Showcase of Street Photography of Charles Ellena from Switzerland

Charles Ellena is a photographer based in Switzerland. His main areas of work are photojournalism and street photography. He works for newspapers and magazines, covering human daily life, cultural events, sports and portraits. Most of his street photography is catching the interesting glimpses and activities on streets in a striking colorful portrayal. It has a narrative and documentary appeal. A Q&A with Charles on his work and preferences is below:

charles_ellena 2 Istanbul_3Please tell us about yourself and your relationship with photography:

I am a Swiss Photographer, based near Fribourg. At the age of 18, I began to get interested in photography. I started to photograph with a 35 mm SLR, mostly landscape and nature scenes. I looked at the photobooks of great photographers, and when I discovered the photo agency ‘Magnum’, my serious Interest in documentary photography was born. Soon after I set up my own darkroom and began developing black & white films and made the prints by myself.

charles_ellena 3 Istanbul_2A few years later I was able to turn my hobby into profession, when I got permanent job as photo-reporter for a newspaper.

How did you develop interest in street photography?

Because I work for newspapers, I have to comply with the orders of the editorial staff. That means also staged works like portraits and Illustrations for various topics. However, if I have the freedom to shoot what I want, then I like to look to the daily life around me and practice street photography.

charles_ellena 4 Istanbul_5Tell us about your creative method of shooting? Do you work in a planned or spontaneous way?

My style of working is simply walking around, looking for special situations and press the shutter at the right moment. I just try to be ready for every unimaginable situation. Most of my work is spontaneous as the unpredictable cannot be planned.

charles_ellena 5 havanna_1What do you think about rising concerns over privacy and related things in street photography? How challenging is your work and how far would you go to get a desired shot?

That’s a difficult theme. Since my street photography is based on spontaneity and no staging, there is no way to ask for permission before I take a picture.  I can understand that people react critically, when unasked-for images of persons are published, but I think that the practice of photographing in public places should not be criminalized. I’m not looking for sensational pictures, rather to avoid stereotype images – such as poverty and homelessness.

charles_ellena 6 London_1Tell us about the equipment (camera, lenses, software, etc.) you mostly use and why. You’ve been photographing for over two decades. How did rapidly changing photographic technology affect you?

I use Nikon SLR Gear, for street photography I use D810 with AF-S 50/1.4, AF-S 35/1.4, and AF-S 28/1.8 lenses. I use fixed lenses for street photography. Usually I only carry one Camera with the mounted lens with me. My choice of software is Capture 1. The photographic technology changed and we have more tools to enhance the pictures but a good or even excellent photograph is not only a question of technology. In the end it’s still all about Emotion!

charles_ellena 7 marrakech_1Tell us about your achievements, awards, clients

Most of my clients are newspapers and magazines of Switzerland. My awards include Swiss Press Photo ‘Winner and Swiss Press Photographer of the year’ (2008), 2004 – Swiss Press Photo ‘Winner category sports‘, and Swiss Press Photo ‘Prize for special achievements in photojournalism’ (1992).

charles_ellena 8 marrakech_2I found about your self-published photobook on Blurb. Share your experiences in this regard:

Well, the book ‘Augenblicke’ was a self-published book with photos from the ongoing series ‘Ausserdem’ (means ‘besides’), published in the Swiss newspaper ‘Freiburger Nachrichten’. It was actually more of a test to see how the print-quality would be. And I must say that I was disappointed. In my opinion digital printing is not the way to go, if it comes to reproduce high-quality photos. The black & white pictures have an undesired color-tint, and they do not look very sharp. I also tested some color-books and was not satisfied. There are, amongst other things, mainly problems in areas with subtle color-transitions (like for example a blue sky or skin tones), the result is more like a uniform area. So I would not recommend to self publish with providers of digital printing machines, at least not to showcase your exceptional work.

charles_ellena 9 marrakesch_3What are your future plans/projects, ambitions, inspirations etc.?

I’ve just come back from a trip to Havana. Next Place maybe somewhere up north in Scandinavia.

Please share your favorite photographers:

I like the photography of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Elliott Erwitt, Martin Parr, Vivian Mayer, Alex Webb, Jan Windszus, David Alain Harvey, and Jonas Bendiksen… to name a few.

Something to say to our readers or aspiring photographers:

Try to capture the atmosphere, the feeling, the emotion of a scene you are photographing.

charles_ellena 10 milano_1 charles_ellena 11 milano_2 charles_ellena 12 milano_3 charles_ellena 13 N.Y_1 charles_ellena 14 N.Y_2 charles_ellena 15 N.Y_3 charles_ellena 16 N.Y_4 charles_ellena 17 N.Y_5 charles_ellena 18 N.Y_6 charles_ellena 19 N.Y_7 charles_ellena 20 Rome_1All photos © Charles Ellena : Website | Twitter | Facebook

About Nishant Mishra

Nishant studied art history and literature at the university during 1990s. He works as a translator in New Delhi, India and likes to read about arts, photography, films, life-lessons and Zen.

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