Where are you located?
I live in the inner north of Melbourne, Australia. It’s a great part of the city, I really love the area.
How is it there for a photographer?
Not great to be honest. I’ve been stomping around this city for years now and I go through phases where I find it completely uninspiring. It can be ok if I go to other parts of town, but that always takes time, and I just don’t have a lot of that these days. There is nothing like landing in a new city and seeing it through brand new eyes. When you’re shooting in your home town you need to find new ways of looking at it, otherwise you just end up getting in routines. You go to a certain spot because you know you’ll get something there – but that’s not always interesting.
How would you describe the city to someone who has never been there?
I think Melbourne is one of those cities you need to know where to go and spend some time here to appreciate it. We’re not like one of those cities where you go to and tick off all the sites you’ve seen a thousand time before in pictures. But there is a lot of culture going on in the inner suburbs. And then it just disappears as you move out into the suburban sprawl where everything looks the same and car is king. Inner Melbourne is crawling with bikes, there is a huge bike culture here which I love.
“I don’t want to sound like a dick, but if I’m taking street photos of people I need to get myself into sort of a zone where I cut off any connection with people.”
How did you get started taking pictures?
I was late to it really. I’d always wanted to get into photography, but when I was in high school the elective classes always clashed with art and graphics classes and they were my first love. So it wasn’t until I was about 24. I found myself walking around taking photos in my head, and in my mind they looked good, so I thought I should actually start taking them for real. I finally went out and brought a camera when I first started travelling. It was one of those entry level Canon EOS film SLR’s. It was a good camera, I liked it and I learnt a lot using it.
Did you go to school for it?
I spent one semester doing a photography degree at night school in my mid twenties. I then moved to London for a few years so I never finished it off. It was good though. This was pre internet and social media, so I think I enjoyed the meeting other like minded people and the sharing of work the most – that’s all at our finger tips these days, but back then I was in complete isolation.
What kind of gear do you shoot with?
I use my iPhone with Hipstamatic for street snaps and opportunistic shots. I have a Nikon D800 DSLR which I use for studio or planned type of work. And a lot of the street photos I’ve shared with you here are from my Ricoh GR1s film camera, which is easily my favourite of them all to use. I love its simplicity and small size. Although the processing of the film is a hassle these days and it gets expensive.
What are your main influences?
Everything. I use everything as influences. Movies, books, day to day stuff going on in my life. It all has some impact on me and what I want to do.
How do you prepare mentally for a shoot?
I don’t want to sound like a dick, but if I’m taking street photos of people I need to get myself into sort of a zone where I cut off any connection with people. I know that sounds like the opposite thing you should be doing, but that is the only way I can do it. If I have some connection with them, then I find I can’t bring myself to take photos of them. That’s completely different if I’m taking a portrait of someone, or working with them in a studio. Then, of course, I want to make a connection with them.
Do you have a routine for going to take pics? What is it?
No routine these days. I just try to make opportunities when I can. It really helps if you can build it into your daily life, but unfortunately at the moment it just doesn’t fit and I’m not in the right places. Its just like any other habit that you want to get into. You just need to establish it and keep working at it until it comes routine. I need to take my own advise there.
Do you have any advice for someone just getting into photography?
Focus on the photos and not the gear. Look at lots of photo books and work out what makes a photo good or not. Be critical of your shots and actually work out why particular shots worked or didn’t work. And have fun. Make sure you’re enjoying doing it. Otherwise what’s the point?
If you were alive before cameras existed, what do you think you would be doing?
Drawing or writing. Photography is just another method of self expression really. Just a quicker and easier one.
What do you want to be doing in 5 years?
I don’t know. That’s something I’m wrestling with at the moment. I’m at that point where I’m planning a life change. I want it to be significant, so it’s going to take some time to put in place. I just want to make sure I’m happy at the end of each day, and I feel like I’ve put 100% of myself into whatever I’ve done that day. And that’s not the case at the moment.
See more of Melbourne, Australia through the lens of street photographer Jason Flett.