Sunday, March 25, 2012

The First Ever Street Photographer

Well okay, he didn't use a camera. Okay, Okay, he didn't know what photography was. But he did say as you go about constantly observe, note, and consider the circumstances and behavior of  men as they talk and quarrel, or laugh, or come to blows, the actions of the men themselves, and the bystanders who intercede or look on.  And take note of them with rapid strokes thus, in a little book that you should always carry with you ....These things should not be rubbed out but preserved with great care, for the forms and positions of objects are so infinite that the memory is incapable of retaining them. He was an artist from Milan, and he wrote those words in his Notebooks. It was written around the year 1490. His name was Leonardo Da Vinci. The quote came from a book entitled Da Vinci's Ghost written by Toby Lester.

I'm certainly no Da Vinci, but I always have a camera with me, always, no exception, ever. Hopefully within the next couple of weeks that camera will be a much anticipated Fuji X Pro-1. Having a smaller camera will make life much simpler for me. I'll look much less conspicuous. But the camera, large or small, is my 'little notebook' that I always carry with me. With it I preserve with great care the infinite forms and positions of objects and people that my aging memory is incapable of retaining. And I record them for posterity.

Sherlock Homes always suggested to Dr. John Watson that there is quite a difference between looking and observing. It's that difference that separates a good street photographer from a snap shooter. To have a modicum of success as a street shooter I need to be constantly on my toes looking around at every face and every body motion. But that in itself isn't enough. I need to see how that person fits into the surroundings and environment, to see if there's a story there. The bottom line for a photograph to be effective street is that  it must somehow tell a story.

In the images below, I was walking on Fifth Avenue and trying to find people who were interacting with the windows of the opulent stores that line the street. In the first image I observed this gentleman standing with his arms crossed in front of him, it was a very uninteresting pose. But as I walked by, trying to look inconspicuous he noticed me and I thought I had lost the opportunity to grab a candid shot. I walked past him a few feet and turned suddenly just as he was dropping his arms and he glanced at me. With the mannequins behind him in the window, the position of his arm, and his glare at me the shot was made.

I saw this woman strolling up the avenue checking out all the windows of the jewelers. She stopped several times at windows, but the crowds were heavy that day and it wasn't possible to get the shot I wanted, with her facing the window examining the baubles. I wanted her reflection in the window also, and to get it I had to be at a particular angle which would make my presence much more noticeable to her. As she walked past the Cartier window she glanced in at a diamond necklace and I had just a second to grab the shot with her reflection.


  1. You will love having a smaller camera. And having the camera always with you is the name of the Game :)
    I joined blogger as well so i will keep my 500 site for pictures and blogger well for blogging :)

  2. The idea of searching for the right composition would have been very familiar to Da Vinci. We all have an idea of what The Last Supper must have looked like, except that it did not. That is how Da Vinci imagined it. I see that the book, Da Vinci's ghost is being reviewed by Elaine Charles on her radio show this coming weekend, 21 and 22 April. It should be worth listening to. It sounds like a fascinating book. Check out the radio show on