Interview: Street Photographer Hai Nguyen @xxxyxyz

You’re travelling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight… but of some really mind-bending photography. Our guest this week is the very talented Hai Nguyen, otherwise known by his handle @xxxyxyz.  WARNING: Do not drive or operate heavy machinery after viewing these photos!

First, how did you come up with “xxxyxyz” as your online handle? Does it have any special meaning?

Life is hella she + he + it :)!

Ah, like “xx” is “male” and “xy” is female, making “xyz” the “it”… very clever! So, when you’re not doing photography, you are…

Listening to music, watching movies, hanging out with friends, sketching, sewing, making stuff, and always researching and seeking inspiration from all around me.

How did you originally get into photography? What was your first camera?

My first camera that I bought for myself was a Polaroid Spectra. I’m a big fan of instant photography. I’ve been taking photographs since I was young but I really didn’t get serious until I joined IG. The iphone is the only camera I use right now. The fact that I can take a photo, edit it, and post it, all in one device has helped me tremendously with my creative output?

How would you describe your style in three words?

Experimental, Surreal, Street.

If your portfolio had a soundtrack, it would be…

Jóhann Jóhannsson’s “And In The Endless Pause There Came The Sound Of Bees“. An album I listen to all the time while editing photos.

How many photos do you shoot on an average day?

When I was living in NYC I was constantly shooting on a daily basis. So my average was around 150-300 per day, and only 3% of that was actually okay. Most of those shots were just different angles of the same thing.  Nowadays, I shoot when I can which is about once a week, and I totally beast out and shoot like a hella lot!

What is a photo technique or rule that your regularly follow (or constantly break)

Honestly, I’m not really versed with photo rules or technique so I just shoot what truly speaks to me.

What’s the one iPhone photo app you can’t live without?

That’s so hard to just pick one, so I’ll say Camera+ and Filterstorm are my absolute tops!

What else is in your camera bag?

I’m a photo appaholic! I have tons of apps but here are the ones I use regularly: pictureshow, photofx, juxtaposer, blender, decim8, interlacer, cameramatic, lo-mob, scratchcam, ttv, touchretouch.

What aspects of photography are challenging for you?

Well, street photography is a challenge now, since I live in an area where pedestrian traffic is pretty much non-existent. My style has changed because of this so I’m continuously adapting.

Pick one of your favorites from your portfolio and tell us the backstory.

The photo from my NYC Love Stories series: Two of Hearts, a couple asleep on the subway, where the girl is seated with her legs over her boyfriend’s legs. I love this one because it was a simple shot. I didn’t have to do anything. It was all about the couple.  It was really late at night, and I was asleep when they came on the train.  I woke up and saw them seated across from me just like that.  I hesitated at first and didn’t want to intrude upon them, but the moment was just too damn sweet that I just went for the shot.  The expressions on their faces and their body positions were just sublime. It was just one of those lucky, magical, movie moments, of being in the right place at the right time and not hesitating to capture it all. And after I got my shot I went right back to sleep!

You shoot most of your photography in the SF Bay Area. If you could shoot any other locale in the world, where would it be, and why?

I shot extensively in NYC as well, which was crazy awesome for shooting people and architecture. But I really would like to try my hand at nature/landscape photography. It would be a new challenge for myself. I’m a city boy at heart but love the outdoors as well. The one place that I’m obsessed with and have never been is Mono Lake in California which looks like another planet in photographs I’ve seen.  Aside from that I’m dying to go to Singapore so that I can go photowalking with the great ABC @aikbengchia =)!!!

If someone told you, “I want to take photos like @xxxyxyz,” how would you respond? What tips would you give them if they wanted to emulate  your style?

I usually just shoot whatever makes my eyes pop and my heart leap. Currently though, I’m not able to do much street photography so a lot of my most recents photos are photo collages. With photo collages, I’m constantly keeping my eyes open and taking photos of things that I could use later during the editing process. I’m building a library of different images or “seeds” as I call it, which will become something else in a future photo. They can range from wall/ground textures, to graffiti, to wires, etc.  On days I can do street photography, I keep my eyes alert and iphone ready at all times so I don’t miss any memorable moments that I connect with.  And always experiment and try new things.

