A Work In Progress: My Views Divided In Phractions - Part I
As of a couple days ago, it’s been just over a year since I’ve been trying my hand at shooting street. I think it’s time to share my process because I’ve made tons of mistakes and it’s good to poke fun at old (young) me and realize that future (older) me will also look back on this and make fun of present me - ‘cause that’s not a confusing sentence. It’s also helpful to see how (if) I’ve really progressed in this genre and use this as a bookmark of sorts. While writing this, I didn’t realize this novel of a post was so long that it was getting to a point that even *I* didn’t want to read through it. I figured it would be better off as a bunch of ‘smaller’ articles instead of one ginormous wordy word post (at least by my standards).
So here’s part I (of who knows how many) of my work in progress..
What I’ve Noticed So Far:
Instagram/flickr has been somewhat of a visual diary for me (cliche line, I know). To see photos that are not necessarily in chronological order but are in the order of what has caught my eye at the time is a great learning tool. I’ve noticed that I’ve gone from shooting people for the sake of shooting people to shooting scenes that mean more than just some dude who passed by me on the way to get some pizza.
[Rob Ford - Sep 2014] “If there’s one person who might know where pizza is..”
[Dog Walk - May 2015] I now prefer to shoot scenes like this (as opposed to one’s with Rob Ford in them..)
I shoot to learn more about myself. I paraphrase Daido Moriyama’s words in my head all the time when it comes to why I shoot - we are essentially capturing ourselves in the photos we take of others. This is in addition to echoing Garry Winogrand’s philosophy of not looking at his photos for a long time after shooting, which he did in order to ‘create an emotional disconnect’. It ensured that personal feelings/emotions at the time of clicking the shutter would not skew his perspective of whether a photo is actually good or not. Obviously, these are different yet complimentary ways of thinking and I subscribe to both. Some photos, no matter how much time has passed, will always evoke some type of emotion from me and I now understand that those are just as powerful and meaningful as the photos that are aesthetically pleasing for technical reasons. So in a nutshell, I take photos but don’t look at them for a while so I can see them more objectively when the time comes to share. But I still take into consideration the images that still evoke strong emotions even after a period of time.
This was taken roughly a year ago and has never been shared until now. It’s still an image that resonates deeply as it’s a reminder of the time I spent working at a retirement home while learning to be patient (a trait I now apply when shooting)
What Catches My Eye:
These days I tend to favour scenes influenced by someone like Alex Webb vs Joel Meyerowitz, who was one of my first main influences (and still remains to be). It’s not to say their images are night and day from one another, both are colour shooters that uses golden hour light and shadows to enhance their scenes (at least from what I’ve seen of their work so far) but I just find my interests are getting caught in the Webb more-so than the Mayoral.. wit.. of the Meyerowi.. ok so I should’ve thought that phrase over a little bit more. Anyways.. similar to how Meyerowitz first started, I some(most)times get overwhelmed by the busyness of the streets and it’s hard to focus on one thing, so I shoot… everything. Afterward, I look hard to see exactly what was in that scene that I was responding to primarily. The best part about being new to all this is knowing I’ve yet to scratch the surface when it comes to discovering great images so experimenting with different styles is fun and exciting still. Also, I can play the n00b card for a little while longer until I have to smarten up and stop making excuses for using bad photos in my body of work ;)
My interpretation of overwhelming busy streets which was taken with an unknown focus at the time - influenced by Joel Meyerowitz
My interpretation of scenes with some depth from foreground to background - influenced by Alex Webb (clearly I still need a lot of work to really fill the frame as he does)
When I scroll down my instagram feed, I see that 2 dimensional images and shots where people horizontally or diagonally pass by ‘things’ are what caught my eye primarily. To a certain degree I still shoot these ‘cause old habits die hard and ‘cause it was instinctively what I thought street was all about.. people in the street. “Stride-By” shots, people passing by storefronts, and people who were just different/interesting-looking were images that I would naturally gravitate toward. Now I’m consciously trying to be a bit more dynamic and sometimes overly experimental with compositions but part of the learning process is seeing what works and what doesn’t.
Not exactly a “Strideby” but an example of things that would catch my eye immediately. (too bad there’s poles coming out of their heads and no one was occupying the phone booth in the foreground)
I used to get very close simply because I felt I needed to. “If your photos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough” was a Robert Capa phrase that echoed as I shot the street. Also, I think about the fact that he died because he got too close to a land mine. Now, I’m far less concerned of that happening to me in the city, though certain personality temperaments could be the equivalency during heated confrontations (which is also not really a concern of mine). *knock on wood*
Taken at Pride 2014, I found it was like shooting fish in a barrel to walk a street festival and shoot people up close because of how crowded the event was.
Recently, I stopped getting close for the sake of getting close nor do I just take pictures of people because, people. It’s taken me a while (though I haven’t quite figured it all out yet) but I’ve realized that street can be void of people yet still embody the human element. I’ve learned to take a step back and see the big picture or show more of the environment because a spacious setting can say just as much as a super close-up. Also, I find myself now shooting at a wider angle (28mm) vs the 40mm which I shot with exclusively for months. Maybe I’m getting it all wrong, in which case I’ll at least have this piece of writing to look back upon and show me what 2015 Ryan was thinking at the time. Clearly, my style and focus (amongst many things) needs to be refined and who knows if I’ll ever find what I’m looking for in my shooting, but at least the journey so far’s been interesting to say the least.
Well that’s all I’ll say for now. In future posts, I’ll talk more about what I do when I’m on the street (how I approach and photograph scenes) and what I look for and what I learn through my editing process. When I’ll get to it… well.. your guess is as good as mine. Maybe I should talk about how indecisive I can be and how that plays a roll in the decisive moment or maybe.. not. ;)