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photographers life

Photography Showcase: Philip Volkers

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Photography Showcase: Philip Volkers

Philip Volkers is a “Visionary” photographer for Olympus, having spent the last 17 years in London the last 10 those working as a freelance photographer. He recently decided to quit the rat race and move the french Alps with his wife and two rescued lurchers.

Philip's Portrait photo taken by "Jeremy Whelehan".

Describe your path to becoming a photographer?

I have always been fascinated by spirituality, the occult, and all esoteric enquiry. I chose to study Philosophy and Religion at The School of Oriental and African Studies in London, and from this developed a love for shamanism and Indian philosophy. After my degree I went to India for six months. That was the first real moment when the photography bug hit me. I wanted to document my experience, and found it really useful as a tool to meet people and interact with them.

On returning from India I had a small exhibition of my work. Then serendipity struck - Rob Fairer from American Vogue was looking for an assistant, and luckily for me someone I sold one of my India prints to put my name forward. The following week I was hired, and flew to Milan to assist Robert with his backstage photography. This was great fun and I was lucky enough to see some amazing shows. My favourite was always Alexander McQueen, his work was so dark and beautiful.

I loved photographing fashion, but have now come back full circle to focus on more ritualistic expression, and am on a mission to document diverse ways of life. I have been working on tribal gatherings around the world and this has led to me Burning Man, Africa Burn and of course the Kumbh Mela.

Which photographers influenced you, and how did they influence your thinking, photographing, and career path?

Floria Sigismundi, Tim Walker, Richard Avendon and Henri Cartier-Bresson.

I have been influenced by these photographer because they aren’t influenced by the mundanity of the world. They create their own realities. For me photography is an escapism, it's the perfect way to manifest your own reality.

What was the most dangerous environment that you have worked in?

The Kumbh Mela was one of the most dangerous environments I have worked in. On the main bathing day, after hiding all night in a sadhu encampment in order to be able to shoot their morning procession up close, I started the long march to the Ganga with 10,000 naked sadhus. This was strictly a sadhu only zone and many of them were carrying weapons so I had to watch my back. The procession was corralled on either side by large fences laden with devotees, waiting for the sadhus to bless the water before bathing themselves.

The crush of bodies was indescribable - it was rumoured that there were 35-40 million people bathing on that day alone. To add to the madness there were police mounted on horseback, trying to make sure that no violence broke out, but seeming like a source of danger themselves.

As we got closer the crowd started running, eager to reach the Sangam and purify their souls. I remember being pushed against the fence by the force of the charging sadhus as the police tried to push them back. The only thing I could go to avoid being crushed was to climb up onto the fence, but there were so many devotees perched on top of it that I thought I was going to be pushed back under. Luckily I managed to haul myself to safety, but it was with great difficulty.

Within such starkly different subject matters, is there always some sort of common ground that inspires or influences your photography?

I like to seek out new worlds and experiences having a camera has allowed me to explore worlds I would never normally gain access to. I guess the common ground is if i am passionate about something I will go out of my way to photograph it. If it ceases to be fun and stops feeling like an adventure then I move on.

Over your career, you’ve shot a number of festivals. What is it that lures you to such experiences?

For me festivals and events are the last bastions freedom for expression and creativity, we live in such a regulated world, I like going to places where there's a bit chaos, within the chaos I feel that you can find sanity. The rules of these places are different from the real world, people behave differently, their attitudes change and they seem to be less judgemental. I love being able to meet people without any of the bullshit we have to deal with day to day, you can make friends for life in these places and time you share is very special.

What gives you ideas and inspires you?

I like to seek out new worlds and experiences having a camera has allowed me to explore worlds I would never normally gain access to. I guess the common ground is if i am passionate about something I will go out of my way to photograph it. If it ceases to be fun and stops feeling like an adventure then I move on.

How would you describe your style?

With a strong focus on nature and freedom of expression I like to find inspiration through travel. My recent adventures have led me to explore human gatherings, like Burning Man and the Kumbh Mela. Within these experiences I like to capture moments of heightened consciousness and unity within these gatherings and in doing so i like to encourage the viewers inquisitiveness to be stimulated by my images.

What do you see yourself doing in a few years?

I am currently working on publishing my photographs of Burning Man, I have been attending this festival for over decade and I hope to have my book out next year.

