Following on from meeting with and chatting to The 405's team of brilliant photographers, which began with Flore Diamant, we meet another of our regulars, London-based Umit Køseoglu.

Whilst not taking beautiful photos for us, he's also a digital artist and fine art photographer - a particularly interesting series of works by him is the chaotically bustling and colourful The Ghosts Of Shibuya Crossing, depicting the infamous scramble crossing of Shibuya, Tokyo. So allow us to introduce Umit Køseoglu; get to know him through his answers to our questions, plus some examples of his work, below.

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How did you get started? What age?

I was about 15 and doing an Art GCSE. My teacher came over to me one day and told me my drawing skills were atrocious, and as my attempts at pottery hadn't gone very well either I should try photography so I wouldn't fail the course. So I bought an old film camera off eBay and taught myself about exposure and depth of field. My teenage photos are pretty hilarious to look back on; I spent about a year taking pictures of the sky and doing awful emo portraits of my friends looking forlorn in the park, and posting them to LiveJournal with song lyric captions.

Did you study photography?

I ended up passing the Art course (my exam piece was a huge collage of cut-up pictures of Converse...) and doing A Level Photography, where I started to take it a bit more seriously. I spent hours in the darkroom and learned how to process my own film and print from negatives. This shot of a friend's band is is one of the first images I ever printed myself:

I went on to do a degree in Contemporary Media Practice, basically a fancy way of saying "do whatever you want for 3 years", which was amazing. I had a lot of freedom to experiment and play around with different ideas and techniques, some of my projects included projecting photographs through sheets of plastic I hung from the ceiling, a multi-screen video piece, and a series of layered portrait/landscape hybrid images that I spent weeks compositing together in Photoshop. Photography was always involved in my work in some way though!




How would you describe your style?

1. Candid, natural, simple (portraits).
2. Experimental, layered, ethereal (more art-based photography).

Bit of a contrast there. I like to mix things up sometimes!

Who/what inspires you?

Jane Bown's work is what first got me seriously interested in portraiture; she took these incredible, simple-but-stunning portraits of musicians, working with just natural light and black and white film. Her stripped back approach has had a huge influence on the way I work - I'm much more comfortable working outdoors with a subject in natural light than I am in a studio with lots of fancy equipment.

What types of cameras do you shoot with?

I mainly use a Canon DSLR, but I have a collection of weird old Russian 35mm and medium format film cameras. And a Polaroid camera that makes an appearance from time to time!




Digital or Analogue?

I hate this question because it makes me feel like such a hypocrite! My heart says analogue: it's what I learned on, and there's something really special about working in the darkroom and watching a print slowly appear before you. But the truth is I work mainly on digital because I don't have the patience or discipline to shoot film, I get far too anxious walking away from an important shoot without being able to see how the images have turned out. I have a lot of respect for music photographers that shoot on film, the lighting in some venues is challenging enough to work with as it is, so not being able to see how (or if) my photos have come out straight away would kill me! I tend to save film for 'special occasions' like when I'm travelling, and I still love using it, I just need to do it more often. Film is not dead!

What's your editing process like?

I have a bit of an editing ritual. I try and edit as soon after the shoot as I can, while everything is still fresh in my mind, which generally means staying up and editing photos all night. My best work is normally done around 2am. I always listen to music while editing, if I've shot with a band I'll listen to their album. I'll scroll through all the pictures and mark the ones that stand out; I take a lot of frames so work it down from a couple hundred to around 20 or 30. Then I go through them again and think about the story I'm trying to tell and how everything works together. To me it's important that each image works as well by itself as it does in a series.

What's the best photo you've ever taken? What makes it so special?

The best ones are always the ones with stories behind them. I did a shoot with Moddi where I was told I could hang around before the gig and be "as nosy as I want to be", which is pretty ideal for a behind the scenes feature. I ended up spending a few hours with Pål and Katrine, watching them soundcheck, eating Vietnamese food and wandering around Angel chatting to them. It's nice to get to know the people you're photographing a little bit, it really helps to have a bit of a connection before you start waving a camera in their face, as you can always tell from the images when someone wasn't feeling comfortable. Sometimes you need to be a bit of a ghost when you're photographing someone, and just observe and capture the moment. This was my favourite picture from that evening:




What's the most challenging shoot you've ever been a part of?

For my final degree project I spent a week in Iceland by myself taking pictures. It was a lot of travelling around and early mornings. At one point I was stuck outside in a blizzard waiting for the airport to open at some horrendous hour of the morning. Then I got on a plane which looked like a toy (it had a propeller...) bound for the North and spent an hour being thrown around the air, terrified for my life. It was worth it though, I got some great pictures.

Any advice for new photographers?

Take a camera with you everywhere you go. Shoot as much as you can. Be that annoying person that takes photos of everything. Look closely and try and capture the things other people don't notice. Look at other people's images and work out what you like, what you don't like, and what you'd do differently. Don't worry about if something 'has been done before'; do it again, but put your own spin on it.

Lastly, what are you currently working on?

Well, as of five minutes ago I've decided to dust off my film camera and force myself to do a summer film project!