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This writing really comes from the heart and would mean a lot if you read it.
Street Photography | Why we struggle
Let's address the elephant in the room
I went to China Town, San Francisco, during the Chinese New Year Flower Festival. These were taken January 19, 2020. Little did I know. This was happening just after the news about the virus has started to spread. At the time, things did not seem too serious here, yet. Now, everything has changed, world on stay-at-home orders. Right now, the world is learning to be introverted, do everything online, keep distances from others. This is all for good reason, of course, but it is interesting to analyze just how people who are really social are adapting. As someone who rather keep to myself most of the time, it is fascinating to watch people's coping mechanisms to the exact opposite of being around people constantly. Feels like their is a chance to walk in each other's shoes for while moment here.
I hope everyone is being safe, keeping their distance, and coping as best as they can, in the circumstances. The world is facing some of the toughest times in history right now and I whole heartily want to see people coming out of this scary time with stories of generosity, caring, love, hope, and growth. It is unimaginable how much some are going through.
If anyone would like someone to talk to during their isolation time. I'll gladly chat with you, photo related or not.
A bit of background knowledge
As anyone who knows me knows, I'm fairly introverted and tend to get socially anxious in crowds. Taking street photography is something I have always liked from a far and thought was a powerful tool in the photographers arsenal. The reason I tended to shy away from doing street photography is like most photographers who shy away from it at first. I found it intimidating to go shoot in a crowd of people, be noticed, or worse get someone upset over their photo getting taken without asking. Sure legally, there is nothing wrong with street photography as long as there is not an expectation of privacy, but there is always a chance someone may feel like their privacy is violated if their photo is taken without asking. As I pretty much hate having my photo taken, I try to be understanding about other's not really finding the matter appealing as well. Luckily, I have found that caring about what everyone thinks about me is arbitrary. Most of the time people don't actually notice you as much as you notice your own actions, especially if you feel apprehensive about them.
Overcoming the fear of street photography
I've been shooting "street photography" for years. My version of street photography has always been at a distance, with minimal people in the frame or not facing me. Now, I have grown my comfort level to a degree to actually shoot with a crowd around me. The hardest thing was to convince myself that no one was staring at me and few cared what I was doing. Cameras are all around us; we've grown a custom to them, we thrive on them, we've somewhat grown numb to them; that's a whole other discussion, though. People tend to dismiss how much confidence can change how you're viewed in the world. I have seen too many examples of this and classically that is where the phrase, "fake it, till you make it" really comes into play. If you can appear confident in what you're doing, no one will ever question you. This, of course, has expectations like everything in the wold. In this instance, if you appear that you have a purpose and shoot photos of people passing by you, most won't notice or care. Yes, be respectful, do not portray people in a negative light, as that can have huge reproductions. For the most part, you are out there to capture a story, a feeling, or a moment in time.
I went out to shoot in Chinatown with a friend who was also shooting with me. (If you're reading this, hi 👋) This makes it easier, a lot easier. When you're with someone else, it is harder for people to approach you and question what you're doing. I went not having an exact goal in mind, other than I wanted to convey some emotion from the photos I captured there.
Shooting street, there are a lot of ways to approach it. There are the burst shooters: shoot everything and anything, then go to sift through their images to find some that captured something interesting. There are the people shooters: they will either approach people or scope people out and take photos only of people. There are the composition shooters: typically those who shoot a lot of architecture with human aspects, like 1 person in the frame. There are many more and I find myself somewhere in the mix of those.
I shoot for intent of composition, emotion, and story. I observe my scene and find things that look interesting and compose them to complement the story I'm telling. I am purposely not going to elaborate on my photos below, as I want them to speak for themselves. If you are interested in my thought behind any particular photo, feel free to reach out and ask.
Street shooting is a huge timing thing. You have to be in the right place, in the right time. This is achievable by a few methods. Going to a place, finding a composition you like, and waiting for your subject to come to you. You can walk around looking for things but risk missing moments that happen behind or ahead of you. You can capture it editorially. Whatever have you. Yes, I believe street photography is art. I don't typically think of it as a documentary sort of way. This is just how I tend to capture it through my creative vision.
How things have changed
Before we get to the photos, this needs to be addressed.
Right now we are living in crazy times. I've already mentioned this at the top. The thing I want to point out is the normality of having hundreds, if not thousands of people in one place, at one time. Now this is taboo, for the time being. Not to mention, all the xenophobia going on currently. We won't dive into the politics of the matter but please be respectful. Think about if you were in their shoes. This is the theme I was attempting to convey with extroverts now experience and coping with what introverts have to deal with in reverse. Everyone always downplays how someone else feels, having not experienced the same thing first hand, until they have to experience the discomfort for themselves, to put it lightly.