Later this month i am heading down to Marie-Sur-La-Mer to photograph the Gypsy festival for a project with Olympus and then onto photograph the wild horses of the Camargue.

Next year I have  signed up to do the Mongol Derby, the longest and toughest horse race in the world. The 1000km course recreates Chinggis Khaan's legendary empire-busting postal system. I think I'm a bit mad but let's see.


To see more work by Philip check out his site:

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Interview with Alter-View Photographer German Kholmov

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Interview with Alter-View Photographer German Kholmov

You’ve already seen his beautiful images, now it’s time to learn more about yet another member of Alter-View's stellar team. German Kholmov is a freelance photographer, traveler and digital marketer, who found photography by accident. Now he’s moving from one place to another in search of the perfect scenery to capture. When not chasing adventure German is based in Moscow, Russia.

Describe your path to becoming a photographer?

It all started because of my ex-girlfriend, who had a very peculiar taste in photography. She always managed to find a new perspective, saw the city in a way that was completely unfamiliar for me. It was fun to watch how she photographed architecture or did street photography, how she caught the right balance of light and shadow or how she played with colors. She’s the one who introduced me to mobile photography, after that I started treating Instagram differently and began using VSCO. I started by doing simple lifestyle photography and making photos of city architecture, but gradually, as I began to travel more, I moved to outdoor and landscape photography and that’s what I’m doing now.

Can we say your ex-girlfriend was the one who mentored you?

She’s definitely the one who inspired me and showed me how you can see the world through the eyes of the camera: no matter if it’s a professional camera or the one on your phone. It was all very intriguing, even though I’d never been that much into photography before - I mean, I always noticed beauty around me, but did nothing to capture it. So when she showed me that you can take your phone out of your pocket, take a snap and it would be something only you’ve just noticed, it blew my mind.

Are you a full-time photographer?

I have a day job and normally I photograph whenever I have time, meaning I don’t always carry a professional camera with me. But my iPhone is always with me and it really comes in handy when I need to capture the right moment.

Are there other photographers who inspire you?

There's Chris Burkard, who is from California. Chris owns a photography and production studio, and is constantly travelling. He’s literary always somewhere shooting magnificent outdoors, often on a commission by big brands. I love the way he sees nature and I like the way he edits his work. I think his entire crew works on the content:  he makes mind-blowing photos, then communicates his vision to his team and they together create those beautiful images we see. There’s also Alex Strohl, yet another amazing person with outdoor-focused photography. He travels with his girlfriend and collaborates with Land Rover and sport brands. Needless to say, the places he explores and the content he creates is very inspiring.

Travel photography may be risky, how do you deal with that?

Yes, it gets risky at times: you may have to get to places people normally don’t go to, climb a mountain, photograph with your feet dangling off a cliff. Sometimes you have to sacrifice comfort for the sake of a great image, as all those self-planned trips are quite unpredictable - you might have to sleep in a car or take an ice-cold shower outside. But this is all part of an adventure and you just accept it, although some people might call them health and safety hazards. But I try to rely on my gut feeling, know when to push my limits and do some crazy things when I have to.

Are your family and friends supportive of what you do?

Yes they are, especially my sister, my mom just says that pictures are beautiful. But my sister really likes what I do, and so are my friends.

How would you describe your photography?

My photography is all about the outdoors: lesser-known and difficult to reach places. I’m inspired by the picture I see at the present moment, so I just take whatever camera I have on me and capture it.

So how do you photograph popular and much photographed places?

It all depends on a place: there are certain angles most people use to photograph popular places. For example the Neuschwanstein Castle is mostly photographed from the suspension bridge, but if you go a little further there is a narrow mountain path, that you basically have to climb on, and from there you can get a fantastic view.  So I’d rather do that, than make the same pictures everyone else does. I always research the location beforehand, walk around there for some time to choose the right angle and find the best perspective.

Your advice to a beginner photographer?

Try everything: do as many pictures as you can. This is the only way to find your style and develop your artistic taste. Don’t focus on existing patterns or popular styles and try to find your own voice.

Why did you join Alter-View?

