Danielle Houghton photographs everyday situations, yet has a knack for turning the ordinary into the extraordinary. With her keen eye she captures quirky, offbeat moments of suburban life. Her images are humourous and often have a surreal quality. Be sure to check out more of her wonderful work on Flickr and Observe Collective.
I asked her eight questions about her work and her current projects.
In street photography, timing is so important; you have great timing. You manage to get these really offbeat moments that are so memorable. Can you say a little about that?
Street photography is a strange mix of luck, being in the right place at the right time, trusting your instincts, and acting fast. It can also be about observation and anticipation where sometimes you just feel something is about to happen. With the former I hope my camera is ready and go for it without much thought and with the latter I usually stop and study the flow, rhythm, and timing of the scene and take several shots as it unfolds.
You’re a founding member of the Observe Collective. Can you tell me a bit about some of those projects you’re involved with?
The Observe Collective is four years old this week, and is very much based on friendship as well as photography. We are very excited to be hosting a festival in Iserlohn, Germany this coming July 14-16 called Observations which will feature exhibitions from VIA, EyeGoBananas, Full Frontal, Iserlohn’s VHS Photo Club, and ourselves. One of our aims is to promote the street community as a whole, so a juried street photography competition is part of the festival and we will continue hosting the street fight group on Flickr. In terms of Observe projects, we are in the process of producing our third magazine, the first two being available online. Obviously in the long term I would hope we would release a book.
You more or less came back to photography in 2010, after some years away from it. How has your photography evolved during the past seven years?
I think it has become more focused; I would like to think to a small degree I found my photographic voice, along with a greater understanding of the genre that is street photography.
Do you think there’s any connection between your mindset and the results you get? Do you have any advice for getting into the zone?
I definitely think there is a connection; besides being visually observant, I think you need to be open to and follow your instincts. With street photography, there is also a degree of assertiveness required as some people do find it invasive. As I am normally with family doing day to day activities when I shoot, I think I have had to become receptive to random opportunities as they arise rather than being ‘in the zone’. On the occasions I shoot alone, I have been told I become dogged!
I don’t know you, but it feels as if your personality comes through in your photos. Do you think it does?
You would probably have to ask those that know me if that is true! I think my humour is somewhat dry, so that probably comes across, especially when I incorporate animals into a shot. I genuinely find people very interesting in a positive way so I would hope that ties in with my optimistic side. Street photography for me is about observing people, animals, and situations; I try to show something that is different, moving, or quirky about who or what I shoot.
What are some of your goals for the next few years?
My main goal would be to keep on shooting. I am not aiming to engage in photography on a professional basis, but would like to produce a book in some format either with Observe Collective, or on my own, or both. I was very honoured to be included in David Gibson’s current book – 100 Great Street Photographs.
Do you like the region or city you live in? Do you like your home? Do these affect your photography?
I do like where I live, and feel I am very lucky to be here. There has only been one year when I was a bit disillusioned with Dublin during the Celtic Tiger, but we have moved on from that and regained our humour and genuine love of life. One of the things I appreciate most is that I am only 20 minutes drive away from either a beach, a mountain, the countryside, or the city centre. Living in the suburbs, my photography has had to adapt to a quieter more observational pace than if I lived in a more bustling environment, but I love thanking advantage of the nice scenery nearby, especially the coast.
Can you tell me briefly about a couple of photographers I might not be familiar with yet, but whose work you recommend checking out?
Quite well known would be Stephen Gill as for me he marries art and photography in a very original refreshing way. You also probably know her already, but Rinko Kawauchi is very unique in the delicateness she brings to shooting everyday things. In terms of Flickr friends, there are a lot I could mention, but I will give a nod to the lovely Maria Kappatou, who has a great eye for intensity and beauty in people, and Gabi Ben Avraham who captures amazing quality filled frames.
Many thanks to Danielle for doing this interview. I’m so appreciative of her thoughtful answers that provide insight into her work. She has such a unique vision of the world–be sure to check out her work on Flickr and Observe Collective.