Interview with Craig Whitehead aka Sixstreetunder

One of David Alan Harvey’s most famous quotes is “Don’t shoot what it looks like. Shoot what it feels like.”

Amongst all the noise of a social network like Instagram, Craig Whitehead aka @sixstreetunder, is one of those photographers that catches your eye and through his use of colour, composition and his attention to detail, makes you feel the rain, the colours and the light of his city.

In this interview, the 30-year-old British photographer based in Cambridge shares his experiences, objectives and thoughts on street photography.

sixstreetunder craig whitehead

©Craig Whitehead

The Raw Society: What was your first experience doing street photography like?

Craig Whitehead: I’d say the same as most people, a little tentative and not really paying attention to light and composition as much as I should have. All part of the process of overcoming that initial fear of photographing people and scenes in the street. It wasn’t necessarily what I set out to do, I just missed having a creative outlet and decided I would go out shooting more and what was available to me was street.

TRS: Have you ever had any confrontations whilst shooting?

Craig Whitehead: Not really, for all the time I have spent out shooting I would say only one, and beyond that, I’ve only ever been asked to delete 2 photos and both of those times people were understanding.

TRS: What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you whilst doing street photography?

Craig Whitehead: As you would expect from walking around as much as I do, I’ve seen lots of peculiar things, but nothing sticks in my mind and nothing that’s happened to me.

TRS: On your website you talk about how most of your photographs are taken in Cambridge because it’s the place that you have access to, but if you could choose any destination to photograph, which would it be? 

Craig Whitehead: New York is absolutely top of my list and this year I will be visiting, I hope I can get back during winter at some point though. It’s so iconic and the steam on the streets at night just can’t be found anywhere else.

TRS: Your work is reminiscent of Saul Leiter, but you have managed to modernise it and make it yours to the point that now you influence others, something that is clearly visible on Instagram. How do you feel about this?

Craig Whitehead: It is flattering when I see people who are clearly influenced heavily by the images I make, one thing I do though is unfollow or avoid those images. I try not to spend time looking too much at similar photographers. I want my influences to come from other places so I can progress, I think there is a bad habit of spending time looking at work like your own when it comes to social media: that is driven by the algorithms being used, and I make a conscious effort to look elsewhere. Much like news, people read things that agree with their own opinion, you need to take in other viewpoints.

TRS: Who are your other influences?

Craig Whitehead: My biggest influence comes from my background in Illustration; the way I work now and my obsession with textures and layers is exactly how I would construct my illustrations. My love of Saul Leiter and Ernst Haas reflect that. I also take inspiration from the lighting work of Gregory Crewdson and Ryan Schude. I strive to find situations with dynamic, dramatic light and their sensitivity to colour. With regards to social media I take most of my inspiration from minimal and abstract photographers, I would always favour a smart composition with a mediocre character than a photo of a real character poorly composed.

sixstreetunder Craig Whitehead

©Craig Whitehead

©Craig Whitehead

TRS: Those who pay attention to your Instagram stories know that you often change your gear. Do you suffer from G.A.S. (gear acquisition syndrome)?

Craig Whitehead: Only those who focus on my Instagram in the last couple of months would think that. I have been using Fujifilm cameras the entire time my Instagram has existed apart from the most recent 2 months, having gone back to Fujifilm now. It was more of an experiment, wanting to understand what I was or wasn’t missing on other systems. ‘Gear doesn’t matter’ as they say, which is a bit of a contradiction. A quote that is not as catchy but more accurate I think is: find the gear that you don’t have to think about. I don’t want to have to actively think about the camera, when I shoot, things should be muscle memory.

TRS: You recently published a book that you sell on your website, do you have any other projects planned in the near future?

Craig Whitehead: The book was meant only as an archive of my photographs of 2017 but people started asking if I was going to make it available to purchase. I would like to put something out in that format with a publisher, but I feel like I would need more time to create something with the quality I want. I don’t have the ability to concentrate on street photography full time yet which I would need to do if I were to publish a book on a theme any time soon.

TRS: You currently have a day job, any plans on making the jump and dedicating yourself to photography full-time?

Craig Whitehead: That is the goal. Over the past year things have transitioned to a point where photography is the majority of my income, but I would love to be in a place where I could focus all of my energy on creative projects and teaching.

sixstreetunder Craig Whitehead

©Craig Whitehead

sixstreetunder Craig Whitehead

TRS: What would you say to other photographers who want to develop their own personal style?

Craig Whitehead: There is an element of emulation involved, definitely; early on people figure out how to do what others have done and in that process, they learn what aspects they like and they take from others and create a new version of something. The thing I would stay away from though, is copying every aspect. If you love someone’s editing then figure out how they do that but don’t shoot the same content as well, there is no value in that. Take from every source that inspires you and create something new that references it and apply it to the type of content you enjoy. Take from work outside your own genre.

TRS: Why Sixstreetunder?

Craig Whitehead: I was looking for a name that firstly wasn’t taken, which is getting trickier, and that contained street somewhere in it. I put street into a pun generating website and went down the list until I saw something I liked and that was it.

To know more about Craig and his work, check out his Instagram page and website

You might also like:

InspirationChristelle Enquist
compositions frame within a frame
composition fibonacci
Tetradic colour harmony
Red colour
1 reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.