As a viewer, I think street photography is becoming my favorite genre of photography. A photograph has the ability to isolate a tiny sliver of time and transform it into a narrative that becomes much larger than reality, transcending what may have actually been happening at the moment the photo was taken. It’s a pure and powerful form of storytelling with a lot of room for personal style, expression, and interpretation.
When I’m behind the lens, street photography is the genre that I struggle with the most. Probably because it’s a style that requires introducing one’s self into the physical, and often emotional space of strangers. For me, it’s a form of photography that requires the most practice, a wide variety of technical skills, and a lot of failure. Lately I’ve spent time analyzing my own photography, trying to pick apart how I made images that I consider successful, identifying what has worked and was has not worked. Here are a couple of my attempts.
The first shot was taken during a trip to Italy. I know it makes little sense, but being halfway around the world gave me a false sense of anonymity, which translated into a degree of boldness and a willingness to step up and photograph a total stranger. At that point in time, it’s probably not a shot I would have tried to capture here at home. Being very quick with my camera was essential to catching the subject at just the right moment. Despite how fast the photo was taken, I think it has a feeling of quiet and stillness to it.
In contrast, the second photo was taken slowly. I had a physical distance from my subject and the luxury of time. I was able to carefully compose the shot to emphasize the stillness of the man looking at his phone. I had the opportunity to move around and position my camera so the lines on the carpet ran in a diagonal direction. I took time to measure the light and chose a shutter speed that would result in the amount of blurred motion I desired. From that point it was a matter of patiently waiting for someone to walk through the scene. In contrast to the process used for the first image, these slow and deliberate steps resulted in an image depicting energy and movement. I find it interesting that the photo with more preparation behind it has a greater feeling of spontaneity.
I learn a lot when I take time to revisit my photos and analyze how they were made. I need do it more often. The biggest takeaway in this case is embarrassingly obvious but something I often forget; there is no one way to take a picture. Every time I remind myself of this I find it liberating since I all too often bog myself down in the technology and process of photography.
Both of these photos appear in the October 2014 issue of Inspired Eye Magazine. It’s a wonderful publication devoted to street photography. Check it out