On The Streets :: Notes From The Unknown Lens

April 27, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Rosa and the BicyclistRosa and the Bicyclist

You could blame it on Vivian Maier, or Jay Maisel, or Cartier-Bresson. French photographer Robert Doisneau would be another likely suspect. Influences abound in the world of photography, whichever genre you turn to, but really they only serve to inspire the urge to go out and create your own images. For want of a new direction, a new challenge, an impulse to go way outside my comfort zone, I have been bitten by the "street bug'. I have created a new gallery of images to explore what I can bring to this well covered niche of photography.

A lot has been said by those who eat, sleep, and drink this type of work, and I am not here as any form of photojournalist, but simply as an image-maker drawn to elements and energy that intrigue and evoke in me a curiosity about who we are. That said, I don't set out with any preconceived notions of what to photograph. I have no idea what I will find, or what will unfold in any given moment. And that is both the blessing and the curse for someone who has traditionally photographed under very controlled conditions.

This serendipity of constant flow and change is the energy that propels many street photographers in exploring new environments. It challenges both your ability to observe and read interactions between people and their surroundings, and your own comfort level in participating in it. Do you interact directly with your subjects? Engage them in conversation before asking to photograph them? Or do you move furtively and try to go unnoticed, in order to not influence what you're seeing? Do feel like a stalker or hunter "capturing" stolen moments from people, shooting them mostly from behind? Do you at least make eye contact with those you photograph on the street, at least if they are paying attention and notice you?

I think what I want to bring to the table, when I lay my street images out, is something different from those that have gone before. It wouldn't serve to travel well-trodden ground without adding a unique view-point. What would be the point? I can't say yet what this work will be, or how it will coalesce, but I'm already noticing a certain cinematic quality to the images. With street photography in particular, what is left out of the frame is as important as what is included. What has always been important to me in any mode of photography, namely composition, light, form and graphic nuance translates to this new work. I do see where a lot of skills, both photographic and interpersonal, come into play here. All that you know and learn about what makes a photograph great needs to walk hand-in-hand with your innate social skills, your unique personality. It's been said that Robert Doisneau was so shy when he began that he photographed cobble stones before he was able to raise his camera and capture the poignancy of his fellow Parisians.

One of the things I noticed in Vivian Maier's work, was that many of her subjects are viewed from a low angle, almost as if they are seen from a child's perspective. This is the result if her using a twin-lens reflex camera with a waist-level viewfinder for those images. What a perfect view-point to evoke a child-like wonder at the world around you?

I'm really excited to continue this new work, and to see how both it, and myself evolve. There is nothing more sure-fire than stepping well outside your comfort-zone to grow ever more human!

* in addition to the links to the street photographers above, this video of photographer Joel Meyerowitz taking on the streets of Manhattan is a treat... 


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