Interview with Polish Street & Documentary Photographer Katarzyna Kubiak about making the winning photo of the Leica Street Photo Competition in 2018.
Riot Police Athens 2018 Katarzyna Kubiak
Photo by Katarzyna Kubiak – Athens 2018

About Katarzyna Kubiak

Katarzyna lives and works in Warsaw, Poland’s capital city. Besides the office job routine she is doing a great job making street and documentary photography. Whenever possible Katarzyna likes to travel abroad and roam the streets together with her Fujifilm Camera. In our Interview we asked Kasia about the story behind her striking multilayered photograph of Greek Policemen, Journalists and a single guy above it all. The photo won the 8th Leica Street Photo Competition, organized by Leica Camera Poland in 2018.

Making Of Interview

Where and when did you make the photo, was it a familiar or new location to you?

I took this picture in January 2018 during my trip to Athens. It was my second visit to Greece but I was in the capital for the first time.

What was happening and why did you photograph the scene?

It was my last day in Athens and I was actually going to the airport. It turned out, however, that due to the ongoing protests in the city, public transports were not working and many streets were blocked. I decided to take a taxi to the airport and spend the saved time photographing the protest. The protesting people finally came to the parliament, which was secured by the policemen standing there. The protest wasn’t very calm, so I decided to stand there for a while and wait for the situation to develop. Later many photojournalists and tv came and that was the moment when I took this picture.

Was it spontaneous or did you prepare the shot?

Everything happened very quickly and there was no time to prepare. Rather, I used what was happening at the moment and adapted to the situation.

In case you made more that one exposure, could you please share some images and/or describe what was important to get it right?

Photo by Katarzyna Kubiak - Athens 2018
Photo by Katarzyna Kubiak – Athens 2018
Photo by Katarzyna Kubiak - Athens 2018
Photo by Katarzyna Kubiak – Athens 2018
Photo by Katarzyna Kubiak – Athens 2018

Did the photo came out as you planned or did something unexpected added to it?

All the photographers who came to the place tried to enter the very centre of the crowd. I was standing a little bit more behind, which allowed me to see and focus on the figure standing above. As I wrote earlier the situation was quite dynamic, but when I saw this guy, I focused the rest of my pictures on him. But then I didn’t know if I would be satisfied with the effect because there was too much going on. I was just focusing on taking as many shots as possible.

What camera, lens, and settings did you choose? Was a gear setting/feature particularly useful?

I used the only camera I had, which was my Fuji x100S with a 35mm fixed lens. I don’t remember the settings I used right now, it’s a matter of intuition. 

(From the existing Exif data we read out the Shutter Speed of 1/1000th sec f/6.4 and ISO 640)

What makes this photo a good choice for submitting it to a street photography competition?

I realize that this photo is quite strong, but I don’t know if it’s a good choice for a street photography contest. It’s more like a reporter’s photo, but at that moment it was one of my best photos so I decided I’d just send it.

Is there anything you took away / learned from making this picture?

Surely the fact that you never know when you will get the chance to take a good picture is worth having your camera with you. I’ve known for a long time that it’s always worth having your camera with you, but this situation really surprised me, because it was my way to the airport and I wasn’t going to focus on taking pictures.

Bonus question: Who is the guy on the top?

I don’t have any idea. Later in various articles I tried to look for pictures of the event to find out, but I couldn’t find any information.

Links to Katarzyna Kubiak