James: For starters, can you introduce yourself and let our readers know who you are and what it is you do?
Walter: My name is Walter Wlodarczyk and I'm a documentary photographer based in Brooklyn. My work focuses primarily on creative life in New York City – music, performance, other forms of art, the people doing the creating, my experiences.
James: When did you originally start bringing your camera to shows and was there anything specific that made you want to capture what you were experiencing?
own document of life in the city, at this time.
A document of art, music, people, my life, the things I enjoy and think are great and important. All of the things that I'd want to appear in books made in the future about life in the city today.
James: Do you shoot for any of the many music sites, blogs or media outlets out there or are you just doing it for your own selfish passion?
Walter: I do some assignment work, but generally work directly with artists, and on self-directed projects. I focus on subjects that inspire me, knowing that opportunities to publish my work will come (and they do) if I've done a good job in capturing what I see. And it's really not selfish at all.
|Math The Band with Peelander-Z|
I've recently had some work published in Impose Magazine, and Alt Citizen. Those are two publications that I like because they have a vision about what they're sharing with the
world, and a sense of being part of a creative community. That fits with how I work. As a photographer I'm a contributing member of a community of creative people – not someone who takes photos simply to get published.
James: What's your weapon of choice? What's in your bag? Make, Model, Lens, Flash.
Walter: I use a Canon 5D Mark III. Lenses depend on the situation, subject, and lighting.
I like the 24-70 f/2.8 as a good all-around lens. I might go with a wider zoom if the situation is very tight. I also like to use a faster prime lens if it's possible to (again, it just depends on the subject and situation). And I always pack a flash, because you never know.
James: Flash or no Flash? Why?
Walter: The eternal question. If you throw out the obvious situations where you simply can't use flash, or must use flash to get anything usable, I think there's a big middle ground of maybe.
I try to feel those situations out and may use flash to the extent that it'll work with the ambient light and maintain the spirit of what I'm photographing.The other dimension is that I try to be very careful that my use of flash is not disruptive or distracting, because a show is about the performance, not about me taking photos of it. There are the shows where it just doesn't matter – everything is so crazy no one even notices. The trickier spots are those where you need to use flash, but everyone's standing 15 feet from the stage and the energy is maybe tenuous to begin with. I hate to be a distraction with flash in those cases, but sometimes you just need to. I try to be economical if that's the case. But it really just depends.
James: Do you have a certain approach that may differ from others? Is there anything specific you're looking to document or a feel you want to come across in your images?
Walter: I think every photographer's approach is unique by definition, starting with the choice of what to photograph.
(it always is), too expensive, etc. But it's not dead.
James: What else do you like to shoot? Where does your camera usually take you.
Walter: I've had the privilege of touring with KEN South ROCK in Japan and around the US, and that has been awesome. I love touring and documenting the experience. I also like to visit Miami a few times a year to hang out with my friends the Audio Junkies who I met while on tour there with the ZZZ's. The Miami music scene is great and the Audio Junkies are always putting together great shows – especially during Art Basel and over the 4th of July.
I like documenting all of that madness. And of course, I enjoy documenting New York City and art in general, in addition to music.
James: I have a list of photographers who not only inspired me to pick up a camera and document my surroundings, but one or two that actually helped me get to where I am now. Who are yours? The ones who moved you to shoot?
Walter: Peter Hujar for one – especially his photographs of New York at night. I saw a collection of those photographs in 2005 and that was one of the first experiences that I remember making me really want to pick up a camera and document my New York. Also Zoe Strauss. I saw the last installment of Zoe's ten year I-95 project, which was an outdoor show, her photographs mounted on pillars under an I-95 overpass in her neighborhood in Philadelphia. The photos were arranged with incredibly specific care both up and down, and across the rows. Zoe describes her work as “an epic narrative about the beauty and struggle of everyday life” and that is really a perfect description of her work, and that show. It was epic and then some. It really made something click inside of me about what photography can and should be. Nan Goldin as well – her work also made me want to create my own document of New York City.
James: I think most photographers have their horror stories of getting gear and/or their heads broken at shows. Do you have any battle scars to share?
Walter: Thankfully I've not experienced any truly serious damage to gear or person.
Just normal sorts of thing -- I've had a cigarette put out in my arm, had people fall on me, had my camera punched into my face by a friend who was very “in character” during a performance, been stun gunned. The stun gun thing was not an accident, actually, but it wasn't malicious. I'm pretty good at preventing accidents, actually. In particular, catching falling mic stands. I once received a round of applause for making a one-handed diving catch of a fancy microphone at a jazz party.
James: Personally, the thing that draws me to your images is.
I almost never know any of the bands you're sharing images of, but those images inspire me to seek out their music and hear what they're all about. I don't know if that qualifies as a question, but it's an observation that can't go without noting.
Walter: Yes – thank you. That's exactly what I hope for. I've been successful if someone sees one of my images and is inspired to learn more about the subject.
James: The last time I shared the Pit with you was at the Black Flag show at Warsaw.
(A particularly bad show for me personally) I recall Jason House, another local shooter, being there. I always here stories about very unfriendly photographers who don't like sharing the pit, their stories or anything particularly social. Personally, I've been somewhat immune to that stereotype. Do you, yourself have any personal rules of the pit?
Walter: Oh, most of my interactions at shows are totally positive. My personal rule is to try to make the best photographs I can without distracting from the performance or impeding anyone in the audience from enjoying the show as they would if there were not a photographer there. No one wants a camera jammed in their face or flash straight in their eyes – obvious things like that. And I try to share my space with anyone else who is shooting or filming. Common sense and respect. Occasionally there's someone who doesn't get it, but I just try to work around those people. And that can be a photographer/videographer, or an audience member who is intent on clobbering everyone. The best thing is for everyone who goes to shows to collectively let those people know that that kind behavior is really not okay. I think Joe from Big Ups put it pretty well –
“I know we're all animals, but let's be domesticated animals.”
James: Most of what I've seen from you comes out of Brooklyn, particularly Bushwick. Is it safe to say that Brooklyn's more than hipsters, Pabst and clever haberdashery?
Walter: That's really just a function of the fact that I live in the area and that's where we tend to hang out, and see shows. I also shoot plenty downtown and other places, and of course not just music. There's plenty going on all over. New York is so diverse, the generalizations people make are silly. You find out what a place is about by getting out and doing things and meeting people, not by reading the comments on the Internet. I try to ignore all of that. Especially the comments.
James: Very true. Are you originally from New York City?
Walter: I'm from New Jersey. I'm a product of the tristate region.
James: Well then, we're practically related. (In a backwards finish to start kind of way.)
What are some of the bands and music spots worth looking into.
Walter: In terms of venues, everyone should visit Death By Audio lots before
it closes in November. I can't even remember how many great shows I've seen there. I also suggest checking out and supporting our great DIY venues like Shea Stadium and Silent Barn. And Goodbye Blue Monday, which has provided a stage for literally anyone who wanted to play, for so long.
Links to Walter's Work;