Full Frame Interview: Danielle Houghton

Danielle Houghton was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1969 and has had a passion for photography since picking up a camera as a teenager. Her commitment to Street Photography really ignited in 2010 and since then she has been very active in the online Street Photography Community. She has also exhibited in London.

She likes to explore fresh ways of documenting the streets we live in where a ‘street’ can be more than the traditional definition and can encompass anywhere a sense of life occurs.

Let us get to know Danielle a little bit better:

Photo © Danielle Houghton

Photo © Danielle Houghton

1. How did you get into street photography?

In a way I discovered street photography twice – though the first time I did not know what I enjoyed had a name.

In my teens, as my brother dabbled in developing black and white photographs in a cupboard at home. I thought it may be fun to learn the basics and attended an evening course. On a field outing, with our first rolls of film, everybody else took architecture and nature shots while I ran after two guys messing about on a motorbike and took a candid of them when they stopped to look at odd me!

The buzz of capturing strangers was born.

Over the years, while traveling and enjoying all sorts of photography, I always felt the pull of capturing un-posed strangers. However as life happily happened, and my film camera died, taking photographs was put on hold for many years until in 2010 an e-mail landed with a general invitation to participate in a yearlong event called the Street Photography Now Project (SPNP) run in conjunction with the Photographers’ Gallery in London and the authors of the Street Photography Now book.

As we had kindly been given a digital camera, my husband and I thought it would be fun to participate.

It was through immersing myself in this street photography project and world that I finally had a name for and an understanding of my passion.

2. Do you remember the first street photograph you ever took? If so, what was it of?

The above mentioned photograph of the guys on the motorbike would be my true first street photograph. However, I have not started to tackle the large task of cataloguing and scanning my negatives, so it is buried in a trunk for now.

3. You go by “Larking About” on Flickr. We have to ask: where did that cool nickname come from and what does it mean for you?

When I began the SPNP, I was not at all interested in social networking and very much wanted to remain anonymous, so had to come up with a pseudonym. My maiden name was Kral and my Father turned it around to Lark and used it as a company name, so I did the same but incorporated it in a fun way.

I only revealed my real name later on in the project, and many people were surprised that I was not a man.

4. How big of a role has Flickr (and the web, in general) played in helping you propagate and develop your work?

Joining Flickr and undertaking the SPNP started me on a road I could never have imagined or achieved otherwise. It has opened up doors and pushed me in a way I certainly would not have pushed myself.

In terms of developing my work, carrying out online weekly instructions that were designed to make one look at street photography in new ways, coupled with receiving feedback on those images acted as a yearlong intensive photography course. I have stayed on this learning curve through continuing to submit to groups on Flickr, through participating in discussions and feedback and very much through looking at contacts’ work. Also, through places like Flickr and backed up by web research, I have learnt more about street photographers past and present.

In terms of propagating my work, again Flickr and the web has led to some fun and unexpected places.

To give examples, an Author of the Street Photography Now book selected one of my images to be displayed as part of the London Street Photography Festival in 2011, I was a winner of an online competition for the London Transport Museum with a print displayed and archived there, and more recently again through an online competition, became one of the runners up in the 2013 International Street Photography Awards as you have kindly referred to further on, and will be included in the accompanying exhibition.

Photo © Danielle Houghton

Photo © Danielle Houghton

5. Children are a recurring subject matter in your photographs but we also know what a challenge it may be to capture them, especially nowadays due to strict protection laws. What is it that draws you to capturing them and have you ever faced any problems photographing them?

This is a very interesting and complicated question to answer, as I can understand and relate to a few different opinions on this.

When I began street photography in earnest in 2010, I would not really have set out to take pictures of children as I would not have wanted pictures of my own children on the internet. However, one of the instructions in SPNP was to stay in the same location for an hour, which with three young children in tow pretty much meant a playground as my only choice. I of course had a natural reluctance to shoot in such a location until an online discussion changed my mind.

Firstly, a colleague pointed out that I was in the ideal position to shoot other kids candidly whilst in a location with kids of my own, and to make the most of this time as it wouldn’t last. Secondly, another contact pointed out by making such an issue of taking pictures of kids we are feeding into the fear and hype that there is actually something wrong with it.

Lastly, I thought of all the old classic street photos from years gone by and so many of them involve kids on the street – surely it would be such a pity to stop this wonderful, sometimes funny and often adorable practice. Kids should be celebrated.

I do of course try to be mindful and respectful and try to read in advance through instinct whether a parent would be upset. I was confronted and asked to delete a picture where ironically I was not even trying to shoot the person’s children. I have had a few maybe 12-year-olds give me cheek, but on the whole, reactions have been less problematic than with some adults!

6. Have your own children developed an interest in street photography? How do they generally react when they see you doing it?

I think they (ages 6, 5 and 2) possibly are a bit young to have developed a real interest in anything, but my son does occasionally point out something he thinks I may want to photograph, and my daughter has taken one or two interesting shots from the phone.

