new york city photography street photographer street photo Washington park manhattan dominique misrahi kalel koven in frame inframe documentary contemporary portrait los angeles venice beach

Interview Dominique Misrahi

*For a better visual experience click on each photos to see them in their original format*

First of all tell me how you approached photography?
Photography has always been part of my life. My parents had a lot of books of French B&W photographers and I was obsessed with fashion photography. I would call myself a photography enthusiast. But never thought of seriously picking up a camera at the time. Long story short after the birth of my twin boys ( late in life ) I had a babysitter who saw my family pictures mostly the kids and on IPhone (which I was not happy with) she encouraged me to buy a camera. That was 5 years ago.

I decided to take a few classes on basic digital photography, at a small school in my neighbourhood. The teacher asked me what would you like to shoot I answered right away : people but I’m shy. We went on a field trip and he showed me how to do it. I have never stopped since. I am mostly self taught. I learn as I shoot It’s a bit overwhelming so much technicality. I love the streets and meeting new people. I would love to do studio too but never had the opportunity to collaborate. Very competitive industry.

« I always been fascinated by NY since I came for the first time »

How long have you lived in NYC? Where did you live before? Why NYC?
I have been living in NYC since 1999. Ouch time flies. I was born and raised in Marseille France. I always been fascinated by NY since I came for the first time with my high school as part of a student exchange. When I arrived I knew it was for me. I belonged. Anyway, it took me a lot of back and forth and a major mid life crisis to finally give it a try. I went by myself on vacation and decided to do whatever I can to stay. My background is in dance and fitness. But when I arrived I couldn’t work legally so I got a student visa that allows me to stay more than 3 months.

Do you take pictures in film? What camera do you use?
I shot film but with a point and shoot when I was young just for fun. I also have a Contax T3 that I used once in a while. I m currently shooting with Sony a 7rIII And Sony 6400 with a Japanese vintage lens. Polaroids too are my fav.

Why Street Photography?
Because I started recently I don t think I can have a career in photography. I am too old. So Street and especially street portraits are a good compromise. I feel like I m doing fashion shoot with strangers. It allows me to show that beauty is everywhere not only on magazines (social media now). I feel good in NY I love to walk  in the streets. I am not afraid of strangers that is my strength.

« I love photography as much as I loved dancing. »

How photography play a role in your life ?
I have my camera wherever I go most of the time. I go to Washington Square Park very often because I live very close. It s very difficult for me to have the freedom to shoot wherever I want or to travel because of my family. My kids are my priority. A lot of sacrifices. My husband is not an artist. He took him a long time to understand and accept my passion for photography. Now it is much better. My kids love it as long as I don’t take a pics of them. I love photography as much as I loved dancing. Bruce Gilden once told me that to be a photographer you have to be selfish and it’s true of course in the sense that you invest yourself completely.

Tell me more about your process, your feelings in the street?
Mostly adrenaline first. Then joy fascination for my subject. Most of the time we laugh a lot. Especially if I ask them not to smile. I m very social I am not afraid of people in general I guess it shows. It really depends on the subject and the vibes or the time they have. The beauty of it is it s never the same. In general it’s pretty fast then if we meet for an arranged shoot it’s different. We try to know each other better, sometimes we stay in touch through Instagram.

I saw some photos made in L.A, how is it over there?
L.A is vacation I love the Venice Beach vibes. It’s pretty free and laid back It s a beach town. Very touristic beautiful light a lot of characters. Any change in place is inspiring. I don’t travel much so for me anything different from NY is an opportunity to discover.

Do you have a story linked to a photo that has marked you? a moment that you will keep in memory for a long time?
It just happened last week I was taking pictures in WSP (what a surprise) and I approached  a group of people who was serving free food and clothes to the homeless I was actually with one of my models who knows the volunteers. I was able to shoot when a guy asked me if I could take his pic. He was covered with scars and bumps. Inflicted by the police I think he also has brain damage due to the beating (I have seen him before). After the session I told him that I was so sorry about what happened to him No matter what someone does he doesn’t deserve to be treated this way. The guy started crying in my arms. I will never forget that moment. It still give me the shivering, I felt his pain inside me …

What is your top 5 photobook ?
– Haiti by Bruce Gilden
– Gypsies by Koudelka
– the other side  by Nan Goldin
– on the portrait and the moment by Mary Ellen Mark
– any book of Daido Moriyama

Interview by Kalel Koven

Photographer’s links: WebsiteInstagram
Member of the Women Street Photographer community