Any other secret talents we should know about?It took me a couple minutes to think about this one and I asked my friend and she point blank said if you can’t think of one then you don’t have any! Ouch!!!

Pick a favorite IG’er that you think deserves more notoriety from the IG community?

Definitely, people should check out @intao!!! Dreamy, moody, thought provoking masterpieces! He creates unique, and imaginative worlds that literally make me want to jump into them and never leave.

Thanks Hai! Be sure to check out Hai’s awesome album, soon to appear in the Keepsy Gallery.


Interview: Jussi Ulkuniemi (@skwii)

One of the most iconic and creative minds on Instagram, Jussi Ulkuniemi’s photos perplex, bamboozle, and delight. He took time out of his break-neck schedule to answer some of our questions:

When you’re not doing photography, where would we find you?
Well, right now, you’d either find me working with Adobe programs from behind 3 computer screens at the company’s office, or partying my way down the streets of Helsinki with my bass-booming headphones. Then again, where I’d really like to be found (if I wasn’t so busy) would be a small and lovely training space, practicing some groovy dance moves…!


Do you remember the first photo you ever took? What was your first camera?
Whoa… I think it was a toy camera of some sort.. We had gotten it for Christmas, a kind of a tiny polaroid-style camera that instantly developed an image in a size of a post stamp. It was a portrait of my parents, and well… To this day I have never seen a portrait as bad as that one. :)

How would you describe your style in three words?
Avant Garde Mofos!

If your portfolio had a soundtrack, it would be…
…a mix-tape of genres like New Rave and Chiptune.

What is a photo technique or rule that your regularly follow (or constantly break)?
What I love breaking is the perspective. Tilting the angle purposefully 45 degrees or so can sometimes create something worth watching. Or pick one line and make it horizontal at the cost of others, you get really interesting results. But still, I’m very strict when it comes to perspective. A well thought, precise perspective is often a start for a brilliant composition.

What’s the one iPhone photo app you can’t live without?
Filterstom and Juxtapose, totally. Everything you really need for editing (Especially the “curves” function) is there in one app: Filterstorm. Then there’s Juxtapose for unlimited ways of manipulating your pics and getting creative-crazy. Mixing photos together AKA juxtaposing really seems to be my all-time favorite way of spending time.

What else is in your virtual camera bag?
To this day I’ve gathered about a twenty photography apps worth mentioning. The newest one of interest is FrontView, which is an unique perspective shift application. Now I’ve finally found a way to really mimic the effects of a tilt-shift lens: first creating a small depth of field with TiltShiftGen, then shifting the horizontal lines properly with FrontView.

Did you upgrade to iOS5 as soon as it was released?
Yes, instantly. Love the new features! Everything is now smoother than ever, even the camera app opens faster. The only bad point in upgrading was the upgrading itself… something happened and all my apps, music and videos disappeared… Took some time before my dear phone got it’s identity back.

What aspects of photography are challenging for you?
Capturing facial expressions. Mostly the only time I feel satisfied is when I tell them to look as neutral as possible, as if without any expression. That’s a part of the reason why I love silhouettes and portraits with faces hidden. There’s too much information in a face, sometimes it absorbs focus out of everything else.

Your shots (and edits) are remarkably unique and creative. Where and how do you find inspiration? Do you ever get ‘photo-block’?

Thank you. I guess the inspirations come by looking around. Being aware and keeping your mind open for a chance to create. My inspirations are usually very irrational and on the moment, because I won’t stop to think it twice if I get a crazy idea of (almost!) any kind. And yes, photo-block… Those are hard times, especially if you are keen on updating your photoblog everyday… But I’m glad to have some quality stuff stored on my camera roll for the bad days.. :) To be honest, I haven’t really had any good time for hobby photography for 2 months now.. (but still online and updating!)

Pick one of your favorites shots from your portfolio and tell us the story behind it.

