Sunday, April 30, 2017

I'm not going to stress about people in street photography

I've written two other times about street photography. That is the kind of photography where photographers take candid pics of people on the street, usually in B&W but more often in color too. Sometimes the street people know they've been captured and other times they don't. Sometimes the street photographers get very up close and personal, and other times, they don't. There are as many ways to "do" street photography as there are photographers to do it.

The idea is to chronicle life. Street photos from photographers who were active in the in the 50s and 60s took some amazing photos that in all likelihood looked mundane then but are absolutely fascinating now. The famous names are Garry Winogrand, Bill Cunningham, Jon Naar, and many more.

Garry Winogrand

Garry Winogrand
Jon Naar, Faith of Graffiti
Bill Cunningham
Street photography is both profound and absurd. The first photo, with the old women the trash...with a small, lone weird animal at the bottom. Profound and absurd. The highly graffitied wall...with derelict abandoned car...with joyful kids. Profound and absurd. And Editta Sherman in the subway...dressed out of time...with graffiti - profound and absurd.

I find street photography to be more profound as the photos fade from "nowadays" into "historical." I like street pics from the 50s and 60s and early 70s more than today's. It's the history that grabs the viewer, makes us go 'awww', or long for times gone by in looking at places we used to know.

I just don't like dealing with people when I take pics. I've read up on and viewed videos that offer tips on how to take good street shots with people in them. I've read tips on how to defuse a situation where a concerned or angry subject approaches you. I've read up on how to 'hide' what you're doing so as not to anger the subject. All good. I just don't want aggravation when I take pics. It's supposed to be relaxing. So I tend not to deal with people. I like architectural details better anyway. Skylines. Colors. Patterns. Grit.

There's always a story behind everything. I like this photograph a lot!

Atlas Obscura has the story to this charming bit of London history:

The wrought iron hook hanging next to No. 4 goes back to the early days of automobile traffic. The building sits just off the corner of a chaotic six-street convergence, and even with the guidance of traffic lights drivers didn’t always trust the signals. So the police were assigned to step in now and then, to keep things moving, and if it happened to be a hot summer day they needed a place to hang their heavy woolen coats. Since No. 4 was under construction there was a handy nail to do the trick, but once construction was completed, the nail disappeared. 
The makeshift hook may have been gone, but the traffic wasn’t, so the police asked for the nail to be put back. They got this instead: a sturdy bespoke model, clearly labeled so everyone knew who it was for.
Everybody go 'awwww'!

There's always the hope that as you scout, scavenge, and hunt up photo opps in the back alleys and trash heaps, you might make a cool architectural discovery like this one. Again, Atlas Obscura-

In 2011, while the REI store in the Puck Building in Manhattan’s SoHo district was undergoing renovation, workers made an unexpected discovery. Hidden behind one of the walls of the cellar were more than 100 lithography stones from the building’s days as a printer. They are now on display on the store’s lower floor.

In 1917 in Halifax Nova Scotia, a munitions ship anchored in the harbor blew up. It was a huge and devastating event. As the Atlas Obscura story excerpt below notes, the explosion was the largest man-made explosion ever before the atom bomb. As you walk along the now quiet streets, you might look up and see a strange architectural detail. What is the face etched in the window? (And why didn't the window shatter?)
The 1917 explosion caused when a munitions ship crashed was a defining moment for Halifax. It was a tragic and disastrous event, that also stemmed generations of folklore, like babies who survived flight through the air by landing in trees. Many of these are too fanciful to be true, but St. Paul’s Church, the oldest building in town, bears the scars to prove its incredible tales.
We used to visit older friends in Halifax in the late 1990s. Our friend who was in his 60s had a mom who was in her late 90s. She was 17 years old when the explosion happened. It was hard to get her to speak about it (no doubt the trauma of losing friends and homes made her reticent to relive it all again). We asked her what it was like to live through the most devastating man-made explosion in the world ever at that time. In typical northern taciturn manner, she said after a long pause, " was loud."

When I do street pics, I gravitate to the buildings, not the people. I like to know the story of why this hook is there, or what that face is about, or what these curious stones with backward writing on them are. I like to see the color amid the concrete, the beauty among the grit. If someone walks by as I'm taking the shot, great, there'll be a person in it. If not, then I'll still be content with my street pics, sans life. I know that people in a pic make it more interesting, not to mention alive. But oh well. I like what I like and I'll do what I want! Street photography minus the people... just the street, thanks. Besides, I looked through my photos and I've been taking street pics all along. Not great ones, not profound or absurd.

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