No two days are alike: the streets of New York are paradise for street photographers such as Manuel Peña. With curiosity and a willingness to try out new possibilities, he sets out through the urban jungle each day, experimenting with light, shadows and reflections, and creating unique cinematic images.
How did you get into photography?
I got into photography as a way to keep me busy during my down time from work. I’d always liked looking at photos as a kid and it always interested me.
Your imagery seems very cinematic. What are the biggest influences on your photography?
I would have to say movies and video games play a big role on how I see things. It’s really crazy how the medium has evolved over the last 10 years. I’m also inspired by contemporary photography and the greats like Vivian Maier, Saul Leiter and Alex Webb, to name a few.
Where did you take your pictures?
I don’t get to travel as much as I would like, but New York City is where I mainly make my images. There is a lot of ground to cover here. Definitely a great place for photography.
Do you have favourite locations when roaming the street?
I would say that Chinatown, mid-town and the financial district are my frequent stops in the city. There’s always something going on, and no days are ever the same.
In general, what catches your eye?
In general what triggers me are colours, gestures and any emotional interactions between people.
How do you find the decisive moment to shoot? Any tips?
I’m not sure I know when the decisive moment is happening, but I mainly react to what I’m feeling. I almost always make a picture because I’m compelled to do so. The only tip I would offer is not to hesitate if you feel it.
What role does colour play for you, and what is more important to you: composition or colour?
Colour is very important to me. It’s what attracts me to scenes; but I would say composition can always help. I try not to think about it too much. It just feels natural to me at this point.
What cameras are you using and why? Do you have any favourite camera for street photography?
I’m currently using the Leica M10-R and the Leica Q2. They are really compact and unobtrusive. There are no distractions with menus, and the shutter speed and aperture are available without turning the camera on, which is very helpful. Although the Q got me into the Leica system, the M has to be my favourite. It just doesn’t get any simpler than that. I feel fully immersed in the process of making photos, and just find it satisfying and fun to use.
What do you like most about street photography?
What I like most is the unexpected nature of it. Every day is new and it’s fun to walk into the unknown, with regards to what is going to be created.
Manuel Peña is a self-taught photographer from New York. He developed a passion for photography in 2015. Since then he went on to capturing everyday moments in the streets of New York. His primary goal is to tell stories using light, shadow, composition and colour. His only rule is: shoot anything that interests you and the pieces will fall into place. Find out more about his photography on his website and Instagram page.