This one was taken about six months ago in Florence. Me and my friend (in the pic, down there) were visiting the Giotto’s bell tower at about closing time. We had been gasping at the view from up there for about a twenty minutes until the caretaker told us to leave, the tower was closed. Just when we had started descending downstairs I noticed a small grid where you could see straight down through the floor. From there I saw a perfect opportunity! Quickly I told my friend to “Run!” downstairs and in a minute she had blasted through the crazy medieval spiral staircases. I began shouting my lungs out with posing orders but she didn’t hear a lot. I bet the whole Florence heard our conversation. We were lucky thought, the tower bell didn’t start thundering. Afterwards we smoothly escaped with a satisfying set of photos :)

You shoot most of your photography in Finland. If you could shoot any other locale in the world, where would it be, and why?

Italy I’d say. Most of my favorite shots I’ve taken there. The architecture and and warm, colorful blaze of the mediterranean sun…! Using my iphone 3GS wouldn’t be a problem there, hate the cold, long and dark Finnish winters, in an iphoneographical sense of course.

If someone told you, “I want to take photos like @skwii,” how would you respond? What tips would you give them if they wanted to emulate your style?
I’d say “Think graphically.” I love mathematical lines, shapes and frequency. I use a lot of radial blur, so I guess I’d say that too. Oh and most of all, to spice up your ideas with humor.

Any other secret talents we should know about?
I have a talent for being late from everywhere. It’s one of my most used talents really, so I don’t know if it’s very secret, but still mentionable.

Pick an IG’er with fewer than 500 followers that you think deserves a look from the community.
I’ll pick @Strawbrie and her colorful and humoristic personality that shines brightly through her photos.


Interview: photographer Diego Amador @diegobot


Diego Amador dreams of Electric Sheep. Scanning @diegobot‘s portfolio is like walking onto the set of a Ridley Scott film. His shots of Los Angeles architecture are moody, intense and awe-inspiring. Diego took time out of his busy schedule hunting replicants to chat with us:

When you’re not doing photography, you are…
Working like a mad man for the man , Editing photos, Fishing, or Hitting up the bars in L.A.

How did you originally get into photography? What was your first camera?
First camera was a Canon AE-1 [FILM] worked my way up to a compact digital camera to a Nikon DSLR.

When did you transition to shooting architecture?
When I noticed the works from photographer Joel Tjintjelaar. That guy does great B&W architect shots.

What do you think of the latest Instagram 2.0 release?
Think it needs a new update already lol. Sometimes uploading photos does fill in the photo & leaves a black line at the top or bottom. dig the new filters, but also unhappy with the controlling of tiltshift.

How would you describe your style in three words
Melodic.Symmetrical, and Spunky.

If your portfolio had a soundtrack, it would be.
Radiohead’s “Hail to the Thief. Only because every track is slightly different ,but in the end its the same style.

How many photos do you shoot on an average day?
Due to work 5-7photos .Tend to make up for it on the weekend.

What is a photo technique or rule that your regularly follow (or constantly break)?
I usually try to follow the rule of the thirds, but i tend to break that rule to throw in some side way angle type shots.

What’s the one iPhone photo app you can’t live without?
Darn just one lol  ok okay has to be Camera+ cant live without my clarity.

What else is in your camera bag?
Qbro,PhotoFx,Diptic,PhotoWizard,Picfx, and many many more.

What aspects of photography are challenging for you? What is it like shooting in L.A.?
Shooting people[candids] are tough for me.I feel i do a better job of shooting people with my own twist which usually means motion blur . Shooting in Los Angeles County is great. Angelinos have a great playground to play with. Although one small complaint is that L.A is so spread out so getting from place to another might take a while. Damn you L.A traffic!!

Pick one of your favorites from your portfolio and tell us the backstory.  

"Love Personified" (c) Diego Amador

That would have to be “Love Personified’ Simply because the old couple in the photo. They gently walked up the stairs with a strong feeling of intimacy that could not be broken.

You shoot most of your photography in Los Angeles. If you could shoot any other locale in the world, where would it be, and why?
I would have to say Japan because they have awesome modern architect or any where in France for its rich historic background which cannot be duplicated.

