Welcome to the Inspirations series, interviewing photographers who produce consistently amazing work.
Meet Andrew Mohrer, or DJ Poe, as he is known to his huge Flickr following, a New York based photographer who creates stunning images of his city, which could easily be lifted as frames from a movie. I was instantly drawn to Andrew's work when I found him on Flickr, and have been a massive fan ever since, with his work inspiring me to try and capture London in a similar way.
Find Andrew on the web in these places:
Q} Your images have a unique cinematic style - how did you develop this style of photography?
When I started taking photography seriously I was like a sponge, just absorbing all the information I could find. Not only the technical side but it made me question what is my purpose? What am I going to do with all this gear! Flickr was a huge inspiration for me. Not only did I find many great photographers from around the world, it also helped me to define my own style. I found a few photographers who did this cinematic style and became quickly addicted. Most notably James Yeung (Honk Kong) and Loomax (Paris)... We all became friends and commented and critiqued each others work. I was fortunate enough to have met both of them in NYC!
Q} New York is a city I’ve always wanted to visit, what would be your top 3 locations for photos in the city?
New York City has endless possibilities, that's what makes doing street photography so much fun here. It never gets old for me. I always say Chinatown is one of my favorites. So much action going on it never disappoints. Harlem has some great scenery, I need to go there more often. Also SOHO is beautiful and just feels like real New York to me...
Q} Is there a particular sort of composition you are searching for when creating these cinematic images?
I know in the back of my mind when I'm shooting a scene to create one of my cinematic pictures it will be cropped to a wide frame, so first and foremost I want to make sure it will all fit into my frame. When your on the street sometimes you don't have time to think about composition you just need to capture the moment and worry about the rest later. With that being said, we all know a good composition will make a picture stronger. Rules are meant to be broken and overall I hope my pictures are more about the feeling you get from them, I'm not as concerned with a perfect composition.
Q} Your Flickr name is "DJ Poe" - how did you transition from music to photography?
I used to listen to the radio and hear DJ's like Kid Capri and Red Alert and I was inspired. Once I wrapped my head around what they were doing all I could think about was getting my hands on some turntables. I started dj'ing shortly after. Later on a friend and I put together a recording studio in his house. We spent a couple years making music and it was an enjoyable time for me. After we had some differences and went our separate ways I just moved on and focused on other things. A couple years later I realized something was missing from my life. My first inclination was to put my music studio back together. I thought it would be too expensive, little did I know how much you could spend on photography gear! I ended up getting a camera and I soon felt like I filled that void. I was creating again and it felt good.
Q} Did you have to develop confidence when shooting street photography? This is something I have struggled with, especially when taking pictures of people are involved?
Absolutely! I would say there are many different types of street photographers. Some shoot with zooms and are able to catch scenes from a distance. Others like to shoot with wide angles and really mix it up with people. Some people like to stop and talk or even interview random people on the street and take a portrait. I think you could get good results from anyone of these techniques and I have tried them all at some point. I try not to be too confrontational when I'm on the streets. When your in Manhattan taking pictures people are usually so busy that they rarely stop to say anything. I try be somewhere in the middle . Not being intrusive yet I don't want to be sneaky about it either. I began to build my confidence after freezing and missing the opportunity of getting a picture I really wanted. I would get home and be mad that I didn't just go for it. After that happened many times I realized I should have just took the picture. What did I have to lose and the moment would never happen again. So telling myself that I just pull the trigger now!
Q} Whats the best piece of photographic advice you’ve been given or would like to pass on?
The best advice I could give is shoot what you want to shoot. It's great to be inspired by others but do what makes you happy. After a while hopefully you will develop a style or look that is recognizable. These days everybody is a photographer. Your cousin and uncle both own a Canon Rebel! Your 12 year old niece takes pictures with her iPhone and posts them on instagram and they're not that bad! The only reason someone might want to hire me for a shoot is because my pictures stand out from the 1000's of other pictures they see everyday. Hopefully you scroll across my picture and before you see my name you know it's mine. That's what matters to me. Stop worrying about the gear your shooting with and get out and shoot. I think we're all somewhat victim of wanting the latest greatest camera. The truth is a talented photographer can consistently take good pictures with any camera!
Q} Have any movies inspired your work, or if not, what type of movie are you a fan of?
It's funny people always compare my pictures to movies, Ive heard "Blade Runner" many times. I think I watched that movie once and I can't remember it at all. I really should watch it again! My brain works in a strange way, if I hear a song once I can remember the melody for the rest of my life. When it comes to movies I enjoy dramas, action and especially documentaries. If you ask me about them I can't remember anything! I do really appreciate good cinematography, the visuals stick in my mind.
Q} What other cities or locations do you particularly want to shoot in?
If I have any regrets in life it's that I haven't travelled more. I really wish I took advantage more when I was younger and it would have been easier. There are so many places I would like to travel to and take pictures. To start I would love to go to Spain, France, Ireland, Japan, Cuba, I could keep going...
Q} What is your motivation to keep creating great images?
I really enjoy the process of taking pictures, it's almost like therapy for me. I feel like it's something I have to do, It's not even about why. Creating in any capacity makes me feel like I have a purpose. It gives meaning to my life, I think it's very important to out least try to leave your mark in some way!
Q} Do you take pictures full time? if not what is your day job?
I bartend four days a week. Iv'e been in the restaurant business for a while now. The hours aren't so bad and the money is pretty good. You could say I'm over it at this point! It does give me the chance to do my photography and video work on the side. When I bought my 5D in 2009 I had no idea it would take me on such an amazing journey. I've put in many hours trying to perfect my craft and it's paid off! I've met so many great people along the way which makes it worth all the hard work. Making pictures full time would be enjoyable.
Q} Whats your go to lens for street photography?
I would have to say it's the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 . Just as an all purpose walk around lens 35mm is perfect for street. I love portraits at 35mm. It's just wide enough to capture a good cityscape. Plus it's fast at f/1.4 so it's great when I need it in low light. Plus this lens produces beautiful buttery bokeh while still being sharp wide open. Once I started playing with the Zeiss optics there was no going back, I truly believe they are a cut above the rest...
Q} A lot of your images are shot at night, is this your preferred shooting time?
A lot of times I feel like things just look better at night! I'm not sure why I feel like that, you could say that harsh day light doesn't reflect the vision I have in my head.
Q} What is your favourite image from your portfolio?
Now that is a tough question. I think the last image I post is always my favorite until I post another. Of course some pictures mean more to me than others.
Astor Place is one of my favourite pictures I ever took. I overlooked it at first and came back to it later on. The composition is striking and I can say I have sold it more times than any other image! (This is the first image at the top of the interview)
Q} Whats in your kit bag for a day of shooting street photography?
Earlier on I would walk around with a bag full of lenses but these days I feel that's constricting. Now I'll just choose one and go out and shoot. I'll have an idea of what I'm going for that day and choose my lens accordingly. I've bought and sold many lenses over time but have found lenses that have stuck around for a while now. I use the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM - It's a beast of a lens and a tank at that. If it's snowing,raining or I need that extra zoom it get's the job done. After that I love Zeiss primes and enjoy manual focusing with them. I was lucky enough to be recognized by Zeiss. They found one of my images online and it's been on the front page of their website for the last 3 years. They also sent me a lens! I use the Makro-Planar 2/100 f/2, Distagon 35mm 1.4 and the Distagon 25mm f/2, they're great for video too because of the long focus throw..
I would like to say a massive thanks to Andrew for providing such fantastic answers to my questions, and for allowing me to sowcase a selection of his images. Be sure to check out his Flickr to see many more inspiring photographs.