I think it’s a very promising project. I like this whole community story - photographers working in a group, creating content, driven by individual uniqueness of every member. Created in this manner, content will be more comprehensive and informative, because you can make the most of such projects, unlike when you travel alone.  Even if you look at our project with Osprey, you’ll see that we all made different photographs: everyone sees the same things in a unique way - other angles, light, compositions - we’re all different even though we’re in the same community. I think it gives this fantastic opportunity to tell better stories that customers can relate to.

To see more of German's work go here:


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Photography Showcase: Adrien Ballanger

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Photography Showcase: Adrien Ballanger

Adrien Ballanger is a freelance graphic designer,  photographer and co-founder of Salty Paper, who works with GreenFix, Laboratoire de Biarritz and FFSurf among other clients. Adrien told us about building his photography career around passion for surfing and finding inspiration in the beautiful nature of the Basque Country, where he is currently residing.

How did you get to where you are right now?

Because of skateboarding. I grew up in Vendée in western France, a beautiful place with beaches and sand dunes. There wasn’t much to do there, except surfing and skateboarding, so when I was 13 my friends and I decided to start skateboarding in a club. After severals months we had a great progress and often left home to explore the city for skateboarding spots. Sometimes we would skate in private areas and we knew we probably couldn't get there twice. So I decided to start photographing us doing all these things, just for the sake of memories. Finally I started carrying my camera everywhere as well as my skateboard. At the beginning I was just looking for great skateboarding pictures but eventually I started looking for spots around the city and in the nature around the city. A year later I took up surfing so I would make pictures of it too. It was a different way to see photography because of the distance between a surfer and a photographer, it was such a cool experiences too, that taught me a lot. After three years at the graphic design school I needed to travel, so I visited friends in Europe, Deutschland, Norway, Denmark and then I finally arrived in the Basque Country for surfing, mountains and sun! I am super curious, so I really want to climb all the mountains that surround me. So what I’m doing now is trying to discover and photograph all the intriguing things around me.

Was there anyone who mentored or influenced you?

I can't say there was a mentor who taught me how to shoot. I learnt technical stuff by myself, reading photography magazines at the beginning. I am fortunate to have really good friends who are photographers, so in a way these guys are my mentors. Seeing their work I learnt to make the right compositions and now I can capture things around me so much better.  

Have you ever taken risks to move forward?

Yes, when I arrived in the Basque Country I was working as an editor for an independent surfing magazine «Sorry Mom» that my friends and I had started, the goal was to make money doing this work but proved to be harder than we’d expected, so we hat to quit on the idea. Now my friends and I have created our graphic design studio named “Salty Paper”, where we work with some awesome people. So the surfing magazine was a great experience that made me move forward.

Are your family and friends supportive of what you do?

Friends and family are supportive ! They always push me forward by their comments and the most precious things about them is the critical side, by this they help me evolve in my work.

Where’s home and how living there influences you?

I live in the Basque Country. When I was a child my parents and I came here a lot and I fell in love with this country. Where I was born we have no mountains and rocks don't fall straight in the ocean, but here in the Basque Country all landscapes are spectacular and different. I think it's what influences me the most - the diversity of landscapes in Basque Country.

Do you have a routine ?

Nope ! I hate routine. Nietzsche said « Convictions are prisons»

How would you describe your style?

Frankly speaking it’s a pretty common «Outdoor style », but if you take a look on my Instagram you'll see I try to change it by making darker images.

What gives you ideas and inspires you?

The Art ! I read a lot and I always have like 3 books to read at the same time. Novels, magazines or illustrated books, but I prefer novels because when you can't see images, you have to create them in your mind.

What do you see yourself doing in a few years?

I hope to continue doing free-lance graphic design,  travel around the world and making photos and videos. And I hope to become good enough to try portrait photography.

For more photography by Adrien Ballanger, visit his Instagram:

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Interview with Alter-View Photographer James E Harvey-Kelly

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Interview with Alter-View Photographer James E Harvey-Kelly

The Alter-View team is growing with wickedly talented people and today we are psyched to welcome a new photographer to our team: James E Harvey-Kelly, a London-based photographer and fashion designer. Although photography has been his lifelong passion, James started out in fashion as a designer and creative director for menswear brands. In 2015 he decided to ditch his fashion career to follow his dreams of being a full-time photographer, and it worked.

How did you get from being an aspiring photographer to actually doing it full time, for a living?

