“The Bicycle Thief” Leica M240. 35mm Summicron.
Find Your Place
Are you into street photography? There’s no money in it, you know that. But that’s not why you’re into it anyway. You upgrade your skill in levels. It’s like a diet. You can see good results, quickly, if you’re dedicated. But man, those last five pounds. That’s tough.
I’m not there, either. I touch into it sometimes. More than I used to. It’s about finding your place. But it’s a craft of a very high order because you’re dealing with something that is constantly fluid. And more than one.
In flux is light, people, angles, settings. And your own experience of the world, through the filter of your current situation. And there’s no right/wrong with any of it. So, you’re making decisions on the fly about a lot of things, with no real concrete rules to guide you. If you’re not into forming decisions about every element of it, including yourself, the photo will lack something. It nearly always does. And you can’t always take your learning to your next shoot. It’s not the same conditions.
Documentarians aren’t street photographers. it’s a different art form.
As a child, I walked looking at the ground. Always. It resulted in getting lost, separated from my parents and appearing depressed. I could have been. But I was fascinated by the quick-moving imagery of what was on the ground. Couldn’t keep my eyes off it. Also, I didn’t like eye contact with strangers. That’s all still true.
Walking can be a meditation, but you have to know what kind of walking works best for you. You have to recreate that situation for yourself where you enter into your flow. You have to find your place. it’s hard for me because I’m highly affected by my surroundings, so I’m simultaneously trying to keep my eyes off it and on it. For that reason, I like to look through my viewfinder a lot and down into it whenever possible. Walking around with my head face down into a camera is probably weird from the outside, but it’s the closest I can get to my peaceful place. When someone says something to me, it’s like being that kid again - suddenly realizing I’ve become stranded.
The best thing is to find not just your emotional place, but a physical place, too. I have spots now I walk toward, and stay in, both downtown and in Venice. I venture to new places, but I spend most of my time looking for good spots, with good light and texture to work with. That are also highly-populated. This spot in this shot I’ve been to by the tens. If you’ve followed my shots, you’ve seen this street a dozen times.
My grandfather had a fishing hole out near the Anacapa Islands. He might have suffered from depression, too. But he loved the sea. You dropped your line in the water there and you had a bite within 3 minutes. Over and over, until the dolphins came and scared the fish away. You get your fishing holes, you get your fish and you can spend the rest of the trip trolling. And finding yourself.
You can find yourself through street photography, too. You can find your place in the world. It takes some work. But it’s on the street. It flows in and out of the shadows. It’s there for the taking.
Watch out for the goddamn dolphins.