When I think of street photography, I think of people. Sure, it is possible to do street photography without people, but I feel that the denizens of the city help make the craft.
My style is a little different compared to other photographers; I do street portraits, but my portraits have such a shallow depth-of-field that the viewer can’t even tell whether or not they’re in a city, let alone tell that it’s New York City.
I usually document whoever I see interesting. Similar to Bruce Gilden, I usually look for ‘characters’ in my work, but I also like having diversity in my subject matter in terms of people.Whether they are white, black, or Asian, they all have the same, pondering expression that I look for when I photograph people. Their expressions show that we as people are all similar and have stories that want to be told. When I see that, I don’t think, I just shoot.
As mentioned in my previous post, Graduating and Other Things, even when I wasn’t photographing, I was always photographing with my eyes, burning the image in my memory. I loved people watching as a small child, because as a child growing up in a small suburb, people look the same after a while until I got into high school where more people from New York began to move in. Fascinated, I became more of an observer as I would always observe people’s actions and behaviors towards one another. Similar to Gary Winogrand, It became to the point where I almost became non-existent, and it wasn’t until minutes after I enter a room where people would notice me. Because of that, I felt like I got to see life up-close, seeing it as unstained and personal.
Being stealthy on capturing life helps greatly on getting the shot you want. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. It is entirely situational, especially the first few shoots, you maybe afraid of going near your subject. When I first started street photography, I used to want to blend in as much as possible and would often hesitate on taking the picture because of pure fear.
Out of all seriousness, we are all people so even if people do question your actions, just keep calm, be armed with your rights, and everything will be fine. During the day, the streets are really safe and I never felt threatened by people when I do take their photograph. However, I do recommend a friend to tag along with you after six in case things do go awry. Even though I grew out of being completely non-existent, unless someone is doing a drug dealing, I just go in the heart of the action. I look for people who are preoccupied with whatever they were doing, snap one or two frames, and then I move onto the next action.
Overall, I see street photography as something that has no right way of executing. In order to see what kinds of expressions and patterns you can find from people, you can’t just photograph someone like you’re a tourist who discovered a zoom lens for the first time and photograph people from far away on your vacation to Thailand. As a photographer, you have to take life by the hand and go with the flow! Shoot now, think later!