My father was always very passionate about photography. In our family house where I grew up there was a dark room, and he had lots of amazing cameras and he taught me from a very young age. When I was 8 he bought me an Olympus OM10, which is a little manual 35mm SLR with no automatic functions and he told me that I had to work out how to use it before he let me use any of the big electronic cameras he had. Because of this from a young age I had a real fascination with photography. I was always really interested in fashion and I was always really interested in photography, those were always my two passions.

When I left school I went and studied theology at university but really I was into photography. So I was in London and I was working a lot with photographers as an assistant and stuff like that and doing almost no university work. At the same time I was quite social so I met a lot of people, who were already working in the industry. I had the opportunity to work in fashion photography with a couple of really amazing photographers, to assist them and learn from them. But it became clear to me that, although I was really passionate about fashion and about photography, those two passions weren’t really connected. The photography I liked was more reportage or art photography, and so I started to realise it wasn’t possible for me to express what I wanted to in terms of photography by doing fashion photography. When I left university I kept assisting and then I ended up working as a photographer and doing more landscapes and reportage, but not really doing proper jobs, just kind of messing around, building up my personal work, assisting people a bit. But I couldn’t work out how to make any money doing it. And I suppose also I didn’t have the confidence to know whether my work was good or not or how to use my work.

So I ended up having an opportunity to go into doing fashion as a tailor and designer. I worked as a menswear designer and then I ended up moving to Paris, to work for a menswear brand there. Then I came back to London as a creative director and worked for a while in that space and I didn’t touch a camera for about 7 years at all. But I was working a lot with photographers, I was the guy who was producing and art-directing the stories, or the campaigns, or the lookbooks. I was the one who was saying “ok this is what we want”  and then I picked photographers and worked with them to create what we needed. And because I had a background in photography I understood the language of it and could have very useful conversations with photographers which was a really important part of my job. After a while I quit my job in fashion and I didn’t know what to do next so I took a year out. I started doing freelance work, producing and art-directing photo shoots for fashion brands and then I got the opportunity very randomly to shoot a couple of them, because photographers became unavailable. Even though I wasn't confident about doing this, I thought I should give it a try. I think because I’d spent the last 7 years before that, being the person who was in a position of authority working with photographers, suddenly I had the confidence and the insight to apply that same authority to my own work. Even though technically I was less good, because I hadn’t photographed in such a long time, I had a much more clear idea of what good photography was. Then I got more and more opportunities until I hit a point where I decided that's all I wanted to do. So since then I’ve been working as a photographer in the fashion industry, but also in art-photography, portraits and landscapes and that’s the journey so far.

Have you had any mentors along the way? Which photographers influenced you, and how did they influence your thinking, photographing, and career path?

I’ve had a lot of mentors, although I’m not sure they have always been aware of it. The first was my father, who was really passionate about photography. He has never worked as a photographer, but he’s always been someone that’s been really passionate about it and this  shared passion has always been a big part of our relationship. He taught me the basics of how photography works and when I was young he introduced me to all these great classical black and white photographers, like Jeanloup Sieff, Norman Parkinson and the old Magnum photographers like Cartier-Bresson or Robert Capa. When I was a kid I really understood photography as being about that, those guys represented what photography was to me . So he gave me a great grounding in this classical framework of photography.

I’ve been really lucky over the past 10 years to have been able to work really closely with some amazing fashion photographers and I have learned something from every single one of them. They’ve had some wildly different perspectives and I think that’s one of the main things I learnt while working as an art-director and as a producer rather than photographer, that it's not that meaningful to categorise people as good or bad photographers, rather it's about having your own vision and sticking with it - it’s as simple as that. It was really cool being able to work with all these super talented people and get inside their aesthetics and understand where their approach was coming from.

Also because I mostly shoot on film, a lot of my process involves working with printers in darkrooms in the labs. Over my career I’ve used a few different labs and I’ve been really privileged to develop some very close relationship with printers. When I was 20 I used to work with a guy who printed a lot of the Magnum photographers’ stuff. Every morning I would get up, cycle to his lab and stay there for 2 to 3 hours. He’d just show me all the things we could do or he’d do all my prints or we’d just talk. He taught me so much about what was possible with photography and gave me so much confidence. And he’s just one of them. All of these guys have become mentors to me in different ways, because I didn’t have a classical education in photography and these people know their stuff and are super patient.

