Charlie is an English, ex-Japan based corporate lawyer, who is now a full-time street / documentary photographer, based in Istanbul, Turkey. He is working obsessively on a book, he shoots with film, on a Leica, predominantly in 28mm, in both black and white and colour. He is vegetarian, loves grain, flash, pretty women, "fat kids", "dwarfs", people kissing, cigarettes and beer. He is a great guy and a harsh critic.
What I like most about his work
Though he is currently based in Istanbul, Charlie mentored a good mate and fellow documentary photographer here in Melbourne (Fraser Crichton), so when I told him I was heading over to Europe he said I should meet Charlie during my trip.
Apparently Charlie attended one of Bruce Gilden's workshops in Japan and was told something along the lines of the "biggest mistake of his life was not taking more pictures that night", referring to his series taken in Tokyo the evening of 11th March 2011, the day the tsunami hit Japan. The power was out in some parts of the city and mobile phone towers were not working, so people were forced to use phone booths to make calls. Flash blazing, Charlie took to the streets to light up the people in a seeming panic in the unusually dark Tokyo night. He took some amazing pics – though according to Gilden, not enough.
I would describe that series of pics, and much of the few other pics I have seen of Charlie's, as a sort of Gonzo photography. Yes he influences the subjects he focuses on by getting in their faces and firing a flash, but the result can sometimes paint a more realistic picture of what was actually going on than what might be achieved by simply framing an image without being seen/noticed by the subject. Charlie is a great self-editor with his pictures.
Charlie is abrupt, argumentative, has very strong views, seems to revel in rubbing people up the wrong way and loves to find ways to be controversial... all within his strong moral values. Once you get to know him a little bit, and I don't know Charlie all that well, you find out he is as hard on his own work as that of everyone else. I think this is what he sees as the thing that allows him to be so harsh of a critic sometimes. In person he is a really nice bloke who has a lot of time for people. I don't think I've ever met a more singularly passionate, obsessive and driven photographer. He reminds me of a mix between the characters of Bruce Gilden, Hunter S. Thompson (more in passion and biased/gonzo story telling than drug consumption!) and Mr. Jaggers (the lawyer from Charles Dickens, Great Expectations).
Charlie is aiming to release his first book in 2016 which will consist of his work in Turkey. I'm really looking forward to seeing it.
Oh! I also adore his series of hounding / documenting incredibly drunk salary men in Tokyo. (Link Here). And listen to this while you look at them (Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No.2). It's like watching a dance. Swans falling from grace. Battered salmon trying to swim up stream to die. So good!
Five of my favourite pictures
- Charlies website: www.twocutedogs.com
- Details about the workshops Charlie conducts: www.twocutedogs.com/workshops
- Charlies Flickr feed - https://www.flickr.com/photos/charlie_kirk/
- Podcast by Eric Kim with Charlie Kirk
- Great blog post by Adrian Storey (a.k.a. Uchujin) who made the short documentary about Charlie (above)
- Another Eric Kim post with Charlie about shooting street photography with a flash