Neukölln has become in the past few years the place where every young and hip creative wants to move to. Full of bars, expats (German is definitely not the street language down there), refugees and artists of all kind, Neukölln and it’s more hip neighbour Kreuzberg had also been called the Brooklyn of Berlin, the place to be.
Street photographer and musician Charles Mignot is one of those “Neuköllners”. Five years ago this french artist (he also plays the piano) moved to Berlin to finish his music studies in the Kunst Universität, and settle down in Neukölln 2 years after that. For Charles this area is his favorite part of the city, according to him here you can find “people that stay true to them selves, without shame or filters. For example, you can walk into some random Bäckerei (Bakery) early in the morning, and you will notice that all kinds people, despite their differences and backgrounds, will randomly meet in the same place and have the same coffee. I think this is very unique and I hope the city will stay diverse through all the changes.”
Armed with a Ricoh GRII ( a Japanese compact camera based on the point and shoot film cameras that have forever been popular with street photographers) Charles is chasing those unique characters that co-habit the Neukölln area.
“I started my street photography when I first came here. Back then everything was very new to me, and as Berliners are very laid back and even careless at times, I felt free enough to go all the way in documenting my observations.”
Charles process is as simple and laid back as the people he shoots, he doesn’t approach the subject before shooting, he is fast, real and honest, usually shooting while grocery shopping or on the way to work. His 28 mm wide angle lens forces him to get closer to the subject when shooting, which also means he learn how to be almost invisible but also confident over the years.
In my experience, if you have the right approach it will mostly be OK, even if the person notices that his or hers photo is being taken. I am never asking people before pressing the shutter. If I did that, I would loose the instant spark of peoples expression. Realness and honesty is for me the most important aspect of photography.
If you are trying to hard to get the best possible shot, you will probably miss the moment. However, if you miss it, move on and you will get it the next time.