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Meet Tarek Zaigouche, a French Street Photographer

Updated: Jan 27, 2019

- By Anshul Raj Khurana

Tarek has been a photographer with a keen eye for candid photography. His style of shooting has a perfect balance of color, frames, layering, and juxtapositions. Being a techie in a fulltime job doesn't stop him to be a street photographer on passion. Let's hear more from him.

Anshul- Tell us how photography happened to you?

Tarek- It’s quite recent that photography has become a part of my life entirely. I’ve always been fascinated by its power to catch subtle and vanished moments of life that can be forgotten by people forever. 5 years ago I bought a nice camera to have better travel photographs. In the beginning, I had no other purpose than to have beautiful images to look at a later time. I started to capture the places and landscapes. It helped me to learn and master the camera settings as well as to understand the principles of what makes an image beautiful.

Then about three years ago, I discovered the portrait photography. At that time, my interest in shooting people grew exponentially. Quite rapidly after, I had an urge to click candid moments, real scenes disclosing in front of my eyes. When I felt comfortable with the technique, I questioned myself. What do I want to take/make photos of? What is the most important subject for me? Answering this question led me ultimately to more fundamental questions: Who am I? What is my story?

My family and I left our native country, Algeria, when I was 10, to live in France. These two places are significantly different in several aspects such as the language, traditions, culture, history, religion, food, architecture, interactions between the people, etc.

However, even if France is an orthogonal environment compared to Algeria, my family and I managed to live there to a point where it became our country. I see this as a chance to be able to understand both sides and make the bridge. I am not 50/50 or 100/0; I feel 100% French and 100% Algerian. I like to say that it makes me 200% open minded :).

This is what pushes me to travel and experience different interpretations and angle of views.I shoot almost everyday street photography now with the intention to tell stories that resonate with who I am.

Anshul- Your photography style has a varied approach. How would you define it?

Tarek- I am often attracted by complex, layered scenes as well as graphical compositions. The color has become an essential tool for my images. I also enjoy capturing more candid pictures with few elements. It depends on the moment itself, my mood, and the story I want to tell with it.

When in the streets, I always remain open. I try not to have any specific project in mind and trust my instinct and curiosity to guide me. I believe that all the varied approaches are each of them a component of my personality. I’d like my pictures to reflect who I am: often dynamic, serious and fun at the same time, easy going, creative, caring for humanity…

Anshul- Your pictures have an active element of people? How do you approach strangers and do you feel challenged in doing so?

Tarek- I love to walk with my camera and observe my surroundings whether I am on travel far from home or in the streets of my city. My approach is to try to see the world with a kid's eye and get surprised by the moment that unfolds.

I find people to be the most interesting and unpredictable subject to photograph.

Although I used to be shy at the beginning, I now don’t hesitate to get very close to the characters.

I use to my advantage a paradox I’ve experienced. The closer I get to the subject, the less I am going to be noticed. Hence the scene will remain undisturbed. Also, for this to work, I must act fast.

Additionally, I trust that I am not doing anything wrong. I respect the people and don’t act weird.

In the rare occasions where I get caught, I smile and act like if I was shooting something behind or next to the character. Only once I had to explain myself to an irate gentleman who asked to delete a picture, which I did, it wasn’t a good one anyway.

Anshul- What is an ideal street photograph for you? 

Tarek- An ideal street photograph for me is an image that resonates with me, that moves my heart and my brain.

To me, the first criteria that excellent street photography must have are the content. It must tell a story that most people can relate to. It can be a strong message and emotion or even better a question mark that the viewer needs to ask and try to answer himself.

Different vital aspects help and support the story. The esthetic of the composition helps to convey the message more powerfully and keep the eye of the viewer moving inside the frame. The feeling of proximity that a wide angle lens (28mm and 35mm focal lengths) gives to the image pulls the viewer into the scene as if he was part of the moment.

Anshul- What else you do beyond street photography? 

Tarek- I am a computer scientist and current work in the Information Technology as a Software Development Manager.

I am very grateful and lucky that my full-time job lets me keep Street photography as a passion. I avoid thinking about how to make money out of my images and focus on having fun.

Anshul- You have visited quite a few places, which one has been your favorite street photography destination and why?

Tarek- I am lucky for having the chance to travel pretty often.Although, I am convinced that a good street photographer is someone who is constantly creative and able to show a fresh eye in his own location, traveling effortlessly pushes us to explore, observe and capture the moment.

Personally, I sharpen my street photography vision every time I travel. Once at home, I see things that I’ve never noticed before. In other words, travel changes the perception I have of my place. I always come back with a new angle of view.

I’ve visited India several times and it’s one of my preferred destination for Street Photography. Its genuine people, the traditions, the colors and the food is indeed the explanation. :).

I also liked North Africa, the land of my roots. I am working on long-term projects, and I’ll often travel there in the future. France is also a great place to shoot, especially where I live in the French Riviera, the light is terrific there.

Anshul- Tell us something about your project- @Contactsheets? How did you get this idea and what are your plans for it?

Tarek- It’s an Idea I got with a friend in Antibes, France. We want to showcase photo series and contact sheets of the best contemporary documentary and street photographers. We take our time to select the work carefully. We also want to slow down a little bit the social network time where everything goes too fast. Street photography and documentary are genres that are appreciated for the timeless stories they convey. They are unfortunately nowadays more and more consumed too quickly with any other type of photography. So slowing down and publishing at a slow pace makes a lot of sense for us.

Anshul- I see you a self-taught Photographer, what all have you done to get right knowledge?

Tarek- In the beginning, I’ve learned thanks to online materials like Youtube videos and dedicated street photography groups in social networks like Facebook and Flickr mainly.

Two years ago, I started learning from the masters and buying documentary and street photography books.

We live at a time where the knowledge is at our fingertips. One can learn as much as he/she wants assuming that he/she has the dedication to challenge himself continually.

Anshul- Who are your favorite street photographers and talk to us where do you derive inspiration?

Tarek- Several brilliant photographers have inspired me. Their images make me assess my work with humility. They show the path and challenge me to do better day after day. I admire Garry Winogrand’s work so much. His dedication to this art is the mindset I try to put myself in. I love Alex Webb’s work for his capability to capture the essence of a crowded place and tell fascinating stories. His book « The Suffering of Light » is one of my preferred.

I enjoy David Alan Harvey’s work. I’ve even traveled to Cuba because of the images he took in this beautiful country.

Harry Gruyaert’s photographs taught me how to use color in my images. Sebastiao Salgado’s documentary photography of the wars had a lot of impact on me. I am a big fan of the humor that Matt Stuart manages to convey in his street photography.

More recently, I’ve attended a workshop in London conducted by Vineet Vohra. His vision is outstanding. His work in India is one of the best I’ve ever seen. He highlighted me the importance of letting the photographs come to me instead of chasing them, in other words, to be open to whatever occurs that touches me and be always ready to catch it.

Anshul- What is your advice for new street photographers, how should they take their photography journey to the next level?

Tarek- When you feel your heart beating faster and faster in front of a street scene, you must capture it! First, good news, this means that something is happening that speaks to your inner self. Second, bad news, the body sends this fear signal to the brain. The issue is that the mind has been educated and trained to interpret it as an alert to run away. As a street photographer, you must get closer and capture the essence of what moved you. Don’t miss it. It’s an opportunity to shoot something that resonates with you. Shoot what you feel and don’t be afraid, if you act respectfully, there will be no problem at all. Practicing to get closer and closer will help to overcome this fear.

In the end, the most important is to enjoy when shooting the streets. Everybody is different and have a different point of view and a personal story to tell.

You can see more of Tarek's work here.

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