I am happy they tolerate it just as being part of me, and they show no surprise when I make them all stop and wait on a path or when I do a u-turn instead of heading straight home – not that they always appreciate it!

7. On average, how many hours per day would you say you dedicate to street photography?

As of family commitments and a shared camera with a husband who also enjoys street photography, I manage a session on my own only once every two weeks for a few hours. However (as I will touch on in a later question), carrying a camera with me as I go about normal life means I also do get the chance to take a few opportunistic shots here and there, rather than having a dedicated time to shoot each day.

8. What’s your most memorable street photography experience?

A memorable incident happened in New York where a city worker brought me to a Police Officer who in turn brought me to a F.B.I. Agent as they thought my activity was suspicious!

Photo © Danielle Houghton

Photo © Danielle Houghton

9. What is the general attitude towards street photography like in Ireland? Has anyone ever objected to being photographed?

I think street photography in Ireland suffers from increasing suspicious attitudes that also can be found in a lot of other countries.

I have had several people object to being photographed, but I think people here may be more reasonable if you chat to them afterwards and explain what you are doing.

However, there is still often a sense of fun in Ireland and plenty of people who don’t mind at all.

10. The majority of your photographs are not taken within the typical street setting that we’re used to (usually a city or more urban), but rather in a very suburban one within the natural environment. Do you find it easier or more challenging to shoot in such a setting? Please explain.

I shoot in less traditional city settings, partially out of necessity, partially out of interest and also because Dublin is not at all built up in a traditional sense, so can look quite suburban, even centrally.

In my images, I try to reflect what I see in my day to day life and show how street photography can be practiced anywhere you happen to be rather than always needing to go on photographic outings.

Shooting in settings such as parks or the coastline can be easier in terms of offering up a pleasing visual backdrop with less likelihood of stray heads blocking your shots! But can be more challenging as you do not have the quantity and variety of interesting people found in more central locations.

11. What, in your perspective, are the key qualities that make a street photograph a “street photograph” and how does it reflect in your work?

I think street photographs can operate at different levels so it can be tricky to define what makes one a good “street photograph”. There is no predefined formula, it varies from shot to shot: One may be character-based, another based on something quirky or funny, another clever or multilayered and another about the mood of the shot etc.

The street photographs that work best in my opinion not only show a candid moment or an interesting person but they do so in a visually pleasing manner.

So in my work I try hard to get a balance of both.

12. You were recently selected as 6th runner-up at this year’s International Street Photography Awards. Congratulations from all of us! How did you go about selecting the entries you submitted and how did you react upon hearing you were chosen?

Thank you very much.

Knowing which images to select was tricky, as I initially was very focused on building a cohesive set, for example photographs just taken by the coast, or photographs just featuring one person etc. But in the end, following on from a discussion with a core group of like-minded street photographers, I picked a selection that were popular shots with my Flickr contacts, keeping in mind also to show some of the Dublin I enjoy as the theme was “Hometown”.

My reaction upon seeing my inclusion involved some out loud “whoops!” – which would be quite out of character!

Photo © Danielle Houghton

Photo © Danielle Houghton

13. Any future plans or projects you’re currently working on?

I plan to keep enjoying and shooting street photography.

I am not actively working on any shooting projects, but can see themes naturally falling out as I build up my work, so would like to build on these.

In the very long term, I think I would enjoy working on some social documentary photography and of course ultimately I would love to publish a book. In the more immediate future, some of my contacts and I are in the process of forming a street photography collective, so that is quite an exciting fulfilling process.

14. Where do you see street photography heading in the future?

Street photography seems to go in waves of what is popular, for example I am not sure juxtapositions are as popular as they were, whereas complex multilayer compositions often with shadow work seem to be more in vogue right now. Also I think people are pushing the boundaries of what is considered street photography, by for example including shots taken at private indoor gatherings or shots featuring people they know.

I have dipped my toes in the greyer side of street by taking pictures of my own children in an un-posed situation, but am still unsure if this is a step too far away from my own definition.

15. What advice would you give to our community regarding street photography?

My first bit of advice with regards street photography and something I strongly practice is to tune into and follow your instincts both in terms of where you wander and in terms of your anticipation of a scene or situation about to unfold.

Some of my more successful photographs were taken after I did a complete change in location after a very strong inner voice told me to do so!

My second bit of advice would be to take more than one shot if something interests you, i.e. work the scene until you are spotted or until you know you really have gotten the most out of it.

Lastly, enjoy the actual process of shooting without always worrying about the results and enjoy the variety of people our interesting World has to offer.

Photo © Danielle Houghton

Photo © Danielle Houghton

See more of Danielle’s work:

http://larkingabout.webs.com/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/larking-about/

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11 responses to “Full Frame Interview: Danielle Houghton

  1. Nicely put Danielle and always good to learn more about you. You really have a special gift!

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