I shouldn’t tellya’s this but I am an observer. Yeah, yeah…guilty as charged. Sometimes I’m a looker and sometimes an observer. What’s the difference? Well, near as I can tell, similar but different. When your looking at someone or something, you have an interest in it but just keep looking. When your observing something or someone, your still looking but this time, you have photographic responses happening. What is the most critical element between the two processes? Trigger mechanisms. Yup, see if your looking at something and just satisfied looking, then that’s perfect as a looker. … but if your looking at something and then something tells you that there maybe a photo happening, and you look and then you all the sudden see it…click. That’s observing, because observing leads to the photo. Looking leads to observing.
Why is this important? Here’s some reasons why.
The Street Zen Masters are not whom you think they are. They usually have consumer grade cameras and wander around with an innocence that is delicious to study. They have an intent for their purpose and subject matter and most times are not deterred for the photo by anything. These shooters move in and around the environment regardless of the conditions just to capture the next photo. They come from near and far just to make photos and should be respected by all as the Street Zen Masters. They never question what they are doing and most pay little or no attention to them..Thus, the life of a Tourist.
What I learned from tourist? Well, a lot but a few things are: not to have an aggressive attitude. Maintain an innocence that shines like the moonlight from your presence. Stay focused on where you are an where you want to go and enjoy and observe along the way. Pay more attention to the photo than the camera. Here in Philadelphia we get more than our share of tourist. Philly is the birth place of Freedom but more important, the soft pretzel and cheesesteaks.
Tourist come from all over the world just to see the Declaration of Independence, The Liberty Bell, The original Constitution and the quest for the Philly Cheesesteak. They can’t do this with an aggressive attitude. Attitude works 2 ways, maybe more even but I can’t count more than 2 at this time.
Just think your on the street and see a photo of a group of dudes on the corner. Maybe there’s a deal going down, or gambling or whatever. You see a walker Evans shot in your mind and just are slightly nervous about the situation. One of the dudes looks you dead ass in the eyes and you rightfully so feel the spine on your back kinda cringle. Then, just out of nowhere as the tension between you and dude builds, comes along 2 Japanese woman pointing their cameras to all the dudes, click and make photos and then walk away giggling. Trust me, this scenario happens daily all over the world. No, it’s not because Japanese woman are a terror on the street. It’s because they maintain a kinda docile attitude and this normally will negate or even dispell a strong attitude that harbors negativite energy. It’s not about feminity or being pretty but about knowing your presence in the situation where you are.
How can I state this situation as if I knew it first hand.? Well, ask Suzanne and Polly. They got the shot and I just acted like I didn’t want it.
Guys and Innocence
Well, most of us lose it around entrance to the teens. Yeah, we aren’t a whole lot of innocent about too much. So then the thing to pay attention to is: Attitude. Attitude usually works 2 ways. Could certainly be more than 2 ways but we will deal with just the 2. Transmitted and received. WE do both all the time but as street shooters, we need pay attention closely. If you see a guy on the street and as you aim your camera to him and he is now holding an AK47 and has a look like he wants to eat your leg, raw, well this is transmitted attitude by him and received attitude for you. My advice is to find a different photo or negoitate with him to not eat your leg….click!
Some of the so called modern masters say that it’s about passive energy. Well, there’s a difference between passive and innocent. Passive is like you can project or even control the energy. Innocent is like you aren’t even aware that you have the energy or the ability to control it. Why does all this even matter? Well, all this stuff and more directs the map and the journey you will take to find your photos. You will find easy paths and obsticles that you need to negoitate. Having the right attitude and recognizing the attitude of others will guide you thru each scene.
I hear tell that some teach that you should talk with the subject and then make the photo. That’s cool but if I need to talk with the subject, I’ll use a stand camera like an 8×10 Deardorff. You still need to be in a state of awareness of attitude and stance.
There of course are other things to deal with on the street and I’ll address some more shortly. What makes me the one to write this stuff? Well, I guess I am not afraid to stand on my own and have my eye, heart and mind out there.