Photojazz Five: Ethan Chiang


Photojazz Five (n.) Five questions to and five photos from a street photographer.

Like last week’s subject, both Ethan Chiang and I have something in common beyond a love for street photography. In this case, we have both experienced living on both edges of the Pacific. He currently makes his home in Seoul, the place of his birth, but has also lived out bits of his life in San Francisco and Taipei. I asked him to be a part of this series because I love the noir look that he achieves in his images and they way they tell a concise-but-complete story.

You’ll see what I mean.

In one brief statement, define street photography.

To me Street Photography is to discover and capture those little extraordinary moments in the ordinaries.
And it’s my personal way of showing the appreciation to God’s creations, which is to discover and appreciate the unpolished beauties and stories in daily lives.

People ignore things, we’re being exposed and overwhelmed by too much information now a days, which makes us intentionally ignoring those small beauties around us. Street photography gave me the opportunity to connect with the environment, it makes me feel alive.

How would you define your artistic style (I.e. What defines your visual ‘uniqueness’)
Still working on this part, I started taking pictures on the street about 2 years ago, and became more serious about street photography recently, I try to capture as many stories as possible at this stage, I have been thinking about how to shape my own street photography style, but it takes a lot time and experience.

How did you get into street photography?
I got my first DSLR after my son was born, I used it to document his changing and growing, I didn’t think too much about what to do with the camera except taking pictures of my son, then a cliché situation happened, I got inspired by one of the old Henri Cartier-Bresson book, which I found on the corner of my friend’s book shelf sitting there gaining dust, I didn’t know it was called street photography, I was just fascinated by those candid and dramatic photos, and the dynamic forms such as juxtaposition, humorous, sarcastic, abstraction, story telling, candid portraits, color matching and so on, I immediately fell in love with street photography.

And the funny thing is I used to hate crowded public area before I got into street photography, now I look for the crowd on purpose, wherever the crowds are, the endless stories can be discovered.

What influences your work (can be anything)?
The desire of seeing more,

The desire of sharing stories,

The curiosity of what’s out there in the real world,

The interests in people and stories behind them,

and the fact that I know my photos can be a small part of the human history, well obviously it’s not gonna be written in the history book or anything, it’s just one of my own motivation on street photography.

Who are your top 5 street togs?
Henri Cartier-Bresson is definitely on the list since I got inspired by his works, I’ve learned a lot from his works and quotes, one of my favorite quote form Bresson is

“In photography, the smallest thing can be a great subject. The little, human detail can become a Leitmotiv.”

I think it’s the spirit of street photography.

Nick Turpin – I like the dramatic atmosphere he created in his work, and knowing that you can still tell a strong story without having people’s faces in the photos.

Matt Stuart – I admire his ability of discovering humorous scenes on the streets, especially the hilarious juxtaposition catches.

Trent Parke – Light magician, that’s how I like to describe him, I love how he used the natural lights on the streets to compose and create the dramatic atmospheres.

Xie xie for taking the time, Ethan. If, like I, you like Ethan’s street photography he keeps a running tumblr blog for it. If you can read Chinese (and no, I can’t), Ethan writes helpful tips, critiques, and other related articles in his street photography blog.


About Brian Webb

Brian Q. Webb is a photography enthusiast from Los Angeles, California who spends most of his time in Taipei, Taiwan. He is especially interested in street photography as well as large format portraiture and pinhole photography. He also likes to shoot lifestyle portraiture and occasionally acts as an agent for foreign newspapers wanting event coverage in Taipei. He was also on the staff of deviantArt and is co-founder of PhotoMalaysia, the largest photography community in that country.