Friday, October 19, 2012

The Look

For the past week or so I've been focused in on hand gestures, body language, and facial expressions of looks between couples (and/or me). Walking on the street or sitting in one spot, a streettog has to always be alert and aware of serendipitous moments when they pop up, ready to grab the shot.

As I walked down Fifth Avenue the other day I saw three mannequins in a window, and the gentleman in front of them perfectly centered. He looked as though he were waiting for his wife to show up with yet another bag for him to carry. I think he had no idea why I was so interested in taking a photograph of him.

When I picked up my X-Pro1 to frame this shot ( I don't always shoot from the hip), the woman saw the motion and the corners of her lips turned up into a grin for my shot, then her friend said something that made her break into this wonderful smile.

I noticed this interesting looking gentleman putting on his sunglasses, and when I raised the camera to take the shot he looked directly at me.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

And Sometimes Ya Just Get Lucky!

If you shoot from the hip enough, some of the shots have to come out pretty good. And just once in a long while you just get lucky. I was in the very busy Times Square district and the sidewalks were mobbed with the lunchtime crowd and tourists. Difficult to get a clean shot with no stray arms or faces in the frame. Some joker had placed this skull on top of a nitrogen tank and put a dead cigarette butt in its mouth.

'Hey sweetheart, gotta light?'

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

More About Street Shooting

In my blog post for October 9th, A Couple of Happy Guys, I mentioned five things that a street shooter needs to be aware of, especially when shooting from the hip: setting proper exposure, lens focal length and the area of coverage, lens focus, camera tilt, and not chimping. This afternoon I gave a workshop/photowalk to a few people who requested to go out with me and shoot. I thought the questions they asked and the things that came up during the walk would make an interesting post.

We need to have an idea of why we're out photographing on the street. I shoot because I want to present images to an audience. I always look for interesting faces and gestures. I want people to look at my images and to identify with the subjects - find something in the image to which they can relate. Faces present us with expressions of feelings.  Of the two - faces and gestures - I find faces much easier to capture. I can see a person approaching from some distance away and usually her facial expression stays the same. Gestures - with hands and/or posture (body language) - can be small subtle motions that happen quickly and require a very fast reaction to capture. They often last only a second or two. As I was describing how to photograph those fleeting little motions, I realized that I had never addressed one of the most important techniques I use for street shooting: keeping both of my eyes open as I look through the viewfinder. That allows me to be aware of, even if only peripherally, what's going on outside the frame. I can sense if there's something happening that is more interesting than at what I'm pointing the camera.

When I create captions for my images I sometimes (ok, often) try to inject a touch of humor. In both of these images I have no idea what the subject of the discussion is, but since in both images the person doing the speaking and making the gesture is looking at me, I made them both self-referential.

Don't look now, but that guy is taking our picture!

If you don't put that camera down, I'm going to grab you and squeeze really hard!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Telling a Story

I generally don't like to draw attention to other bloggers with who's opinions I differ, but I thought this article deserved some attention because telling a story is the most salient point of my photographic work.  

Contrary to the opinion in the article, I believe it is possible to present a story in a single image. To hold that a viewer can't perceive a story unless presented with a series with a theme that binds the images together denigrates the viewer into an anonymous prole who's not able to intuit meaning. Each viewer brings to the experience his own story, just as I, the photographer, give an image meaning by how I compose and process it. But that holds true whether a single image or several images are presented. Da Vinci's Mona Lisa hangs in a room of her own in the Louvre and has been enchanting viewers for centuries without any context of other works of art close by. 

There are different kinds of stories. When I look at a photograph of Brazilian gold miners by Sebastiao Salgado I don't need to see the entire series to be struck by the inhumanity and degradation that the image is intended to portray. One photograph is enough. If I view more of the series, a more expanded consciousness evolves, to be sure. But to suggest that it's not possible to present a situation in one image that can communicate a story is less than complimentary to the photographer and the viewer.

The examples below were drawn from several photo walks I've taken in New York over the past several months. I certainly don't mean to suggest that my work is on a par with Da Vinci's or Salgado's.  Four of the five images involve a direct response to me. Without knowing anything about my style of shooting, a viewer might assume the people are looking at/into the camera as I'm taking the shot, and giving me an expression to communicate their response. Going a step further, were the viewer to know that all of the images were 'shot from the hip' - without having raised the camera to my eye - a different interpretation is possible, even likely: the subject's response is to me as a person observing them rather than taking a photograph. In either case, some are pleased with the experience, others not.  As a photographer I present images ripe with meaning, but the final story is in the eye of the beholder.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ciggie Break

As I look over my library of street shots, patterns emerge. Without really thinking about it, I apparently am drawn to make images of people smoking and with hats. I'm sure there's some unconscious thing going on there. I haven't a clue as to what, though.

A beautiful Saturday walk in Manhattan .....