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).
I’d often wait several minutes for a scene to clear out and be devoid of humans.
Other times, I would include a person in the frame — but only as a visual element.
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.
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.
“I want to be a street photographer, too!” I decided. You know what they say …
But my shyness soon got the best of me.
Is it just me, or does the guy below on the left look uncannily like Bob Dylan?
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.)
I loved the way this guy’s tongue shot out every time he pressed the shutter button.
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? >>
As for these two, above: I knew *exactly* what they were up to because I’d done it, too.
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!
I was slowly getting more comfortable with raising my camera to capture “the decisive moment” …
I started asking my subjects about their surroundings, their opinions, and their lives. Like this clochard, who has three daughters somewhere …
… and this kind crêpe vendor, who hasn’t been home to Pakistan in years …
… and this park cop, who — well, I don’t know what his story was, but he sure loved hamming it up for the camera!
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?