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Seeing the unseen in New York city through the lenses of two leading street photographers, Jürgen Bü

Similar to Jörg Rubbert, with a deep passion for understanding human behaviours in different social contexts and searching for the unfamiliarity, Jürgen Bürgin loves to wander around places and take casual images. During his career, Jürgen has been awarded and nominated for multiple prizes in the field of photography. For instance, in 2012, he was the runner-up at Browse Foto Festival in Berlin. Normally, he carries modern digital cameras as a crucial equipment to do his photography work. On the contrary to Jörg’s notion in terms of approaching people who appear in the photographs, from Jürgen Bürgin’s perspective, it is important for the street photographers to be persuasive in explaining what they are doing to those people before proceeding with the work.


Let’s find out what are in Jürgen’s mind when he talks about photography.

RAW Streetphoto Gallery: What made you feel engaged in street photography instead of other genres?

Jürgen Bürgin: It’s my deep curiosity for everyday life, in every thinkable form. How do people act in public, what are they doing, how do they express their emotions, what are they thinking? I had this curiosity long before I start with photography. I think Elliot Erwitt created the quote that he’s taking pictures so he doesn’t need to explain things in words. That’s true. So since a long time I love to walk through cities, look at people, walk around at places, wherever interesting people are. I’ve asked myself what the differences are in everyday life in New York, Berlin or Shanghai – and what the similarities are.

RAW Streetphoto Gallery: What do you think about photos in which landscape plays the role of the subject?

Jürgen Bürgin: It’s not easy for a landscape photographer to impress me. But indeed there are a few photographers who impress me, who manage to tell stories with their landscape photos – and to evoke emotions. I’m using people in my photographs to convey emotions. I think it’s much more difficult to be a great landscape photographer than to be a great street photographer. My absolute favourite landscape photographer is Ansel Adams – as he completely achieved to stimulate emotions with his landscape photos.

RAW Streetphoto Gallery: What are the implications of putting the human element in photos?

Jürgen Bürgin: If you put a human into a photograph there’s automatically starting an emotional connection between the beholder of the photograph and the person pictured. You like or hate the person, you find him or her interesting, you try to find out what he thinks, feels, does – you make assumptions about his or her appearance, about his or her life. That’s how a stream of thoughts or ideas or assumptions is initiated in the mind of the beholder. But: he or she is a complete stranger to the beholder, so you never will know much about him or her. You always fill the gaps of knowledge about the pictured person from your own subjective point of view. So everyone sees a different picture.

RAW Streetphoto Gallery: How did the techniques that you employed associate with your perspectives on the field of photography in general?

Jürgen Bürgin: There’s quite a different approach in photography comparing portrait or landscape photography on the one hand and street photography on the other hand. Portrait or landscape photographs plan their photo, they take a look at their object and they develop ideas on the effect, that the photograph will have. In street photography everything is fast, it’s about accidents, about fast observations, about sudden opportunities, about surprising coincidences. And sometimes it’s even about finding interesting things in per se boring situations.

RAW Streetphoto Gallery: How did you approach the people appearing in your photos?

Jürgen Bürgin: Well, you shouldn’t be shy in street photography and you always should be convincing in explaining, why you are doing what you are doing. There’s definitely a vast cultural difference in how people react to some stranger taking their photos. In many Asian countries I experienced an openness of the people photographed. Typically in Vietnam the people I’ve photographed called all their friends and relatives to be photographed as well. Everyone should have been on the photo. That were situations I didn’t experience often in Germany for example.

RAW Streetphoto Gallery: What are the differences between a megacity like New York in comparison with other places to which you have ever been to do the photography work?

Jürgen Bürgin: Well I think compared to cities like Tokyo or Shanghai New York or Berlin even are somehow silent villages. I tend to explore Brooklyn, Harlem or the Bronx for example. I try to avoid places that are too crowded with tourists. What makes a city exciting for me is the variety of subcultures I find in them. And New York isn’t bad regarding this, but to be honest, I even find Tokyo more exciting. I’ve met subcultures there that I’ve never heard of.

RAW Streetphoto Gallery: What are your future plans with respect to the career?

Jürgen Bürgin: Apart from doing my exhibitions with my street photo projects I’m currently working on a circus photo project and a boxing photo project. I’m planning photo books about those topics and there will definitely be some exhibitions. I love organizing exhibitions, maybe it’s comparable with what a concert means for a rock band. It’s the direct, undisguised contact with people looking at my photographs.


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