Street Photography Haul and 6 Minipiphanies

I’m winding down week one of 2013 with a decent photo-haul and some epiphanies, if you wanna call them that. Minipiphanies, maybe, of a total newbie who tries my best and has been voraciously reading the blogs, e-books and articles of those who have been there, done that for years. I’ve been internalizing their advice, suggestions and opinions and just seeing where it all falls together. In my opinion, it’s okay to form opinions (about anything) as long as they’re open-ended and malleable to revision with experience and further evidence. It doesn’t stop there, though. I think the responsible thing is to form opinions and actively work to clarify our position on whatever issue, work to substantiate our positions. Otherwise it’s unwise to form any opinion without any footing or any intention to develop it.

Basically, I’m certain that these opinions will change as I grow, and I’m always glad to hear a devil’s advocate or opposing position.

The surgical incision is healing well and I’m totally off the trippy painkillers, so that means a little more mobility. Obviously the second I could get going, I did! It felt good to be able to do more around the house, run errands, and take a quick trip to the city. I know it makes me sound like a total outlier to say ‘the city’, but I never say where I took my street photos in consideration of people’s privacy. I’m eager to see what more I can do once I’m back to full mobility.

One: it is true what they say. I trash probably 95-98% of the photos I take. My poor memory card.

 

Two: the first photo of the two people conversing is probably my sixth try at shooting from the hip. I walked out of the art supply store and straight into them having a conversation not two feet away from me. Anything else would have attracted attention. Lesson learned: preset the camera, keep it running, and be ready to react.

Second photo: dogs are always a great subject. If you catch them at the right moment they communicate such a strong impression of their emotions and personality. Look at the guy’s body language – he’s completely protective of his ‘pack’ and he’s pretty much staring me down. I didn’t notice it at all because when I see a dog (any dog) my mind goes into this primeval state of OMGDOGGIEDOGGIEIT’SAPUPPYOMG. Yeah. It’s not very dignified. Meanwhile, the dog’s taking full advantage of the safety provided by his people (and by the chair and table) but he’s still bold enough to look out into the world and right at people. For me, it’s moments like this that really leave me in awe of the eons of evolution which results in two wholly different species so interconnected, interdependent and in communication with each other.

 

Three: I think street photography can be both in color and black and white. I know a lot of people have differing opinions. Shoot in color, that’s the way your eye sees (well, true, but not everyone). Shoot in black and white, color distracts. I think it depends on the photo. Honestly, when I shoot in shops (thrift store and supermarket, so far) there is so much obnoxious advertising everywhere that black and white is pretty much the only way to go to focus on what I want to focus on. However, in photos like the ones above, I truly believe they can’t be in anything other than color.

I got the shot of the sidewalk from the passenger’s side window on the way home. It’s not a very pretty or metropolitan scene. The rainbow ties into the childlike scribblings on the sidewalk curb, and is pretty much invisible in black and white. So who’s John? How old is he? Why’d he write his name there? What the heck is that pink leopard print thing? This shot was taken in front of a child center/daycare-type facility, and makes me ask a ton of questions.

The other shot was taken while crossing the street. The vest, the Do Not Enter sign, the crossing signal all tie in together and are the colors they are for utilitarian purposes. Without color, they are fairly nondescript and are stripped of their meaning in our US cultural context. I can’t see this photo in black and white either.

Four: I also think street photography can be absent of people. Sometimes. As long as the shot has a very human element in it (for me, the kid’s chalk tagging on the sidewalk curb and the pink leopard print maybe-underwear was it). It’s a very blurry line between street and urban, architectural, et cetera.

 

Five: I’m starting to notice a running theme in my photos. That theme is people at work and involved with work that’s not behind a desk. Mostly service and maintenance industries. Maybe this focus stems from the fact that I’ve had my fair share of jobs in the service industry that I loved and hated, and very much depended on. For each one that makes it past the ‘eeeew, delete’ phase there’s a few dozen that didn’t. It’s interesting to note and I anticipate watching this theme develop, if it does.

 

Six: Signs, advertisements, murals and the like. Some people say yay, some people say nay, some say maybe. I’m in the ‘maybe’ group. Taking a shot of someone just sitting or walking in front of an image created by someone else is, I’m sorry, too easy. It’s almost like hijacking someone else’s work into your own and calling it your art. The Graff Lab in Los Angeles is a fun place to photograph, but unless something really, really different happens there, the only time I’ll put up those photos is to share the amazing work that’s there and not call it my own work. If someone else’s art carries so much weight in your own, it really isn’t your art anymore, is it?

If imagery is gonna be integrated into street, I think it needs to play off something else that is very prominent in the photo. I’ve seen street photography of a group of people smoking in front of a smoking-cessation campaign ad, and it was awesome. I’ve seen photos which juxtapose consumerism and poverty and it had one hell of an impact.

For these photos, in the first one I see a bit of irony that’s very personal. My mom’s a strong-willed person, and her dog is a strong-willed dog. These two aren’t my mom and her dog, but nonetheless, civil discourse isn’t always possible with small dogs and their freakin’ attitude. This relationship dynamic between small dogs and their owners isn’t universal, but I’ve ran into enough people who have toy, terrier and whatnot breeds to see that it’s common enough.

The second photo I shot and then was prepared to delete it. I almost dismissed it immediately as a practice shot. I thought it went against my rules of ‘no external images for the sake of something to look at’. As I kept shooting I noticed the lady start looking at her hands and her jewelry. Score!

 

So there are my hatchling thoughts on street photography, recorded so I can look back in five or six years and laugh at myself.

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