Interview with Michelle Viljoen

Photo by: Michelle Viljoen

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Michelle Viljoen is a freelance photographer currently based in Cape Town, and since a couple of years ago, she has been seriously in love with street photography. Her work unveils the deeply intertwined dissonances between people and society as they evolve together within the urban fields. Sometimes she’s close, sometimes she’s distant, but she is never detached from the contemporary reality we live in today. Here she shares her own and personal view about street photography.

F. Street photography” has many interpretations, what could be your own and personal delimitation for it?

M. Street photography has always been an outlet for me. Coming from a design and fashion background it was incredible to stumble into a field where I had no control of my subjects. Where the only thing I could control is when to take a shot or where head to for photos on a given day. Street Photography has since become a therapy for me.

F. How do you decide between black and white and color?

M. Most of my photographs would be colour, but sometimes when I feel that a scene is a bit too busy and distracting for the person I wanted to make the subject I opt for black and white as it drowns out a lot of that noise.

Photo by: Michelle Viljoen

F. How does your gear make you navigate better on the streets?

M. Because I came from a fashion / commercial photography background I began shooting with the gear I had (currently Canon 5D mkIV) I honestly don’t think it makes any difference. I’m so comfortable with this camera that it just feels like an extension of me. I’m not fazed by the size of it at all!

F. What could you tell newcomers about gear?

M. I always tell newcomers to not focus so much on gear. You really don’t need the best gear to take a good photo. In fact – is recommend shooting on an affordable body, playing around with various lenses to discover what style of photography your more comfortable with (do you like being close to your subject? Do you prefer being further away? Do you shoot more in low light than daylight? Do you prefer zoom over prime? Once you figure that out you can go invest in some more expensive glass! And just remember it’s not about gear – focus on training your eye. Sean Tucker actually recently posted an amazing video on this where they shot with random little cameras – it’s worth checking out!

F. So, why “Paper City Life”?

M. I’ve always loved how paper can be both fragile and strong depending on how you fold or tear it. Much like our lives and cities we live in. Which is why I went for Paper City Life. Visual consistency and a high commitment to a personal statement made her work extremely interesting for us. We encourage you to question yourselves about why you do whichever photography you are doing today. The question might find some empty echoes at first, but after a while you’ll develop a personal vision of the world that will make you a better photographer with time.

To see more work from Michelle Viljoen please visit the links below: