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What kind of person does street photography anyway?

May 23, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Joel Meyerowitz  offers a pretty good description of the personality of a street photographer:

“Street photographers tend to be gregarious in the sense that they can go out on the street and they’re comfortable among people, but they’re also a funny mixture of solitaries at the same time as being gregarious. You embrace and you take in, but you stay back and try to stay invisible.” (John Maloof documentary: “Finding Vivian Maier,” Ravine Pictures, 2013)

When I heard him utter this description, I felt as if he knew me. I’ve always been more of an observer of people than a participant; able to go into a crowd yet be invisible, aware but separate and detached; those are pretty good attributes for a street photographer – someone who can be conscious of people’s interactions without becoming a part of them; who can be aware of moments that occur quickly or expressions that are visible for only a split second then disappear; and ultimately to be able to react to it and describe it with a camera.

I have loads of photos though of people who have caught me taking their picture, some in good humor at having been caught in the act, others giving me the evil eye. When someone does notice me, I try to engage them in conversation, offering explanations as to why I took their photo. Two middle-aged women in NY on Halloween who had their faces made up posed after I took the initial photo then spoke to them after they noticed me. Another gentleman in NY was sitting outside a shop looking totally bored and tired. I suspected his wife was inside shopping. As I lifted the camera up he saw me and began to laugh. I didn’t get the photo I wanted in that case, but I think I made his day.





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