Wish Number One: Serendipity. Are occurrences like these two standing together in this moment a gift from the heavens? Or just naturally occurring, serendipitous acts of randomness and nature? I don’t know. But this kind of serendipity and the ability to recognize it instantly is definitely at the heart of street photography. Did I tell the child to stand there? No. Luck? Another word for Serendipity with the addition of hard work. I often worry that pictures like this one are gifts from some higher power…but truthfully? They are a product of an environmental alchemy that produces true gold when the right basic elements come together….and I hope to be a witness.
Wish Number Two: simplicity in Street Photography. This image made me crazy when it happened in front of me. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I only wish I had been using RAW in my camera–this is JPEG, as are all of my early images.
Much of what I see on social media that attains popularity are images that are heavily influenced by the photographers who craft them. I use the word “craft” for a reason. Smoky condensation, rivulets of moisture, streetlights and random body parts inserted into images of the street can be termed pleasantries, but solid street photography, at its core and in the best of circumstances, should be the use of elements that naturally occur in public places, juxtaposed in order to create a narrative or make a simple but elegant statement of time and place, artistically, organically, and without pretext. Or with pretext if that’s part of what an individual artist needs to implement in order to make a point. Using subjects, clothing, facial expressions, signage and whatever else is at hand to create a sense of social irony or to make an individual artist statement makes a memorable image….So style is great! Style and artifice are two different colors, though…..Artifice makes me sad, and the acceptance that this artifice in Street Photography has gained in social media and in some photographic outlets makes me sadder.
Wish Number Three: visions.
They don’t always come. I got one here: I saw it in my mind, and scrambled to position myself to compose this image. I only wish the car at the top of the ramp had been a bit further advanced into the exit which would have bumped the narrative elements here: the blind men, guiding one another, in the crosshairs of the advancing automobile.
Unfortunately, these visions sometimes occur to me after I leave a scene. Sometimes I don’t see the picture I should’ve taken until after I’ve left it behind….sometimes I see it minutes later, sometimes hours! What frustrates me is the image that I know I could have, would have, should have nailed…..if only I’d seen it at the time!
Wish Number Four: that I’m able to gain the trust it takes to photograph someone on the street, in a completely impromptu and unpredictable circumstance. This is an intimate photo done on a very public, Downtown Los Angeles street (5th Street between Main and Spring). Trust is everything and I don’t often find it here in New York…or maybe it’s me. Maybe I don’t care enough to aggressively foster it. Maybe my heart has not been captivated……
Wish Number Five: truth. I wish that more popular street photography included on the fly, randomly occurring juxtaposed elements….I’m seeing lots of popular images on social media that are clearly concocted by the photographers who shoot the picture. Condensation, rivulets of moisture, random body parts thrust into a carefully composed scene that reeks of artifice don’t capture the essence of the genre–they are created to capture “likes” from average users. Hooks, like those found in hit songs, are used in images too. They create a big hit on social media, and get lots of attention. My pictures as well….I keep it simple and real and it’s always a natural occurrence but some of the images that I’ve created that have received many, many “likes” are images with a strong hook, and definitely not my best work or even what I would point to with any great pride. But….although they pleased the taste of many, unfortunately some of these do not represent the best that I have to offer. My random street shots with a strong hook are sometimes some of my best, but sometimes not. There are too many forcefully concocted, gimmicky images that fail to capture the essence of the times that we live in, and this is ultimately going to defeat the art of street photography if we’re not much more careful in what we choose to “like” or promote.
Wish Number Six: the ability to notice the “insignificant”, and the sensitivity not to overlook what matters most, even if only to please myself.
Wish Number Seven: bravery. In bold face….the willingness to feel afraid and jump in anyway. That goes for taking the pictures of course, but what I’m really referring to is the unwillingness to allow the tastes or prejudices or disapproval of other people to dictate or control what I photograph and what I choose to show. The courage not to hide my strongest images out of fear that a photography organization or publication will not feature or choose my work because I’ve got images like this one of Christine in my stash. I hope I never succumb to this subtle form of censorship commonly practiced, the kind of censorship that operates by attempting to shame or exclude work that is rough and hard to look at.
My last wish. I hope that I continue to love the people I run across, and that I continue to adore the act of photographing what I see. I hope, with all my heart, that I don’t give up because I became too discouraged by the everyday disappointments that we all encounter. I hope to be able to overlook and ignore what I find distasteful, and instead focus on the aspects of life and photography that capture my soul.