Self-taught street photographer Mankichi Shinshi started taking photos in 2013 and since then he has been tirelessly exploring public spaces, documenting the surreal nature of the world around him with his Leica M Typ 240. He is driven by the desire to confront scenes, which are universally accessible, but to capture them from his individual point of view, in the moment when he “feels” something. We caught up with inimitable young man to ask about his latest project and explore his philosophy on photography.

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Could you start by explaining a little about what motivated you to create this series and what you hoped to achieve in doing so?

Following on from Darwin’s theory of evolution, we are the extension of plants and animals – therefore, human beings can also be defined as a part of “nature”. Despite this fact, when looking at “nature”, most people ignore the human component and praise only the parts that are green, lush and wild. I think this rationale is based on the excessive guilt we feel as a society, a guilt stemming from the ceaseless advancement of modern technology and development all over the planet. So, I started this project as an antithesis to the “old idea of nature”, such as that, which is displayed on Google image searches. I intentionally collected photographs to emphasize the “unnaturalness made by humans and their artifacts”. By capturing and affirming the feeling of weirdness, palpable in our everyday environments, I want to record the appearance of “modern nature”.

Which camera(s) did you use to capture your Natural Nature series?

For this series, I used my Leica M (Typ 240).

What do you see as the benefits of using this particular camera for street photography?

I rarely shoot a moving subject but it’s still very important to me that the camera can be controlled intuitively and easily. With my Leica, when I look through the viewfinder, the framing is pretty much finished, which means I can push the shutter button without having to think about the camera but only that, which I’m photographing.

Do you like to use a particular lens depending on what and when you’re shooting?

When I use Leica M (Typ 240), I always use a Summicron 35 mm ASPH. In fact, this is the only lens I own. In other words, I really don’t need any other lenses. 35 mm provides the best point-of-view for seeing the world naturally. Perhaps it sounds a little strange but for this series in particular, I had to see the subject in a very natural way to capture its “unnaturalness”. By using a 24 mm or 135 mm lens, we can achieve some very special images but they don’t represent my point-of-view.

How do you approach shooting on the street in comparison to other forms of photography?

For me, the most important elements of street photography are the “non-staged” nature of the photos and the fact that they are shot in a public space. This means that anyone, who is present within a single space can take a photo of the same scene. It’s not the situation itself, which is special at all, so the true worth of the photographer can be seen in the results he or she achieves. I want to do that, which anybody could do and nobody does.

What do you take into consideration from a technical point of view when shooting street photography?

When people talk about street photography, many of them imagine shooting the “moment”, but I don’t consider it of importance. I think that the “moment” is always a very personal situation. As I said in my previous answer, I’m interested in the scenes, which are open to everyone. So, I’m always conscious of framing the subject with the ground. For example, don’t want my photo to show that “the man is running (at that moment)”, but rather that “there is a man running (on the ground)”. It may be a subtle difference, but I hope that the impression the viewer gets will be more general and the subject can represent the greater theme.

How important is photo editing as part of your process and what techniques do you like to employ when editing?

I don’t think it’s so important. For more general viewing, I only carry out the minimum of editing. Certainly avoiding excessive contrast, hard cropping and switching to black and white.

What advice would you offer any aspiring street photographers?

I often hear some photographers say, “street photography doesn’t need any words or descriptions”. I think that’s extremely disappointing. Why don’t you think deeply and create a dialogue with someone? Of course I don’t think that we can represent the photography perfectly through words alone, but by using language, we can imagine the stories surrounding our photography, even if they take place away from the photos themselves and in doing so, re-imagine our world more interestingly!


Check out more of Mankichi Shinshi’s fantastically curious street photography on his website and Instagram.

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