During the event Street Photo Milano, Craig Semetko and Alan Schaller – two successful street photographers – disclosed how they kickstarted their careers, inspiring and giving precious tips to wannabe photographers.
Craig Semetko’s career was sparked by absolute chance: at the age of 39, the former playwright bought an expensive camera, even though he had no professional experience in the field of photography. The keyword of the talk at the Street Photo Milano, on the 29th of April, was ‘serendipity’: a term that – according to the Oxford Dictionary – refers to “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way”.
Semetko – simply a “guy with a camera”, as his Instagram bio states – made it his mantra, and he lists a set of rules applicable to both the photographer’s profession and to everyday life. Nothing in his current career as a street photographer, from publications to exhibitions with Henri Cartier-Bresson, was planned. “Honestly, I never expected anything to come out of this”, the American photographer explains.
The golden rule of street photography is not having any given goal in mind. According to Semetko, the perfect combo is to let oneself get carried away by the surrounding events, by following four straightforward and effective steps:
Similarly, the co-founder of Street Photo International Alan Schaller, approached the world of photography fortuitously. After teaching himself how to play guitar, Schaller became a music author for television. Still, it was not the job he aspired to. “At that time, I would have accepted any job offer just to get by. However, I was not satisfied with myself as I wasn’t doing the kind of music I loved”.
The encounter with a girl who had a camera was providential in Schaller’s career as a
photographer. “She told me she did street photography. At the time I thought it was just ridiculous – I couldn’t grasp the meaning of that kind of photography”. It was only after having taken part in an exhibition by Cartier-Bresson that he understood the sense of street photography. Right after that, he started experimenting and developing his own style. As soon as he turned his new passion into a full-time job, the British photographer promised himself not to make the same mistakes he did in the music field, by not stooping to compromises but by being loyal to himself. He describes himself
simply as a “black-and- white street photographer”, “obsessed by pictures that do not portray the world as it is”. He advises the panel’s attendees to “work in a straight way. A good piece of work speaks for itself”.