Street Photography

For years  have been inspired by photographic legends like Henri Cartier-Bresson and André Kertész. They captured small moments of time, fixed in black and white. From city streets like Paris and New York to quiet fields in Hungary or Provence, everything was fair game.  Children playing, farmers and factory workers, models, and those down on their luck were all visually treated with respect and reverence.  I would pour over books of their work and wonder how they were able to create such masterpieces.  They were masters of street photography.

In my own photographic work, I tended to shoot landscapes free of people, bicycles parked on side streets, or people that I already knew.  I shied away from shooting strangers as they went about their day.  It was too risky, too intimidating, even though I was making the photos in my mind.  I could see the moments, the man getting coffee from a street vender, the child skipping through the park, the way the lines of shadow and light laid out like a set of piano keys while people walked to work.  I could see it, but was I brave enough to capture it? 

Photographing buildings, animals, or people you know is one thing, but street photography is a whole other ball game. First of all, you have to be prepared. Moments won’t stop for you because you didn’t get it the first time.  Life just keeps rolling along.   

Second, you have to know your camera.  Know the shutter and apature you need to get the shot. Light changes in an instant and you need to change with it. 

Third, you need to have respect for your subject. There can be humor in your images, like juxteposition of a sleeping subway rider next to an ad for a mattress.  But stay away from images that might mock your subject or make judgements on them.

But most importantly, and the one I struggle with, is fear.  Being able to bring that camera up to your eye and press the shutter is always a risk.  I’m afraid people will yell at me or be upset or that I will be seen as some sort of weirdo, creepy voyeur.  In my travels abroad, I have found that I am much more bold being able to shoot on the street.  Maybe because I know my time in that place, on that street, is short and I need to make the most of it.  Maybe I think of myself as a tourist and it’s easier to shoot and disappear rather than shoot on the street where you live. But that is the way of the photographer, being able to hide behind the metal and glass. A sort of shield that protects you from being on the inside.  It’s much more comfortable to be able to float around the perimeter then be in the center of the action. This is something I struggle with and have for years.  I’ve gotten much better at personal interaction but still find that the camera is not only a way out but a way in.  Yet the fear is still there.  Recently though, I’ve gotten better, bolder and have been rewarded for these efforts.