Today I bring to you a brief discussion on subjects. It is undeniable that with cameras affordable to everyone, easy access to information and a proliferation of web sub-celebrities on "street photography", everybody wants to give a try to having some fun going out and trying their luck. It is also undeniable that a good amount of people barely look ahead, as they are often paying attention to mobile phones, either causing more accidents on transit killing people or themselves, or not looking at their kids playing at the school.
Now add to the mix people smoking. Now you have the 2 most photographed types of subjects in recent "street photography". Important to note, it is not my opinion, it is a fact. Do a search on the subject and see for yourself. There are literally billions of images of these, which makes photographing it really cliché and unoriginal, gets old fast, boring. You will have a hard time finding an inspiring shot of someone looking at a mobile phone. It is like photographing pigeons. One really, really needs to find a very unusual angle or light or something else to make a good shot out of a pigeon. As Ken Wheeler (The Angry Photographer) likes to say, you don't want to photograph acorns, you want oak trees.
When I came back home after testing an old 100mm, I managed to keep 4 or 5 shots out of 80 or 90, then realized how blindly I was shooting uninsteresting subjects that, in my mind at the time of shooting, looked great. But before deleting them, I raised this discussion with a true and tested professional on street photography and social documentary: Chuck Jines. If you never heard of him, you are missing authentic and strong work from someone who really gets into trouble doing his job. Check his home page and youtube channel and see for yourself.
Chuck is one of my modern mentors, my approach to urban shooting completely changed (is changing) after learning about him, so I asked him: "are we sucking more"? Is it more difficult to shoot on the streets today than it was 50 years ago, in the golden era of Cartier-Bresson and Klein? The rationales for my question are the facts that not everybody had (or cared to have) a camera, people didn't mind being photographed at all, and standards were being created. The other side of the coin is, "are people just more boring now"? Or it is just us not putting enough work on the craft? If it is the case, then it comes back to the circle that amateurs are not pros?
Chuck kindly discusses this on a podcast that you can find here: http://www.chuckjines.com/street-photography-and-mediocrity-in-the-digital-age/
- Sample shots:
No talk about photography is complete without actual photos. To better illustrate the point that I raised and Chuck provided his view as a professional street photographer, I will show my own boring shots with other shots that I had to work a lot harder to get.
See this mediocre photo of the couple. There are some problems, the fear factor, bad composition. It is just a bad shot. Now look at the other shot from the same couple from a different angle where we can actually see something: the gesture!
When I seek for advice from experienced shooters, I often listen to their failures. Knowing what to do is good, but knowing what NOT to do can also be beneficial. Please have a look at the following (mediocre) shots without any effort in composition or something interesting. And if you are into urban shooting, this is pretty much the majority of the photos you will see out there, random people doing nothing interesting, empty shots, and some will swear to the heavens it is "street photography" and others will hail it, guaranteed.