Tag Archives: Street Photography

NOW

 

 

 

I had already been at a photographic

crossroad for awhile, then the Pandemic hit.

That was the big Kabosh for someone who likes to walk City streets with a camera. I still walk my neighborhood and try to exercise my eye/shutter coordination with my phone, but it ain’t the same.

I have a good sense of where my photographic sensibilities come from, but often don’t see a place for them in the current landscape. Last year, I had two critiques at SF Camerawork, and while I was pleased with the response, I was definitely of the minority- artists formally known as “Street”.

I also have a current show, which I offered to share with a colleague. His work is all trees and sunsets, baked in Instagram filters, and he is selling well. Mine, not so much. Maybe nobody likes it, I like to think it is outside of the popular norm-it’s not pretty.

In the Art community, a great deal of current work seems to center on the “Project”, a collection of images that revolve around a theme or concept. An offshoot of this (or maybe the result of it) is the self published photobooks, an effective method of wrapping up a project.

To my way of shooting, themed projects can be effective in two ways. Intentional shooting helps provide focus when “the hunt is on”. I was just discussing motivation and inertia with another photographer, and we agreed that going out with a purpose helps considerably. When I was enrolled in photography classes, the assignments kept me on my toes, and I actually finished both the 123 Project and built my little web site because of those assignments.

But I am seldom that organized, and seldom have a goal in mind. Instead, my usual method is to just start walking around and see what comes up. I read a Daido Moriyama quote- “When I go out into the city I have no plan. I walk down one street, and when I am drawn to turn the corner into another, I do. Really I am like a dog. I decide where to go by the smell of things, and when I am tired, I stop.”  Maybe it is ironic or maybe it was intentional that Stray Dog is probably his most iconic photograph, but that is what we all are doing-We are just out there looking for scraps to feed our appetites.

Sometimes, before Shelter in Place, I would take the train to San Francisco, come up out of the station, press both crossing signal WALK buttons at the same time, and then go in the direction of the first to light up.

I read another quote, attributed to Larry Sultan that said “The more you try to control the world, the less magic you get.

When I walk City streets, I like to shoot architectural elements and signs. Unless I use them as filler on my <Instagram page>, most of these images will never be seen by anyone, but the act of hunting sharpens the eye, and both shooting and light editing (even for web/Instagram use) exercises the right muscles.

I like to think that sometimes I even get an image that is photographically interesting.

 

for awhile, then the Pandemic hit. That was the big Kabosh for someone who likes to walk City streets with a camera. I still walk my neighborhood and try to exercise my eye/shutter coordination with my phone, but it ain’t the same.

I have a good sense of where my photographic sensibilities come from, but often don’t see a place for them in the current landscape. Last year, I had two critiques at SF Camerawork, and while I was pleased with the response, I was definitely of the minority- artists formally known as “Street”.

In the Art community, a great deal of current work seems to center on the “Project”, a collection of images that revolve around a theme or concept. An offshoot of this (or maybe the result of it) is the self published photobooks, an effective method of wrapping up a project.

To my way of shooting, themed projects can be effective in two ways. Intentional shooting helps provide focus when “the hunt is on”. I was just discussing motivation and inertia with another photographer, and we agreed that going out with a purpose helps considerably. When I was enrolled in photography classes, the assignments kept me on my toes, and I actually finished both the <123 Project> and built my little web site because of those assignments.

But I am seldom that organized, and seldom have a goal in mind. Instead, my usual method is to just start walking around and see what comes up. I read a quote, attributed to Daido Moriyama- ““When I go out into the city I have no plan. I walk down one street, and when I am drawn to turn the corner into another, I do. Really I am like a dog. I decide where to go by the smell of things, and when I am tired, I stop.”  Maybe it is ironic (or maybe it was meant to be) that <Stray Dog> is probably his most iconic photograph, but that is what we are doing-We are just out there looking for scraps to feed our appetites.

Sometimes, before Shelter in Place, I would take the train to San Francisco, come up out of the station, press both crossing signal WALK buttons at the same time, and then go in the direction of the first to light up.

I read another quote, attributed to Larry Sultan that said “The more you try to control the world, the less magic you get.

When I walk City streets, I like to shoot architectural elements and signs. Unless I use them as filler on my Instagram page, most of these images will never be seen by anyone, but the act of hunting sharpens the eye, and both shooting and light editing (even for web/Instagram use) exercises the right muscles.

I like to think that sometimes I even get an image that is photographically interesting.

 

Next Chapter

Photographically, these are not productive times for me. For a few years after my                   2010 Calendar stimulated me back into serious photographic activity, I got busy.                            I joined a camera club, discovered Vivian Maier and Garry Winogrand (along with others), and heard this term, “Street Photography” being used. I felt I could identify with Street Photography.

For the next few years, I carried a camera everywhere with me, and while I had done this in the past as well, I am happy to say that these last few years were were my most productive.               I don’t think my craft had improved, but I do believe that my sense of photography has matured.

I wanted to refresh my photographic experiences not by sticking my head in books, but getting out there and brushing up against real life photogs who were doing real work. I saw good work at the camera club, but their organizational model was so enveloped in formal judgings and accumulating competition points, that I didn’t attend any of those the meetings. The other meetings were open showings with member critiques, and though the work was very good, the members even used the same language as the judges, and to me it just didn’t have any soul.

I am not a technical photographer, but the camera club made me want to learn about printing, so I took some classes from the Art Department of a local community college. One  thing I learned is  that I am not good at printing, but I did find value in assignments and critiques. Assignments instilled discipline, and I loved the dialogue of a group critique, but as these classes transitioned from one instructor who used Photography to discuss Art, to another who used Art to discuss Photography, I found it no longer stimulating.

