Tom Plevnik is an amateur photographer with a major passion for photographing the streets of Paris, the Old Town of Ljubljana, as well as a number of other cities throughout Europe. Tom’s muses are some of the great old masters: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Robert Capa, Jean Claude Gautrand and Vivian Maier. He lives in Trbovlje, Slovenia. Tom’s site can be visited at: https://tomplevnik.wordpress.com/
You live in Slovenia and have taken many images of the beautiful old town of Ljubljana: what are your favorite parts of the Old City and which ones captivate you the most to photograph?
I lived in Ljubljana for almost 15 years. Now I live in my home town Trbovlje, which is about 60 kilometers from Ljubljana. I have a daily work in Ljubljana so I’m there every day. Ljubljana is a small capital city with less than 300,000 inhabitants. Many tourists compare it to Salzburg … but I don’t know, maybe.
In fact, the whole area of Old Town is my playground. Having a full-time job, I do a lot of photography on weekends. During the weekends, I walk up through Gornji Square, Stari Square, Mestni Square or by the river Ljubljanica. I try to mix up my walk but it’s hard in Ljubljana. If I have to say a favorite location, it would be Stari Square.
How did you get started in doing street photography in Paris?
For the first time I was in Paris in 1998, I saw black and white photographs in a some gallery. Later, I purchased the first book in an antique shop and found out that it was Henri Cartier-Bresson. I was in love. I really admire the old masters of photography like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Robert Capa, Jean Claude Gautrand and Vivian Maier. I love black and white photography, although I am also focusing on color in recent times. It fascinates me how you can catch a fraction of a second of a moment on the street. I’m still trying to catch “The Decisive Moment”.
What are your favorite locations for capturing street based action in Paris?
Paris is now my second home. If I have to say a favorite location, it would be Le Marais and the surrounding area. Of any neighborhood in Paris, it still has a look and feel of what the city was like when Robert Doisneau walked along the streets.
Are their particular principles of composition that you use in framing your photographs or do you rely more on spontaneously capturing the action or feel of what you are photographing at street level?
For me, street photography is candid photography of life and human nature on the streets. I use an aperture of 1.8 to 3.5 so I can quickly catch the moment. I don’t deal much with the composition, because I can miss a moment in the meantime. I don’t have a official photographic education. I learned everything about photography from books and internet. I’m just a visual guy on the street.
Who would you cite as your major influences in terms of the practical and/or theoretical development of your style?
My influences are many. I have already mentioned some of them in the beginning… fashion photographers Helmut Newton, Steven Meisel, Mario Sorrenti, Peter Lindbergh, documentary street photography Arne Hodalic, James Nachtwey, Manca Juvan, Rui Palha, Thomas Leuthard, Instagram Dave Yoder, Simone Bramante, Cocu Liu, Brandon Woelfel, Sean Tucker and so many more…
What are your preferences in terms of equipment?
I always prefer Nikon cameras. Currently, my prime camera is the Nikon D500 and of course Iphone X, small enough to carry no matter what other camera I might have with me. I also use a Fuji X-Pro1, Nikon Coolpix P7700, Nikon D7000 and Samsung Note4.
How do your subjects react to the notion of having their image captured on the streets in Paris – have you had any strange or memorable reactions?
I usually move slowly on the street and watch what is happening around me. I never interfere with my presence or what’s happening on the street. I don’t hide myself on the street and what I’m doing, but I also don’t want to intrude on others. I like candid street photography because people are relaxed at that time and don’t burden themselves with posing. A smile or some nice words are very helpful on the street.
Do you have a preference for working during the day or at night or do you enjoy both equally as much?
I enjoy working in the morning because the streets aren’t crowded, just a few people and the light is so beautiful. In the evening, the light is also beautiful, but the streets are full of people. Though there are times I like to explore the street at night especially when I’m traveling. I travel to Warsaw in July and to Vienna in October. And when I travel, I usually take pictures all day long because you never know what you will find or discover.
What words of advice would you give to people who are interested in starting out in the discipline of street photography and do you feel it is necessary to have some formal training to enter this genre at a serious level?
Be yourself, study the masters of photography, take a lot of photos and most of all enjoy!
Something new on the phone – Paris
Grocery – Paris
Rainy days – Ljubljana
Walking home – Ljubljana
Kiss – Paris
Menu – Paris
After the rain – Paris
Waiting for the master – Paris
All images © Tom Plevnik 2018
Interview: Marcus D. Niski, Naked Cities Journal, June 2018