Category Archives: Street Photography

Immersion, Philadelphia Street Photography

Immersion, Philadelphia Street Photography

Now that we have your complete and unwavering attention.

Broad Street, Avenue Of The Arts, Philadelphia, PA

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Street Photography Object Lesson: The Good Samaritan

Percolate, Philadelphia Street Photography

Well, it happened today, the dreaded street photography confrontation. It was only a matter of time. Let my experience (which admittedly was mild) be an object lesson for you, the aspiring street photographer.

Let me start by saying you need to beware the “good samaritan” when you hit the streets with your camera. Try to imagine what you look like to someone who is in a place where they are being more observant. See, for most street photography situations, people are busy going about their lives. Even if they notice you, they aren’t likely to say anything because it doesn’t seem worth it, because the whole thing happened so quick anyway. But, there are other situations where people might be more observant of you and your camera. And it is precisely these situations where the “good samaritan” may press into action.

An example of just such a situation is what happened to me today at Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. If you are not aware, the park at Rittenhouse Square is an urban park with lots of benches and it is always full of people, especially on nice days like today. When people are lounging about in a park, they can be completely oblivious, but on the other hand, some people can be highly observant. And it was just such an “observant” fellow who confronted me today. I won’t get into the specifics of his accusations, because I don’t care to attach myself to the wild fantasies and claims conjured from the brain of a complete stranger. But after I give you a few details of what led up to this confrontation, you will probably be able to figure out the general context of this fellow’s wonderful imagination.

While I did nothing wrong, in retrospect, two specific actions I took probably caught this guy’s attention. One, I walked down the same area of the park twice, actively shooting with my camera. He likely was sitting on a bench in this same area for both of my strolls through. Two, I happened to be shooting from the hip. For the uninitiated, this is exactly as it sounds, I had the camera at waist level (using the flip screen of my Sony RX100 II). Apparently seeing me stroll through with the camera down low was too much for this guy, and he figured I had to be doing something seedy.

Anyway, so while I did nothing wrong, and was completely within my rights to be taking photos, my takeaway is to be more cognizant of my appearance to others. Not only do I need to be observant of my surroundings, looking for the next great shot, I need to be aware of how others might be perceiving me. And if that means not walking down the same path twice in a short timeframe then that’s fine. There’s always another time and another day.

But there is a happy ending to this story. That photo at the top of this article — it was the very first photo I snapped post-confrontation (just after exiting the park), and I happen to think it’s one of my best street shots so far.

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I Don’t Remember, I Don’t Recall, Philadelphia Street Photography

I Don't Remember, I Don't Recall, Philadelphia Street Photography

I don’t remember, I don’t recall
I got no memory of anything at all
I don’t remember, I don’t recall
I got no memory of anything…anything at all

– from Peter Gabriel’s “I Don’t Remember”

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Urban Calm, Philadelphia (Abstract) Street Photography

Urban Calm, Philadelphia (Abstract) Street Photography

Finding your restful spot, a tranquil moment, amid the snarl of the city.

Philadelphia (Abstract) Street Photography

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Ignore The Pretentious Street Photography Critics

Street photography is a snapshot in time, and it captures the human condition as seen through a small rectangle frame. Because this is an artistic expression, street photography critics need to shed the pretentiousness, and instead embrace the artistic vision.

Because the field of view is artificially limited by the lens, the size of your camera’s sensor, and other factors, we are able to make sense of the chaos of the street. The photograph captured by a street photographer can reduce complexity to simple elements, allowing us to focus on the emotion and beauty of the street.

But not every street photograph needs to tell a story beyond the obvious, and not every street photograph needs to evoke an emotion. Yes, some of the best street images do both, but a good street photograph can simply capture the beauty that is a slice of life on the street, and it can serve as a record of how a city or town looked at the time the photo was taken.

So if you are an aspiring street photographer, don’t let the pretentious critics lead you astray, or deter you from your own artistic vision. Street photography is what you make it, and it is not defined by a rigid set of rules created by the self-important. So hit the streets, and capture the things that grab your eye, and ignore the pretentiousness.

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