios, the light… and, of course, their inhabitants, to whom we belong. It is a genre that does not require special technical skills, the street is always changing, unexpected and that attracts me . Looking closely around you helps.

Source: Jesús León. Album: Urban Shadows. Photo: expected

In many of your pictures we can see rooted traditions in Spain such as Easter processions or carriages in Seville. What attracts you to the Spanish folklore?

Not that I feel a great attraction for it. Simply because it is part of my environment and as such I try not to disregard. Visually it is very attractive and offers many photographic possibilities.

In your portfolio we see that abound with black and white photos, you barely use colours. I would like to know why the use of black and white and some tips or hints to use it properly.

Black and white is just an option that I feel more comfortable with. I come from the days of analog photography. It helps me to focus on the reason, avoid distractions . The best advice is to not let your choice being postponed or being random and to be clear that a certain work is going to be made in black and white. Select this mode on the camera (if possible) to visualize the scenes in monochrome, which will help to take full advantage.

Few months ago, we celebrated the 100 years of Frank Capa’s birth, the famous artist who photographed the Spanish Civil War, perhaps one of the best known in the 20th century. I read a sentence that said if Capa had worked at this time, he would publish his work on Instagram. Do you have that feeling?

Actually it was a thought in an article related to Capa’s centennial. The current reality is quite different from the time of Capa, and if he would have lived nowadays, no doubt, he would have had to adapt himself to the tools that exist today. Instagram is one of them and a mean of spreading and sharing your images. It is possible, as other photojournalists do.

Jesús León-Anarchy
Source: Jesús León. Album: Urban People. Photo: Anarchy

Do you think the photographer’s work is not valued enough, as it is the case with journalist’s?

The value of the work remains, but now the scenario has changed a lot and makes this assessment more difficult. There is much more competition. We have a huge visual saturation and succeeding in publishing a professional job, highlighted, with style, with a message is really complicated.

We noticed that you are a very active photographer in social media and very present on the Internet. Is the photography going towards this point?

Internet and social media are increasingly presents in all areas. Photography is one of them and we cannot run from it or be afraid of it. We have to adapt ourselves and use it for good. It is very useful to reach new audience, to meet other photographers, share concerns and, of course, to learn and share.

You are very active on social networks and on the Internet, which means you can share your work with the world. Can be a double-edged sword, as it can lead too many people to „copy“ your work or use it fraudulently?

Given the huge saturation of images, the fact that someone „copies“ means that your work stands out and that’s positive. Another thing is that the action of „copying“ is done illegally which is increasingly difficult to control. Everything happens for promoting a culture of respect, always quoting the authorship of each work… At that point the Internet is still to be developed and we must striving for it.

Jesús León-Domingo de Ramos
Source: Jesús León. Album: Sevilla. Photo: Easter

Before, we mentioned Frank Capa as one of the greatest photographers. We know that you are following other photographers very closely. Which one are you inspired by? Why?

Overall I found it difficult to choose a specific photographer. Many people have inspired me or inspire me every day. Amongst the great masters, I really like Daido Moriyama about street photography. His work has been filled with a very peculiar style, carried away by his gaze, his feelings… maybe that’s what attracts me also with others, beyond the genre that stands out.

And finally I would like to ask you what advice would you give to those starting out. How do you prepare your photo sessions?

Training is important, no hurry to get results. Be patient, watch, observe and admire the work of great photographers, but also find inspiration in other arts (film, painting, literature…). But mostly to unleash your own style, your particular look, what you feel, the topics that attract you. The style, personality in photography is what you can make of it.

My photo sessions always depend on the job, but in street photography, for example, it’s just part of my daily routine. Walking, watching, always ready with the camera. Sometimes I take advantage on my way to work to see if I can make some pictures and, some other time, I just devote a few hours exclusively to it. But I try not to plan too much, leaving it to improvisation as the street always offers me good opportunities to capture images.

Artist’s blog


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