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Thoughts on "street" photography
I began “street” photography in the early ‘60s, after college graduation (U. of AZ) in Chicago where I worked as an assistant at Shigeta-Wright Associates. I acquired the habit of carrying my Leica IIIF (later Leica M-2, M-4) with its shoulder strap and, on my free time, wandering the streets and parks in my near-north area. This habit evolved during the ensuing several years, ’64-’66, when I lived in Peru working as a Peace Corp Volunteer. Living and working in Lima, I had access to the Embassy darkroom for processing and printing my personal work as well as work I was doing in my Peace Corp job.
Having a small camera on ones person almost all the time creates an unique “seeing” situation. One’s eyes and thoughts become devoted to discovering scenes and situations which will create an interesting, story-telling, visual result. It’s enriching. Black and White was always my preferred medium. I used Tri-X film almost exclusively, having learned to use the film sans metering which makes fast reaction impossible. (As Visiting Professor at R.I.T in 1976-77, I banished meters from my second-year B&W course.)
In this type of photography one must be totally aware of what is ahead, literally, and be prepared to react instantly. If I sensed and sized-up a viable situation ahead, I pre-focused the Leica’s 35mm Summicron lens, and set the aperture for the light situation at the time. New York City streets are either severely shaded or sunny depending on time of day and side of street. Subways, busses and building interiors were all a part of my “street” photography.
Very quick reaction and composition are mandatory. Finding a good design/light situation, then waiting for something to happen within it was the rare occasion. For me, “street” photography is the plucking out of reality novel, mysterious, human moments which likely ask questions rather than answering them, as in journalism. Being invisible helps. I enjoy the images that require the viewer to involve his or her imagination, becoming personally involved, evoking a feeling...an association. These are the images that are likely to endure...those that don’t satisfy the viewer’s mind, rather, they incite...they tickle and probe. Combining content with design is always a goal. Sometimes a great visual situation is fleeting, and other times it develops; but either way, ones mind must be alert and focused on the moment, ready to react. It’s quite amazing how much more a street photographer sees (and feels) than those sans camera.
(October 3, 2007)