Has there been a point when you’ve taken a big risk to move forward?

That’s a funny question, because a lot of people in my life around me maybe see me as someone who takes quite bold moves. Often I’ve taken jobs, which I was completely unqualified for, but for me they never felt like risks. They’ve always felt like the only thing I could possibly do at that moment. I think I’ve always been someone who’s passionate and I’ve been extremely lucky that my entire life so far I’ve only ever done jobs I’m really passionate about. In that sense I’ve never had to do a single bit of work in my entire life, it’s always been natural. For example when I left my last job with a brand in London a year or two ago, it was probably quite risky. But again - it felt inevitable. There’s a saying “ fortune favours the bold” and maybe that's a bit true.  Before I decided that photography was all I wanted to do six months ago, I’d been quite reserved showing people my work, because I felt I had a lot to learn still, which I do. So I thought I’d just work quietly in the background, build a body of work and when I’m really proud of it, then I’ll push it. But then I realised - you’re always improving, you’re always changing, your work from a year ago never looks good to you - so you might as well put yourself out there now. And as soon as I put myself out there, I had so much positive feedback and so many opportunities and it’s still seems to be happening and I’m still learning which is amazing. I’ve been lucky.

Are your family and friends supportive of what you do?

I think when people see you doing something which is really authentic to you, then of course they are 100 % supportive. Also photography is a cool job, because it gives you good stories to tell. You’re a bit of an explorer: you’re exploring places or other people’s lives and you get to go and sit with interesting people and photograph them, understand the world better and be aware and alive, so I think that's only going to enrich the lives of those around you.

What gives you ideas and inspires you to create such great imagery?

I’m not sure. I think I’m most interested in quite simple things, when things feel really natural and true.  I’m interested in empathy, although that sounds pious. That’s why I love portrait photography, although the same thing extends throughout the disciplines, because you get to sit down, you get to look at someone, you get to talk, you get to know them a little and you get to slowly find moments of commonality and hopefully through that create something meaningful. There’s nothing more specific than that. I like it when a photo looks authentic and real, and doesn’t feel contrived or overly directed. In a more practical sense I’m always inspired by other photographers. I love those early colour great american landscape, road trip kind of photographers like Joel Sternfeld, Stephen Shore, William Eggleston. I can look at their photographs for hours - they have such a wonderful relationship with light and this very composed, but also throw-away kind of aesthetic. And it always feels so honest.  That’s something that influenced me hugely and I find that style very fascinating.

How would you describe your style?

Whats’ funny is even when I was working as a designer, I always seemed to gravitate towards a rich, bold colour profile in everything I do and that’s something people often identify in my work. I suppose also there’s kind of the looseness I go for, I generally don’t like things looking like they are too deliberate, too composed and I like something that has an emotive hook to it. Ultimately everything I do - even fashion and landscapes - comes from reportage standpoint.

Do you have a routine?

I get up at 7.30 pretty much always, then I meditate for 20 minutes, have an egg white omelette with spinach and an espresso and then I spend maybe an hour doing emails. I keep in touch with people, talk to my lab, arrange production of photoshoots, That’s always a good way to begin the day, it gets your head straight in terms of what you want to achieve. Then I usually cycle to my l lab, where I look at prints we’re doing to make sure they are ready or take the printers through what we need to do. And then I’ll usually come back to the studio and either I’ll be shooting, or I’ll be working on retouching or production for whatever’s happening the next week or two.  I’ll find some time to socialise and have dinner sometimes but now days mostly I work into the evening - usually until 11 or so - creating mood boards, making references , and that’s my life pretty much every day.

What do you see yourself doing in a few years?

I hope the same thing I’m doing now, but just more. I love to travel - that’s a really important part of my life and something I’ve not been doing so much recently. At some point I would like not to be based as much in London. London is a very important city for me to be in right now, because it has that creative energy and I have a really good network here, but at some point I’d like to live someplace more sunny and by the sea. I spent a lot of extended periods of time staying abroad by the sea and it always improves your life so immeasurably. I’d like to be travelling more, shooting more, just doing the same work really. I’d like to shoot a mixture of occasional fashion campaigns, occasional reportage, work on exhibitions - variety keeps you fresh and you keep on learning the whole time. As long as I’m taking photographs, I’m happy.

