In our the #33 issue of SNEAKERS, we opened up the photographic universe of urban photographer and sneaker head Tobi Shinobi. It’s a world of unexpected symmetries in the rugged urban landscape, and also a world full of sneakers. And naturally, Tobi blessed us with way more shots than we could fit on the pages of our print issue. So as a special bonus, here’s some extra imagery from the London-based photographer – including some sneaker shots, of course – and a few insights into his creative process. And while you’re at it, also make sure to follow him on Instagram @tobishinobi.
Hi Tobi, what made you want to go out and explore the world with your camera?
One day a friend showed me Instagram and another friend gave me a discount at Sony and that inspired me to go out at lunchtime every day to shoot the city. I would leave the office, grab something to eat, and take about 100 photos every lunch time. Instagram gave me a platform to share my work, be inspired, and get instant feedback.
You have a unique image language and there are incredible compositions in your photos. Was that kind of style always there or has it taken time to develop?
The person that I am, and have become in the last few years, shapes my photography in that I like clear perspectives, balance, equality, and diversity and this translates into symmetry and geometry in my work. I like clarity and image quality so I do my utmost to ensure that my techniques enhance this in my shots. The style comes from within me so it has kind of always been there, although over time I have tweaked and refined it as I am keen to grow creatively as an artist.
For all the photography nerds out there, what is your favorite day-to-day camera to use and why did you choose it? Also, which lenses do you use and why?
I am all about maximizing my chances of success, so I need to carry a fair amount of equipment to make sure that I am prepared for as many eventualities as possible. To achieve this I work with mirrorless cameras which are lighter and smaller, allowing me to carry more lenses. I currently use the Sony a7r2: for the size and weight there’s nothing more flexible for my needs. Given my style I love a great wide angle but I have a 10-18mm f4, 14-24mm f2.8, 16-35mm f4, 21mm f1.8, 24-70mm f2.8, 25mm f2, 35mm f1.4, 50mm f1.4, and 85mm f1.4.
You are also a global ambassador for Sony. How did that come about and what do you like about the Sony camera ecosystem?
After I was given a discount by my friend, I got the Sony Nex 5n. It was a small but powerful camera which allowed me to get great results. So small, in fact, that I literally carried it with me everywhere. I would estimate that, for the first 18 months that I had it, I probably left it at home for around 10 days. Having the option to always shoot was great for learning. When Sony announced the new range of full frame mirrorless cameras I knew I was going to stick with them for the small form factor.
What makes a great photo for you? What are the qualities that you are looking for as an observer?
Personally I like great composition and something that catches you almost immediately. The photo doesn’t need to be technically perfect to be great but it helps if the photographer takes the time to nail the focus and avoid distracting features, which might take away from the message they are trying to get across. It can be portraiture, street, architecture or an event: it doesn’t matter – a good photo just catches you.
What advice would you give up-and-coming photographers?
Keep shooting! Shoot what you love and love what you shoot. Spend more money on travel than you do on equipment.
Thanks for the interview, Tobi, and safe travels.