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My Street Story

May 19, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

I'm not accustomed to talking about my work. I generally let the images speak for themselves. In fact, I had a recent exhibit of my street photography at the Art Association of Harrisburg and elected not to put titles on the pieces because I thought it might limit what a viewer may see in the photo. Instead, I opted for just the date and place where the photograph was taken. Big mistake, I think, which is why I've chosen to title some of the images in my galleries. On the one hand, titles can limit what a person sees in a photo, but on the other, a title may give a viewer a roadmap or clue to what the photographer was seeing or the intent. Street photography isn't a big sell in my hometown, or perhaps anywhere, for that matter. Where I live, it takes more than a backseat to landscapes, flowers, birds and butterflies, even abstracts, - so far back as to be left in the dust, in fact. Not many people do it here, so, it's unfamiliarity too can limit what the viewer sees. After reconsidering. I opted to put titles back on the images to help people know what to look for.

I'm not going to try to define street photography here. There are almost as many opinions about that as there are photographers. Instead, I'm simply going to try to explain my street photography and what I want to accomplish. My photographs are not about the people in the images; they are about trying to capture those moments, feelings, emotions that we have all experienced at one time or another. I want my work to tell a story, to have a narrative. The presence of background activity, or even foreground activity, in a shot makes what would otherwise just be a common picture of someone on the street doing something that is seen hundreds of times a day by everyone, gives the images a storyline.

For example, in the photo called "He's An Asshole, the woman holding the sign without the figures in the background to give her context would simply be a photo of a protester. Who hasn’t seen that in one form or another? But the man standing on a chair which has become his platform as he holds his book (a Bible?) and the woman pointing to the sign holder tells us that this man was certainly railing against someone or something. The woman next to him begs us or him to answer the question, “How do you respond to the woman with the sign?” The photo is no longer just a street shot, it becomes an event with a narrative, a plot.

In Insignificant Others, two men oogle a dog while an attractive woman in a short skirt walks by unnoticed in the foreground. She is out of focus while the dog is sharply defined repeating in photo terms what is happening in the moment – the dog sharply captures their attention instead of the woman. The situation defies the male stereotype.

Roast, Grind, Brew, Enjoy depicts a couple having coffee at a table in front of the large picture window of the coffee shop. The line of sight from the eyes of the passerby goes directly to the woman’s chest as she sits in a Lana Turner type of pose. What could have been a simple photo of two people having lunch is now a narrative. The young man passing by provides another dimension to the photo and gives it meaning.

Hot, Tired and Annoyed depicts three women, presumably a mother and two daughters, in the city perhaps for a day of shopping. The family dynamic is clear and one I've experienced in my own family many times growing up. An anticipated event goes awry when someone does or says something to piss the others off, then they begin to disconnect. The face of the mother seems angry. The daughter on the left is making a phone call - maybe she forgot to feed the dog, maybe she's just calling her boyfried or any one of a hundred other things that infuriates Mom, and the daughter in the middle looks like she wants to be anywhere but where she is.

In Lost Souls #1, we see an unusually dressed woman walking down the street. Walking away from her is a man slightly bent over using a cane. It is difficult to tell his age because his back is turned, but one must ask, are they related? Do they know each other? Are they friends who are separating, or are they simply two people passing on the street. The possibilities are endless, but together as they walk apart, the sensation of loss becomes present. This is the kind of thing I would like those who see my street photos to ask and think about.


For information (and opinion) in the present state of street photography, read Michael Sweet's article in the Huffington Post, "Street Photography Has No Clothes." http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-ernest-sweet/street-photography-has-no_b_7842038.html






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