It’s been awhile since I last made a portrait of a stranger I encountered on the street. With that in mind, I was pleased that Al was a good sport and let me make a few photos of him on Mission Street, near 15th. As the title suggests, Al was born and raised in San Francisco. Next time I see him I’ll hit him up for a few stories.
This photo was snapped through my Amtrak window cruising past Benicia over the Delta. Lately I’ve been making a lot of photos that way.
Also, this photo and the previous eight were made with a new camera I’ve been trying out – the Fuji X-A1. Really digging it…
Hope your Valentine’s Day was nice. I’m sure whoever received the enormous balloon and roses from the guy up above had a wonderful one! Snapped yesterday on BART, in San Francisco. I think he would have been happy with another four or five inches of ceiling height!
A tribute in Layfayette, California put together by building contractor Jeff Heaton starting eight years ago honoring the 6,809+ United States service members who lost their life in Iraq and Afghanistan. I was finally able to see it first-hand yesterday and it was very moving…
But it’s a posed portrait, and not “street!”
That seems to be the view of many who write about “street photography.” I’m OK with that with the understanding that’s a personal limitation one may want to impose on themselves in order to stay true to their own vision. But when that’s cast into stone as a set of rules for others to follow then it’s time to step back and think a little deeper on the subject.
Street photography is very personal and an experiential activity. Nobody has a lock on the definition or what it is about. As an aside, I use the term “street photography” as a descriptor to clarify writing, not really liking the term because of the definitions and limitations people try to ascribe to it.
Speaking only for myself, street photography is a lot more than going out with my camera looking for people in odd situations, visual puns, or even patches of nice light to enhance a quick capture. As I’ve mentioned previously, there’s a certain energy of the street. And that is made up of people interacting with each other and their environment. Sometimes there’s a very visible dynamic and rhythm that can be seen from a distance. Many times there isn’t, or it is very subtle and shrouded from view. For myself, the aspect of discovery and understanding is far more important than actually making photographs that record a particular experience or event. Some have said, and I totally agree, that a camera isn’t always necessary.
It’s the process of discovery and understanding the rhythm and dynamics of human activity that satisfies my curiosity as to how all the elements of the street work and interrelate. There’s no one approach or single method that addresses all questions. And, of course, there is always more out there to soak in and learn.
Street portraiture provides an opportunity to dig deeper and engage strangers encountered on the street. Through engagements and filling in the blanks with conversation, I learn much more that simply taking candid pictures of situations on the street. I’ve met hundreds of people while out with my camera and the bits of information I absorb about life on the street are like pieces of an infinite puzzle that is never really completed. I like that! For me, that’s what being out there is about. Engaged street portraiture of strangers is just one of the many ways of making sense of it all.
In the years of making street portraits I have found everyone is approachable. Yes, a small number of people decline having their portrait made, but I have never had a negative experience. And, as I’ve mentioned before in other posts, there is great synergy in making street portraits and candid street photos. The skills and comfort developed in street portraiture greatly helps in making better candid photos, most notably in connecting with people.
Sometimes I think that those who feel that posed street portraiture is not street photography might actually be uncomfortable approaching people for conversation and a few snaps. That’s OK, every photographer has his/her own comfort level meeting strangers. But that really is a separate issue from proclaiming what street photography is, or isn’t!
Some of the Amtrak Stations in the US go way back with interesting architecture and high windows that let in gorgeous light at the right time of the day. This was snapped a month ago waiting for the train to Santa Barbara at the Diridon Station in San Jose. Lots of old wood, a ginormous old US flag covering a window, beautiful fixtures, and interesting people. From what I can see in photos, Los Angeles’ Union Station is much larger and probably even more interesting. Might be worth a trip on the train just to check it out…