If someone told you, “I want to take photos like @diegobot,” how would you respond? What tips would you give them if they wanted to emulate  your style?
Always look up and shoot away. You find interesting subjects by looking , and don’t be afraid to shoot new angles . Your neck might hurt after a month ,but its a ll well worth it.

Any other secret talents we should know about?
I can impersonate old people pretty darn good.

Any parting words for our nearly-departed friends at Kodak?
Sayonara!!!

Pick an IG’er with fewer than 500 followers that you think deserves a look from the community
@Deonizayus One of boys that I collaborate with from the #EliteCollab Movement we have going on. He can flip a toilet into Megatron if he wanted to. all on his phone. Talented fellow to say the least.


Interview: Christina Nørdam Andersen @cirkeline

This week’s profile is with Danish photographer Christina Nørdam Andersen (@cirkeline). While she’s a relative new-comer to the world of photography, her keen eye for subject and intense contrasts have made her an Instagram phenom with over 45k followers in just a matter of months. 

When you’re not doing photography, you are…

Job hunting, seeking inspiration, taking long walks (which might involve photography), running and spending time with friends.

How did you originally get into photography? What was your first camera?

I got into photography when I downloaded the app Instagram on my new iPhone last autumn and until now I exclusively photograph with the iPhone camera. I find the iPhone camera handy and discreet, which is very appropriate for street photography.

Which other photographers have influenced your work (IG or other)?

Being new to photography I embrace all the inspiration I can get whether it be from following other IGers work or researching famous photographers such as the master of candid photography Henri Bresson-Cartier and the newly discovered street photographer Vivian Maier. I admire the work of Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershoi, who is known for his poetic low-key portraits.

IG is a constant source of inspiration in itself and there are an incredible number of talented photographers on there. Recently I found the amazing works of

  • Brandon Barr @texturl
  • Dominique Jost @nique88888
  • Giovanni Savino @magneticart
  • Tony @kungfuroll
  • JongSun Park @adl2enaline
  • Akbar Makrati @shutdagizm
  • Greg Briggs @gregbriggs
  • Dimitris Karathanos @dimitriskarathanos
  • Dan Cristea @konstruktivist
  • Koci Hernandez @koci
  • Prio @priotography

…to mention a few. Since the beginning of my photographical journey I am particularly inspired by Thomas Ka @thomas_k, Eros Sana @eros_sana, Gary Bebout @clayking and Jason @jasfran.

How would you describe your style in three words?

Focused, subtle, candid

If your portfolio had a soundtrack, it would be…

Perhaps Yann Tiersen’s Amélie Original Soundtrack which displays a subtlety. I like to portray what I see on the street through my emotions.

How many photos do you shoot on an average day? 

It varies greatly. I can go days without shooting a photo although I tend to think in photographic terms all the time. On average I guess I shoot about 5-10 photos a day.

What is a photo technique or rule that your regularly follow (or constantly break)

“Whatever works.”

What’s the one iPhone photo app you can’t live without?

Noir app, which I use for converting my photos into high definition black and white.

What else is in your camera bag?

Numerous apps, but the ones that I tend to use the most are in random order: Photo Fx, almost DSLR, Iris, Camera+, Focusoid, Lo-Mob, Filterstorm, Scratchcam and CrossProcess.

What aspects of photography are challenging for you?

For me photography is all about capturing the natural light and living in Copenhagen, Denmark the sunshiny days are quite rare. On the plus side when the light is here it is beautiful and casts long shadows. Other challenges are to keep rediscovering my surroundings through my lens and to remind myself that photography is about having fun and playing with it.

How do you pick your subjects?

I pay attention to the little things in everyday life, which is what I find the most beautiful.  It could be a shadow that an object casts or the way a sunray falls on a street scene. Also I like to play with scale.

Within Reach by @cirkeline (c)

Pick one of your favorites from your portfolio and tell us the backstory.  

My photo “Within reach” was one of my first photos, I was stunned by the tree’s shadow on the wall. I walk past here every single day and observe how the changing seasons alter the scene. I look forward to shooting it with snow.

If you could shoot any other locale in the world, where would it be, and why?

As I adore street photography, I would love to go New York City to observe and shoot. I have an idea that I would like to carry out; to portray stillness and quiet contrasting a busy city.

