Saturday, March 12, 2011

Taking it to the Streets

Two summers ago I was making one of my rounds around town admiring one of my
usual jaunts and I struck up a conversation with a gentleman. He was a retired firefighter
who enjoyed photography himself and we talked about photography in general, the local
scenery and street photography. I told him I was thinking about moving out of my
comfort zone and heading downtown to photograph people. He told me he had recently
been at a local credit union office and seen hanging on the walls portraits of people who
where often seen around town 30 or 40 years ago. People like “Buckey King”, a man I
remember seeing there when I was a boy. While I had feelings of nostalgia I also had a
more urgent feeling, after all these people are all gone now. This conversation ignited me
to hit the streets and give it a go. I went away thinking I wish I had taken a portrait of
“Hobo Bill” when he was alive! Now that’s character!

………. As you can see here I also decided to photograph the buskers.

Banjo Blues
Banjo Blues

I knew this wasn’t going to be easy. I would only take a persons portrait if they agreed
and thought most people would say no. But to my surprise, of the dozens of people I
photographed so far only two said no. And I’m certain they did so thinking they wouldn’t
like what they saw. One of these men was selling newspapers on Water Street when I was
a boy 40 years ago and he’s still there.

I’ve got to figure out a way to get this man to agree without pestering him to much. I’ve
explained to him I will only show his portrait if he looks “good”. Telling him that I’ve
taken a page from Stanley Kubrick’s book, how he used to use perspective (a low angle
of view) to “raise the status” of people. I’ve also begun to carry along a portfolio of a
dozen portraits, showing him I am only interested in capturing the human side of people.
I just want to demonstrate to people that we are all so much alike.


This is Joe. I saw him Friday March 11, 2011 and he didn’t look very good.

Not surprisingly there has been a learning curve for me. Street photography is different
from wedding photography and portraiture where I have experience. In those cases the
session is planned, thought-out by both parties. Street photography, or in this case street
portraiture, is spontaneous. When you are moving about looking for people the setting is
constantly changing. You usually only have a few seconds to get the shot, this is a
challenge and a challenge means an opportunity to learn, something I enjoy.

This is a portrait of Steve using flash @ 1/6000 second. Steve is a talented guitarist and
has cd’s published which he often has with him for sale.

Downtown Vibe
Downtown Vibe

The challenge was mostly a preparation issue for me. I had to be ready to add a little flash
if needed. On camera flash, absolutely not. On camera flash is a recipe for mediocre,
poor work. And add to this I might have to use high speed sync flash so I would have to
upgrade my radio flash triggers or go with a cable. This year I will go with manual mode
as I almost always do which means pre-metering. I though about going to aperture
priority mode but I don’t want the camera “taking over the exposure”, I want compete
control. Challenges and an opportunity to learn, why I love photography.

The Accordionist
The Accordionist

If I take their portrait I usually buy them a sandwich and an orange juice. It it’s a busker
I’ll give them a few bucks. If you are out and about please be supportive, a little act of
kindness can mean so much.

I’m looking forward to hitting the streets this summer now that I’ve learned so much and
am better prepared.

I am hoping to update my blog every weekend. If you like what you see here I hope to
have new post available every Sunday evening. Warmest regards and thanks for dropping

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