Why did you join Alter-View?

Misha Stroyev, the founder of Alter-View, is a good friend of mine and much of my work has been based around my personal relationships. Which is really important, because you end up with a positive natural energy around your work. I’ve also been interested because it’s an agency with more of a reportage, documentary focus. In London I find my work gravitating more towards fashion, because that’s where most of my network is, but I was really interested to work with an agency, that has this reportage/landscape outlook. It's something I’m excited to explore more.

To see more of James's work go here:


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Interview with Alter-View Photographer Raul Cabrera

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Interview with Alter-View Photographer Raul Cabrera

Born in Venezuela, Raul Alejandro Cabrera Ruiz studied architecture in the university. Now a Paris-based full-time photographer, Raul builds his style on his experience in building design and his impressive client list includes Mcdonald's, Marriott International, EDF France and DS Automobiles among others.

1. How did you get from being an aspiring photographer to doing it for a living?

My interest in photography started when I was a kid. I had a compact camera that I used for fun. My mom used to photograph, so she taught me the basics. Later she gave me one of her cameras as a gift. During my years in architecture school I started to explore more with photos. For me it was always a hobby and a way to express my creativity. I enjoyed sharing my images and I started getting a positive reaction. As soon as I moved to France I saw that response increased. Brands boarded me to collaborate with them. That gave me more confidence to create and propose my ideas until I got to the point where photography was absorbing a big part of my time. That’s when I decided to give it a try. It took me a long time to consider myself a photographer. I always thought I still had a lot to learn (I still do). At the end I understood that you are never completely ready to do something, you have you try, fail, learn and that’s what makes it exciting and makes you grow

2. Which photographers influenced you, and how did they influence your thinking, photographing, and career path?

I have my favorites photographers but I learned by myself. When I started taking photos I was still in architecture school, so I like to think that my eye was trained by modern architects like Mies, Le Corbusier, Kahn, Niemeyer and Carlos Raul Villanueva. Composition, repetition, scale, space and order were concepts that I learned to design buildings and now I use to create images. That has a big influence in what I do in general.

3. What was your first photo-related job?

I think my first photo-related job was a documentary work for a friend who was doing street art in Caracas. It wasn't even a paid job but those photos were later published in a national magazine and newspaper, so I was really happy about that. Then, my first big official job as a photographer was being part of the Instacorps, a group of five photographers selected by the UN Foundation to shoot the backstage of one of the events for the COP21 in Paris. It was a great experience.

4. Has there been a point when you’ve taken a big risk to move forward?

Yes, moving to Paris has been definitely my biggest risk. Leaving my country, my family, my friends, my job and everything I had to start from zero has been a learning experience.

5. Are your family and friends supportive of what you do?

Yes, my family has always been very supportive no matter what. They like what I do and they always support my decisions. My friends are also very supportive. Most of my friends work in creatives areas so it’s always good to have a feedback from them or ask them for advices.

6. Where’s home and how living there influences you?

I’m from Venezuela but Paris is where I live now. Latin American culture is very different to the European. It’s been a little bit more than 2 years since I live here but 2 years is nothing compared to my others 27 years, so I’m still enjoying the “surprise” factor which the new place brings. This city has a big influence in what I do and the way I see everything.

7. Do you have a routine?

Not really. I try to avoid routines because I get bored. I think I have a routine only for basic stuffs like, waking up, drink coffee and check my emails, then it depends of how busy I am that day in particular. Another habit that I haven't been able to change, and I think I never will, is working at least until midnight. I work better at night.

8. How would you describe your style?

I would describe my style as minimalist. I like to show my ideas with the least amount of elements. The composition is very important to me. I see a photo as a paint, where every element has to be well place.

9. What gives you ideas and inspires you to create such great imagery?

I think the city is my principal source of inspiration. I’m a completely visual person. I try to frame everything I see. I can be easily distracted if I see something that catches my attention. It could be a film, a graphic design or others photographers’ work. Being exposed to this kind of images makes me want to create.

10. Why did you join Alter-View?

Being represented by an agency is a good opportunity to get my work promoted. I also liked the idea of being part of a community of photographers with different backgrounds. Every photographer in the team has a particular style so I think I can learn a lot from them.

To see more photos by Raul, click here:


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