Eric Davidove Explores the Curious World of Furries

My name is Eric Davidove. My passion is street photography, and I mostly tend to make quirky and humorous photos. Perhaps this is because I was a street mime of 10 years and have a knack for spotting and exploiting situations such as this. Lately, my desire is to mix it up by using different angles and framing sizes, incorporating different lighting conditions, building layers, and filling up more of the frame. I have been using Sony Cameras since starting Street Photography, about 7 years ago, because I wanted to take advantage of auto focus, the ability to shoot several frames per second, and a relatively high resolution sensor. At the start of January 2023, I started using a Leica M11 because I wanted to use a digital camera that has an analog (film) camera experience, keeps my attention on the composition rather than the camera operation, enables more focus control with zone focusing, and that is much lighter and smaller so as to draw less attention when on the streets. My lens is a 35mm.

I have been living in the San Francisco Bay Area for 12 years.

I suddenly found myself unemployed and feeling like it might take up to a year before I secure my next “right” position. This was the third time I found myself in this predicament during the previous 5 years. Needless to say, my anxiety and stress levels were relatively high and I desperately needed to find a fun and healthy distraction. Then it dawned on me. My new camera (purchased primarily for use during holidays) was quietly collecting dust and I had a bunch of free time on my hands. Off to the city I went, for long periods of time, walking aimlessly with no specific route in mind, and taking photographs of anything that caught my eye. Just what the doctor ordered! I was having fun, getting exercise, discovering new locations, meeting new people, and doing something creative.

I am strongly influenced by some of the well known and famous street photographers (no surprise there) as well as my contemporaries. I tend to spend more time studying street photographers who are active today in order to understand and learn from new techniques and approaches. This includes pursuing social media (primarily Instagram and Facebook) as well as online galleries of street photography competitions. In addition, I like to look at fine art photography, experimental photography, and photo journalism.

Looking at the work of other photographers often triggers new ideas and challenges me to experiment more.

I started shooting photos (other than family and holiday photos) about 7 years ago and feel like my work has dramatically changed and improved. At the start, I pretty much took a photo of
anyone doing anything and was not too unique or creative in the way I used my camera. My instincts of what to shoot were fairly good but my camera skills were quite basic. Over the years, I feel like I have done a better job of creating photos that are less easily repeatable, have stronger narratives, are more artistic, more memorable, and more consistent. I also take fewer photos when I shoot because I have become much more discerning and precise. I find myself more often visualizing the photo I want to take before I take it.

I shoot for myself and try to place less importance on external “rewards” such as the number of social media likes and followers, competition awards, photo sales, etc. Easier said than done. I want to shoot photos that speak to me, that fit my “voice”, and without too much influence from extrinsic motivation. Sometimes it’s very tempting to succumb to the pressure of becoming a popular photographer, and perhaps imitating other successful photographers. Public and commercial rejection and failure can truly suck. I hate it when my photos are not selected for an exhibition, or do not win awards. My ego and confidence are negatively affected. I try to forget the rejection and failure as soon as possible and just move on.

I had been shooting with Sony ASPC and full frame cameras, and prime lenses. My most recent set up was the Sony A7Riv with a G Master prime 35mm lens. As of January 2023, I started using the Leica M11 with a 35mm prime lens. The Fur Con photo project I am submitting are the first photos I have shot with the Leica camera. The Leica M11 has an analog (film) camera experience, keeps my attention on the composition rather than the camera operation, enables more focus control with zone focusing, and that is much lighter and smaller so as to draw less attention when on the streets.

I mostly shoot outdoors during daytime and prefer natural light. Using a flash brings too much attention to me and spoils the candid moment or angers some people who believe I should have asked for their permission before taking their photo. Some photographers skillfully use flash and I would like to improve my flash skills for those situations where the subjects expect or want a photographer’s attention (i.e., festivals or events). Night photography with artificial lights intrigues me and I want to spend more time building this skillset. My Leica M11 should perform better than my Sony camera under low light conditions and I look forward to seeing where this leads me.

Photography has enhanced my life because it has provided an opportunity for me to develop and grow new skills, has taken me outside my home to discover and appreciate new locations and people, and it has fed my need for a creative outlet.

I think of myself as a documenter who endeavors to make creative, interesting, unique, engaging, and memorable photos. The Leica camera is smaller and draws less negative or anxious attention from people when I point it at them, as compared to my full frame Sony camera. This allows me to be more intimate and to get closer to the scene. In addition, with the Leica, I am more able to control the depth of field and ensure all essential elements are focused just the way I want.

Oftentimes I stop to shoot photographs because of a strong feeling that something interesting is about to happen. Sometimes it’s because an interesting moment is already happening. Other than that, I am triggered by lighting conditions, the presence of intriguing shapes and forms, vibrant colors, and interesting looking people.

I am a processing minimalist and do as little as possible, and only what I think is necessary. I strive to shoot a photo in my camera that is nearly perfect and that required very little post editing. My processing workflow includes the basic adjustments such as white balance, exposure, highlights and shadows, contrast, and noise reduction. I will occasionally crop my photos a bit. In most cases, I am trying to achieve a photo that looks natural whereby my edits are not easily noticeable. Sometimes I make an exception when editing photos that have silhouettes, reflections, or very distracting elements.

I call this photo project “Fur Con” (aka Furry Convention), which is a formal gathering attended by members of the furry fandom — people who are interested in the concept of fictional non- human animal characters with human characteristics. These conventions originated in California during the 70’s and provide a place for fans to meet, exchange ideas, transact business and engage in entertainment and recreation centered on this concept. My new Leica M11 had been collecting dust because it had been raining everyday since I purchased it. On a Thursday afternoon (January 12) there was a break from the rain and I drove 20 minutes to downtown San Jose California to practice using my new camera for 2 hours. This was my first time using a rangefinder and zone focusing. About one hour into my practice session, I spotted two Furries and followed them. They led me to the convention center where a Fur Con was in session. I spent an hour taking photos, and then went back again on Saturday and Sunday. There was too much rain on Friday and I had to skip that day.

My Fur Con photo project is fresh, colorful, and interesting. Most of your readers will have not heard of the Furry Fandom, and this project will likely trigger them to learn more about this subculture.

Street photography was a good genre for me to start my photography journey because I was able to start with a relatively low investment. I did not need too much gear or studio, and did not have to hire models. Moreover, I live near a city that has interesting people, architecture, geography, festivals, and events. The weather and lighting conditions are also very good. I was also attracted to the spontaneity and challenge of hunting for acting upon those special and quick moments.

My biggest motivating factor is my progress. Each time I shoot I feel as if I learn and improve a bit more. I am also motivated by the satisfaction of being in the right place at the right time, and not making mistakes when using my camera.

All images and words by Eric Davidove. Used with permission. Be sure to follow him at his website, Instagram, and Facebook page. Also see our previous features with him.