Michael Fraser is a Toronto-based street photographer who captures intimate yet revealing photographs of not only human interaction but also the way human beings interact with the city they live in. Fraser mainly works with the traditional colour and black & white film illustrating the various aspects of light, composition and shadow through his breathtaking photography.
Though he loves photographing the streets of Toronto, including Kensington Market and the Eaton Centre’s downtown core, his passion for travel has inspired many of his notable works. He has photographed various cities including Paris, London, San Francisco, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, and Beijing but one special place he always loves to photograph is New York. In 2014, his work was selected to appear in the Contact Photography Festival in the Junction with his titled exhibit From Here to There. Fraser sat down over some coffee at The Roastery with Novella to discuss his craft.
Novella: What drew you to street photography? And how did you discover your passion for it?
Michael: It was something that I gravitated towards. I’ve been shooting for 5-6 years now and I started doing portrait work and commercial work and it didn’t really fulfill that artistic desire. So street photography happened organically and I’ve been doing it ever since.
Novella: In your opinion, what makes a memorable street photograph?
Michael: That’s a good question. It has to do with great composition, great lighting, great timing and stuff like that. One memorable photograph that I think is just perfect is Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare taken in 1932 by Henri Cartier-Bresson. It was really taken at the perfect moment. Also, Garry Winogrand, an older photographer, once said that, “Photography is not about the thing being photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed”. I really believe that.
Novella: What street photographers have influenced your career?
Michael: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Andre Kertesz, Joel Meyerowitz, Garry Winogrand, Trent Parke and Matt Stuart.
Novella: What do you want your viewers to take away after looking at your work?
Michael: I just want them to feel something. The thing that I hate most is when people say “nice capture” [laughs]. I’d rather they say they don’t like it. But really I love my work to resonate with people. I really feel like I’ve succeeded when the viewers can connect with my work in some way.
Novella: When you start shooting, are your images planned or more spontaneous?
Michael: I would say it’s mixed. I mean you can’t ever completely plan out what you’re going to shoot for street photography it’s impossible. But you can choose a spot you’re going to photograph and just wait. Sometimes I wait for hours until something pops up. Like one of my works that I shot in Boston with a man crossing a street; I chose that spot because I knew it was perfect. The lighting was great, the shadows produced from the buildings was just right and the fact that there weren’t many people in that area. So for this shot I waited hours for that right moment. Then the more spontaneous photos are taken just walking around random streets and things just happen. Also, sometimes you won’t always have your camera on you so it’s important to see photographs without a camera so it’s about training your eyes as well.
Novella: What work/collection are you most proud of?
Michael: That’s a tough question. There’s one I took and it’s a silhouette of a man with stream from the sewers [called Steamy] and there was another one I took in Boston of a man crossing the street [called Void].
Novella: Travelling, has been one of your main inspirations. Where in the world haven’t you been, but are dying to travel and photograph?
Michael: I would have to say India. I’m actually travelling there November/December 2015. My favourite place to photograph is New York City. There’s just so many people and I like that. Also, everyone knows about NYC, even if you haven’t travelled, so it’s easier to put a feel to the photographs.
Novella: What type of gear do you use?
Michael: I shoot colour and B&W film with a Leica MP and a Leica M2, a Mamiya 7, and a Hasselblad 500cm.
Novella: Fill in the blank: I can’t live without______.
Michael: Family and my camera, it’s an extension of yourself.
Novella: What is your ritual before you start to shoot?
Michael: It’s just getting into the zone. I know if I’m going to have a good or bad day; it’s really all on me. If I feel like it’s going to be a good day, I ride out that feeling.
You can check out more of Fraser’s work HERE.