If someone told you, “I want to take photos like @cirkeline,” how would you respond? What tips would you give them if they wanted to emulate  your style?

I would like to quote J.R.R. Tolkien “ There is nothing like looking if you want to find something”. It’s all in the observation and to pay attention to detail whatever it is that catches your eye.

On a practical level keep your camera ready to shoot when walking down the street.

Any other secret talents we should know about?

I can type really fast.

Pick an IG’er with fewer than 500 followers that you think deserves a look from the community.

Check out the talented Bobby Anwar @bobbyanwar, whose stream is diverse and includes some wonderful street photography into which he has clearly put his heart.

Thanks Christina! (and thanks for turning us on to the Amélie soundtrack - it's a peach :-)

Interview: Anthony Danielle @takinyerphoto

With over 55,000 Instagram followers, Anthony Danielle (aka @takinyerphoto) is a tour-de-force of street photography. His shots of fellow New Yorkers are candid, stylish and fun. We caught up with Anthony recently to learn a bit more about his style and philosophies of shooting on the street.

So Anthony, when you’re not doing photography, you are…

One of three things: working, perusing the internet, or kickin’ it.

How did you originally get into photography? What was your first camera?

[I] first got into photography in high school around 2004. My first film camera was a Minolta Maxxum 3 that I bought from eBay, at about the same time I entered the digital world with a Canon Powershot and upgraded to a Rebel XT probably around 2007.

How would you describe your style in three words?

Street. Style. Now.

If your portfolio had a soundtrack, it would be…

Probably The Beatles, given time I could probably come up with a caption from lyrics or quotes for every picture.

How many photos do you shoot on an average day?

Depending on the time I get to shoot, anywhere between 30-50 pictures a day of which i probably keep around 10-15.

What is a photo technique or rule that your regularly follow (or constantly break)

I love the rule of thirds.

What’s the one iPhone photo app you can’t live without?

Camera+ no doubt. if IG didn’t exist, I’d probably do anything photo-related with Camera+

What else is in your camera bag?

Ha ha – I actually don’t have one. I use my backpack which usually houses my Mophie battery case, headphones, and Ray Ban case.

So, let’s talk about Street Photography a bit. What inspires you to do street photography? What aspects make it challenging for you?

It started out with other people doing street photography and now it’s just people in general. The concept that you never see the same person twice makes it challenging, everyday is like a blank canvas.

And how do you pick your subjects?

Such a good question. I don’t really pick them, we cross paths and I just happen to keep my camera ready enough to capture the moment. Certain people walk with a certain swagger that I can’t help but take a picture of, some people dress really well and I can’t help but take a picture of that, it’s just one of those things that I chalk up to the universe.

Are your subjects aware you’re taking their photos? Do you ask for permission or do you just try to be as candid as possible?

I’d have to imagine some of them know what I’m doing but I’d say a majority doesn’t, you’d have to ask them to find out for sure. I asked a handful of people while shooting Fashion’s Night Out if I could take some pictures, it was definitely different. I’d love to try and do that more often but the spontaneity of the candid is just too good to stop.

Pick one of your favorite photos from your portfolio and tell us the backstory.

I was up in Newport, Rhode Island shooting the Newport Folk Festival which takes place in a Fort and one of our blogging companions was hanging out in this window and he was so small compared to this massive wall of brick I couldn’t help myself.

You do most of your photography in New York City. If you could shoot any other locale in the world, where would it be, and why?

From what I understand Milan is really fashionable, I’d love to check that out. Also on my bucket list is Paris, Berlin, and Amsterdam in no particular order.

If someone told you, “I want to take photos like @takinyerphoto,” how would you respond?

Find the busiest part of your town and start shooting.

Any other secret talents we should know about?

I can whistle dixie.

Ok it’s shout-out time: Pick an IG’er with fewer than 300 followers that you think deserves a look from the community.

Fewer than 300… tough one. after going through my followers list it’s gotta be @lizmcbride. I met her at Newport (thanks Instagram!) and she’s really talented when it comes to snapping pictures.

Thanks Anthony!


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