You’ve got to dig through 30,000 nasty shirts from dead guys before you find the one that makes it worth it.Daniel Arnold
From “A Photographer For Our Time,” an article by J Tyler Friedman about Daniel Arnold’s first solo museum exhibition at the Museum of Wisconsin Art, “Daniel Arnold: A Paparazzo for Strangers,” now running through September 17th.
99% of the time when shooting on the street, I hit the shutter unannounced, completely candid. When I fist started, not asking was this moral operative that somehow purified my practice, as if the Street Photography God was watching and doling out brownie points. Kind of weird, I know, but I was new to the genre and wanted to adhere to its rules as I perceived them — “I insist you take me seriously!”
I’ve loosened up a little since, hallelujah, now occasionally first asking a subject to make a portrait. I’d classify it as “Street Portraiture,” something I consider wholly separate from Street Photography, but certainly related and adjacent (and certainly worth exploring as a self-identified “street photographer”).
Street Photography International (SPi) is a collective of photographers “who promote the best street photography from around the world.” Their Instagram account—their main platform for promotion—just passed 250K followers. That’s a lot! Especially so for one so narrowly focused on the genre. And for good reason, as they curate and showcase top quality street photos from around the world.
I didn’t start dabbling in photography, via my marketing job, until 2010—well past the technological shift from film to digital that occurred in the early to mid aughts. A half a decade later, the summer of 2015 was when I began focusing on street photography. So, needless to say, I’m a “born digital” shooter who’s only known capturing 1s and 0s to CF and SD memory cards.
If you’re a digital-only shooter too, then maybe like me, you’ve heard a steadily growing chorus of fellow street photographers touting film (that supposedly antiquated medium from the dust bin of photographic history) for its “purity,” its “look,” its “process,” etc. Of course, all I could think about was the expense, the waiting, and the learning curve. Plus, don’t we have VSCO filters that create that filmic look? Pssh.
Well, I finally caved in. And I was wrong. (Not completely, but we’ll get to that later.)
Last night, with a very summery 80-plus degree temperature here in Chicago, I headed to the Gold Coast neighborhood for a street excursion. It felt good to head out with just shorts and a short sleeve shirt! (Geez, you don’t want to see how pasty I am.)
I recorded some of the action; here’s my second POV-style video—accompanying commentary below.
New Camera(s), Same Six Megapixels
My original L11 (my mom’s old one I randomly found) quickly died from battery leakage. RIP, Lucy, you’ll always be my first love.
So, I ordered another from eBay. It arrived and barely worked, only briefly and in fits. You were kinda of a b****, Lana, so I’m moving on.
I first came across them a couple years ago on YouTube: so-called “POV” videos from street photographers who had mounted a small video camera (GoPro, iPhone, etc.) atop their main camera while they shot in the streets.
“The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.” That’s a quote attributed to Orsen Welles speaking in the context of filmmaking. A rewording in the affirmative sense would be, “The ally of art is the presence of limitations.”
As handed down by street photography forefather Henri Cartier-Bresson, The Decisive Moment is the precise time and place street shooters hope to uncover and capture. The street is a public stage, with passersby as the actors stepping into its sun-lit spotlight. However, for most who walk through it, both as participants and unconscious witnesses, the curtain is still closed.
As street photographers, it is our role to pull back this veil, inviting an audience to see the drama unfolding—not by scripting and performing it, but by framing and freezing it.
Last week, I found the 1973 Henri Cartier-Bresson documentary, “The Decisive Moment.” It features not only many of his most famous photos, but also his commentary as voice over. As a canonized Master of street photography and co-founder of Magnum, of course he could shoot. But, wow, can he talk a good game too! Upon watching the film on YouTube, I couldn’t help but pause to type out some of his impassioned viewpoints.