I first noticed the work of Kieron Beard as one of my followers and likers of my own images and who followed my own Instgram account. My attention was piqued not only by his observation skills in street photography but for his processing skills. His style of edit drew me in based on my own knowledge of black and white processing. His look really made me think back to negatives and print papers and of course the darkroom as this is where I honed my own abilities. Even using his Leica camera and digitally his processing still has this filmic printed look about them with strong blacks and white whites, often with very slight mid-tones creating a strong graphic feel. Bill Brandt comes to mind as do a host of other black and white photographers.
I asked Kieron to share with us all a little bit more detail about him, his work and his process and workflow. My interview with Kieron is featured below.
I’m a British photographer who has been living in France and working in Switzerland since 1998. It only took a decade at the fire brigade, multiple environmental science degrees and a dozen accounting jobs for me to realise photography was probably alright. The self-inflicted pain of another part-time finance degree drove me out on the streets, day and night.
A talent for capturing street life has seen me work my way through far too many types of cameras. The very best and the ones I have settled on these days are the Leica M246 Monochrom and the M10. But I occasionally crack out the Q2. I’ve never been afraid to get close and personal with strangers, snapping a moment in time or stealing a memory, however you see it, to get my distinctive photos. I share my unique way of capturing everyday life with small groups during workshops around the streets of Geneva.
My main love is black and white photography and decided to specialise in street photography. I would describe my photos as high contrast and punchy.
I have been interested in photography since I can remember. When I bought a second-hand SLR camera in 1991 things changed. The camera came with a 50mm and 70-200mm lens and I loved it. Initially, I took a lot of holiday or event photos and not a lot else but around about 10 years ago I started to notice a pattern in my photos. I was trying to take more serious shots. Photos that would make people stop, look and maybe ask a question or two. At this time, I mainly shot in colour but I started to experiment in black and white because I liked the aesthetics and the quality of it. I am more or less a self-taught photographer with only one short course taken with the Open University on digital photography back in 2012.
I took pictures of anything and everything back then and became a ‘jack of all trades and when reviewing the images from 5 or 6 years ago I noticed that the photos could have been shot by lots of different people with no discernible style. That’s when I knew that I needed a focus and that’s what defined my path of black and white street photography.
I use either the Leica M246 Monochrom or the M10. I recently picked up a Leica Q2 and I’m currently putting it through its paces. I don’t use a tripod or lighting in any of my street shoots meaning that I travel very lightly. I have the following equipment:
Lenses That I Use
24mm Summilux f 1.4
28mm Summaron f 5.6
35mm Summicron f 2
50mm Summilux f 1.4
I use different lenses for different situations but my ‘go to’ lens for street work would be the 24mm Summilux because it gives me the advantage of having a wide-angle. A lot of the time I shoot from the hip or at chest level meaning that there’s more chance of having the subject in frame without having to use the viewfinder while remaining discreet.
After a street shoot, I leave the photos unprocessed for at least 24 hours. This gives me time to consider the photos I’ve taken and leads to excitement in reviewing them knowing that I might have picked up that special shot. I always shoot in raw format then process the photos in Lightroom Classic and occasionally retouch in photoshop. I don’t do an enormous amount of post-processing. I do a strategic crop and straighten the image if needed. If I’m shooting with a colour camera I make a b&w conversion then look to boost the overall contrast to the image to give it my look.
Settings I Master When Shooting Street Photography
The most important aspect for me was learning how to shoot manually by knowing my camera and lenses. As the Leica M246 and M10 do not have automatic focus I quickly taught myself zone and hyperfocal focussing allowing a good proportion of the shots to be in focus. I think the basics of the exposure triangle, aperture, shutter speed and ISO, is a great place to start when understanding how the camera and lens act together to make the final image.
What I look for in my shots
I look for the ‘wow’ moment. The shot, which makes people stop and look at the photo. I like to tap into the viewer’s imagination and let them decide what the photo represents or what’s happening in it. To be a good street photographer you have to have an understanding of spatial awareness and composition and I use these concepts to capture special moments. Generally, I’m trying to make an extraordinary shot from an ordinary scene. I look for the beauty or oddity that is missed on a daily basis by most of us for one reason or another. When I go into the street I usually set an objective. It might be reflections, movement or a sense of place but when I’m on my way to find these shots I have my camera ready for mostly anything that might happen in the blink of an eye. The beauty of street photography is that you always have an expectation that there is a great shot waiting for you just around the corner.
My own Inspiration and whose work is closest to mine
I have a few photographers who inspire me. I love the work of Elliott Erwitt and Daido Moriyama. Two contemporary photographers who inspire me are Phil Penman (New York-based) and Jeremy Spierer (Geneva-based). I’m still developing my own style but I think I can see some similarities between the photos of Erwitt’s jumping dogs and my own jumping dogs. Also, Phil Penman’s photos which are shot into the sun. Their work is so inspiring that it pushes me to search out more extraordinary shots.
The time of year which i find most inspiring
I love shooting in the autumn or winter when the sun is low on the horizon almost giving the golden hour effect all day long. It creates the long shadows that are a feature of my photography. I also like the weather that these seasons bring as it can make for interesting photos. For example, the atmosphere that a foggy day can produce or people hunkering down underneath umbrellas on a rainy day.
My favourite locations
I like discovering new areas of Geneva, taking pictures in places that others would not consider. When international travel is possible, I would like to visit some other countries. I enjoy shooting in the UK and USA because there are no restrictions on publishing candid portraits of people taken in a public place as there are in Switzerland and France. I always look forward to visiting new places with my camera as I never know what I’ll discover and who I’ll meet.
Accessories you can’t forget for your next shoot
For street photography, I don’t need so much gear. I always ensure that I have extra batteries and memory cards. Suitable clothing for the varied weather conditions and most importantly a comfortable pair of shoes as I normally cover at least 10km on a typical shoot.
My inspiration comes from the environment that I’m in when I’m taking the photos. It might be sparked by a glint of light or a certain movement. I’m attracted to light and texture most often and look to incorporate a focal point such as a person or animal into the shot. One of my biggest inspirations is a Geneva photographer, Jeremy Spierer. He inspires me to be an artist and look at the world differently with a combination of artistic flair and technical prowess. Jeremy acts as my mentor and advises when I want to bounce ideas off him.
Rules I often break
One of the rules I break often is shooting into the sun. I love the long shadows and the sun flares because they add a dramatic quality to my photos.
Current of future work – books, print
I am currently setting up a website to display images that are not suitable for social media. Meaning those photos that are interesting or complex and made for the bigger screen or better still in print.
My favourite shots from my favourite photographer
From Phil Penman Bird on 5th Avenue 2020 and Westside Highway, New York, 2012