Street Photography isn’t a style of shooting. It’s the way you interact with your environment.
“I got so much trouble on my mind…” Common’s “Book Of Life” begins to play in my head as I lace up my shoes and throw my camera over my shoulder. Feelings of uncertainty and anxiety start to take over as I stand on the corner of my block, deciding what direction to move in. This process and what comes after- the interaction with different “characters” in my city are like meditation. All of the negativity begins to melt away. There’s a stillness in the chaos of a big city.
…Or maybe it’s the idea that there is no stillness. I control time. I control the moment. For a split second, I’m able to freeze the chaos around me. That’s what street photography is to me; the idea that I get to immerse myself in an endless library of ever evolving moments, freeze them, and experience them over and over. Like with everything though, there is a process.
“If you ever want to make god laugh, tell him your plans”
Most of the time, I wander about the city with no expectations or idea of what I want to photograph. Planning a certain type of picture before I make it is a good way to go home disappointed. I find myself quoting Bruce Lee very often- “You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.” This philosophy is invaluable when it comes to street photography. The city is unpredictable and I pride myself on my ability to adapt to ever changing social landscapes. Being able to navigate various situations with a camera, however, is definitely a learned art.
Respect and be respected
Moving between strip clubs, coffee shops, office spaces, and trap houses can be exhausting but it is important to remember that EVERYONE you come into contact with is a human just like yourself. Be willing to adapt and accept what the city throws at you. Allow yourself to get out of your comfort zone. Get excited about taking chances.
Making Pictures vs Taking Pictures
There seems to be this idea that street photography must be done secretly and silently as if to go unnoticed by those around you. I am not a fan of this idea. There is certainly value in being able to capture the “decisive moment” and make a picture of a scene as it happens. However, I do not feel that you must TAKE pictures without being noticed. Being able to walk right up to a person, find something special in them, and having them participate in the act of MAKING a picture is something many seem to be afraid to do. I can’t imagine being afraid of another human- someone who eats sleeps and breathes just like I do. In fact, I’ve been given and created with people more than I could ever take from anyone. Again, we exist in a world with other human beings just like ourselves and to interact with each other, to me, is to learn more about ourselves.
The idea behind all of this “street photography” stuff is less about the picture and more about the process of finding one’s self in the chaos that is the street. When I leave my home, I’m always in search of a feeling. Almost like an addiction of sorts in the way that some drink or smoke to counter a feeling, I find it in making pictures (I’ve certainly found it in other vices as well). There is always someone or something about someone that evokes a feeling. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in shooting as meditation is that we are all beautiful, strange, stressed, happy, mixed up, lost, and found all at the same time. Every picture I make, now, has a little bit of me in it. The camera always looks both ways. Maybe, then, instead of going out in search of something outside of us, we are all simply searching for ourselves.