All of this time, I was carrying my camera, and shooting like crazy. I was also entering calls for judged exhibitions, got accepted for a few, and even sold some work. The money was nice, but the acceptance, the validation of my ideas, was the most satisfying part.

What I just described took place from about 2010 to 2017, then started to peter out. I had attended a couple of Street Photography exhibitions and lectures, and although the images were fresh, they didn’t look very different. It seemed as if Street Photography had evolved into a genre, and the practitioners were all using the same rule book.

I also unsuccessfully entered a few Arty competitions, but those applications were really just exhibition inertia.

As Terry Allen would say, “All that exhibiting was just too damned inhibiting for a beer drinkin’ regular guy like me.”.

I was already  pretty unproductive for awhile, then when I broke my camera, I lost all momentum. I already had a few projects on the back burner, and thought that since I was cameraless, I could shift my energy to finishing them up, but like Meier and Winogrand, shooting is much more fun than processing and editing.

I have always used my camera for visual note taking, but over time, this chore was transferred to my phone, as I realized it was more accessible. Now that I don’t have a camera with me, I use the phone for everything, but don’t find it satisfying for “serious” work-I am a viewfinder guy, and have difficulty composing and shooting with a touchscreen.

I haven’t given up on Photography, but I think I just need to find new direction. Daily, I still go to several photography web sites*, which take me in several directions. I visit galleries, have read a few books, and attend monthly member critiques at SF Camerawork. I believe something is stirring inside, and hopefully, it will soon bubble to the surface.

 

Stay tuned.

 

* The Online Photographer

* Shorpy

Petapixel 

* Shifter

 

 

 

Street Photography

The photographic landscape has been changing, and I’m feeling a bit disoriented.

 

I try to not think of things categorically, but it seems to be a human trait- What do you photograph”, or “What kind of photographer are you”. I don’t do landscapes, and I don’t do portraits. Because I am a trained photographer, I like to think my Travel photos are (technically) a bit better than average, but my Family pics are just as goofy as everybody else.

But when I am consciously trying to make a picture,  I think of them as Observations- a Point of View that hovers between Documentary and Journalism -what Walker Evans called Descriptive Photography.

A few years back I read an article about a Street Photography book that had this Matt Stuart photo on the cover

http://www.mattstuart.com/photography/tqzpf859421njkn58ppuql6y0xaw5b

I looked into Matt, and he appeared to be a guy who walks around with both a camera and a particular view of the World, and is pretty good at using one to capture his impression of the other.

About the same time, along with the rest of the World, I discovered Vivian Maier, one thing led to another, and this whole “Street Photography” thing started to take off for me, with Cartier-Bresson, Winogrand and others. Street photographers are folks who carry camera around with them to record the World as they see it. Street Photography seemed to be a non-categoric Category, one that felt good to be in-it was observational, and you couldn’t predefine the image.

I hung around Street Photography for a few years, scoured Web Sites and got a sense of who was doing what. The discussions were what could be expected- approach, attitude, privacy, and so on. Fortunately, for a field that is gear obsessed, Street shooter conversations about equipment were minimal. Photography for these folks it is about the intersection of place and time (or timing)-not gear, and not prescribed rules.

I recently read a quote that expressed this quite well. I apologize for not including my source, I don’t recall it-

“I don’t know whether this truncated elephant with arm unmanned was a one-shot or a whole roll.  I just know it was right.  And it illustrates what goes on in the photographer’s mind when he’s being totally unconcerned about composition, almost.  He’s being almost totally concerned about subject.  What comes through is the subject.  What comes through the subject is the way of seeing.” —Jonathan Brand wrote these comments on composition and subject in his Popular Photography Critic’s Choice column about Garry Winogrand’s photograph of an elephant’s trunk, exhibited at the 1964 Museum of Modern Art show The Photographer’s Eye.

I decided that I was a street Photographer.

 

I entered a few competitions-

2016

Streetfoto San Francisco International Street Photography

http://streetfoto.org/sf2016-contest-finalists/#single

2017

LACD Street Shooting Around the World

https://lacphoto.org/gallery/2017-street-shooting-around-the-world-exhibition-winners-in-show

Meanwhile, I was noticing a trend towards formalizing Street Photography into a genre. Many street photographers who were gathering around the Internet water cooler started forming groups, or collectives. This seemed a good thing because their purpose was to critique and help curate each other’s work.

Others created self-promoting websites that seem to have evolved into large mirrors of their own self worth. There started to be Fanboys who wallowed in didactic conversations.There was some talk of Gear-“you have to use 28 or 35mm, you have to get up close”.

There were Rules.

Street Photography turned into a category.

Oops!… I Did It Again

“A Kiss on Sunset Boulevard” was also chosen by Juror Gus Powell for the current “Street Shooting Around the World ” show at the Los Angeles Center for Photography-

https://lacphoto.org/lacps-fourth-annual-street-shooting-around-the-world-exhibition-2018/

Coincidentally, I was in LA for the opening of last year’s show-

https://lacphoto.org/lacps-third-annual-street-shooting-around-the-world-exhibition-2017/

and I was walking over to a Wine Bar that I had discovered on Sunset Boulevard. I was in the crosswalk when I saw this couple making out in this alcove of the Amoeba Records store. The traffic light was changing, so I really only had seconds to take this shot and get out of the middle of that six lane street.

 

This show runs through March 18th.