I am a *terrible* street photographer

In a former life, I was once asked to deliver a “creative inspiration” presentation to my team. My assignment was to discuss (1) something I had never done before, and (2) how I evolved creatively as a result.

The assignment was harder than it sounds. So many people and events have influenced me as a writer! But then it struck me: Why not talk about photography instead, and my journey into the world of street photography?

For your amusement and entertainment, here are the Keynote slides I presented (with bonus commentary at no additional cost).

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I’d often wait several minutes for a scene to clear out and be devoid of humans.

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Other times, I would include a person in the frame — but only as a visual element.

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I liked the resulting images, yet somehow they seemed empty and impersonal.

Then I got to know a handful of street photographers. Among my favorites was a guy who called himself Yanidel.

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I adored his images; they seemed so honest and unselfconscious. He had a gift for capturing the very heart of what makes Paris so interesting and vibrant: her people.

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“I want to be a street photographer, too!” I decided. You know what they say …

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But my shyness soon got the best of me.

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Is it just me, or does the guy below on the left look uncannily like Bob Dylan?

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The poor puppy above was disconsolate about having been left outside a grocery store. (His owner did eventually return and there was a loud, joyous reunion.)

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I loved the way this guy’s tongue shot out every time he pressed the shutter button.

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I also loved the contrast between this man’s bold, colorful attire and his dour expression. << Bah, mais la vie est merdique, n’est-ce pas? >>

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As for these two, above: I knew *exactly* what they were up to because I’d done it, too.

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Street photography has a couple of basic tenets. First, you’re supposed to only observe and record. In other words: Don’t change or stage the events as they’re unfolding. Second, be discreet. In other words, don’t get busted!

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I was slowly getting more comfortable with raising my camera to capture “the decisive moment” …

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I started asking my subjects about their surroundings, their opinions, and their lives. Like this clochard, who has three daughters somewhere …

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… and this kind crêpe vendor, who hasn’t been home to Pakistan in years …

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… and this park cop, who — well, I don’t know what his story was, but he sure loved hamming it up for the camera!

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I may be one of the lousiest street photographers in all of Paris, but that’s OK. I found an approach that enriches me as a person and makes me happy.

In the end, isn’t that the true purpose of art?