Tag Archives: fear

Reality Distortion Through The Lens Of The Local News Broadcast

In (“Is Street Photography A Violation Of Privacy, Or Ethics?“), I touched on the topic of how local news has immense influence on our perception of security and safety in modern society. Maybe I’m not giving people enough credit, but it seems to me most are suffering from a severe case of reality distortion, a result of seeing the world through the lens of the local news broadcast, or cable news, or any other ratings-driven news outlet.

As the saying goes, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

It’s not enough to inform people, that’s a quaint idea from a bygone era. News has to grab your attention, then scare the shit out of you. Rinse and repeat. Have you ever really stopped to think about what we label as “news”? When you watch your local news broadcast, especially if you live in or near a major city, the first 10 minutes is almost always awash in stories of shootouts, murders, armed robberies, fires, and car accidents. Meanwhile, the rest of us in the viewing area, in other words, everyone (99.9%+) not affected by these (yes) isolated events, get to “learn” about them because somehow this will teach us something, or help us in some way. Really? I mean, why do we accept that these types of stories are “news”? They are the same violent stories every day, on autorepeat. Is this a public service?

I believe this daily reinforcement of all that is bad in society, without proper context and understanding that these are the exceptions, not the norms, is harmful to our collective mental health. At the very least, it plays into our fears and anxieties, making us believe the world is a more dangerous place than it actually is. And in turn, this impacts the policies we support, the politicians we vote for, and so on.

For anyone who regularly questions societal norms, it is obvious much of what we call “news” in 2014 is nothing more than a spectator sport, and a violent one at that. It’s not that you can’t find real news or journalistic value in your local half-hour news broadcast, but most of the stories reported during the first half of the program are not representative of the city or town the broadcast originates from. Even in the most violent areas of a city, people go about their daily lives, working, providing for their families, and they are not consumed with crime and violence every step of the way. I’m not making light of the crime that does occur in these locations, and the innocent people it effects, I’m simply trying to put things in proper context and perspective. Even in the most dangerous locations, most people are decent, law-abiding human beings, and in any of these neighborhoods, you can find people doing good deeds and making a difference for their community. But that’s not a compelling enough story, and it ain’t gonna pay the bills, so instead, let’s hear about the 100th murder this year, because that’s serving the greater public good, right?

Posted in Deep Thoughts, Humans Being, TV Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

6 Things I’ve Learned About Street Photography (So Far)

Sidewalk Circulation

Here are 6 things I’ve learned about street photography (so far). I present them to you, the aspiring street photographer.

  1. Stand Still — As you walk the streets, its easy to become overwhelmed by all the potential photography subjects. When you start to experience sensory overload, find an interesting background, or simply a street corner, and then stand and wait. Your subjects will come to you.
  2. Click the Shutter Anyway — There will be that voice in your head telling you that getting this shot might be awkward and uncomfortable. Push yourself to raise the camera to your eye and click the shutter anyway. Passing up these moments makes capturing the “decisive moment” all the more elusive.
  3. Shoot Wide — Don’t be afraid to shoot with a wider lens. It might be tempting to use your long telephoto lens so that you can stay far away from your subject, and possibly go unnoticed. While there’s nothing wrong with using a long lens if you are going for that specific aesthetic, the experience might be less than fulfilling if you are a fan of classic street photography from the likes of Joel Meyerowitz, Garry Winogrand, or the master himself, Henri Cartier-Bresson. Ideal street photography focal lengths are 28mm, 35mm, and 50mm. If you are still apprehensive, start with 50mm, which will allow you to stay the furthest away from your subjects, then graduate to 35mm. But all rules are meant to be broken, that is, assuming you have a good reason to break them. Just don’t let fear be one of those reasons.
  4. Avoid Eye Contact — Okay, this one will be controversial, and there will be some who will give you the exact opposite advice. I’m not saying you need to avoid eye contact or socializing in all situations, but if you are after true candid photography, it requires you to take photos without permission. Most people aren’t going to confront you, but that possibility will always exist with street photography. To help ease the process of capturing candids and avoiding confrontations, try to make it appear that you are looking past your subject. One thing you can do is keep your camera raised to your eye after taking the photo, pretending to shoot something that is just past your main subject. This works best if you are using a camera with a viewfinder (especially DSLRs), but it can also be accomplished even if you are composing your shots with a LCD screen (you just can’t hide behind the camera).
  5. Look For Conversations — I find some of the more interesting street photography photos (see above) in my collection are street conversations. Look for two, three, or more people congregating and conversing, particularly if they are oblivious to their surroundings, and then move in to get your photo. It might be helpful in this situation to have your camera in continuous mode so that you can snap off two or three captures.
  6. Use A Prime Lens — Related to #3, I highly recommend you use a prime (fixed focal length) lens, or alternatively, set your zoom lens to a focal length and leave it there. I can’t tell you how helpful this has been for my street photography. It really helps you to see your shot before you lift your camera when you know exactly what your field of view will be. In this case, using a prime lens is less about optics, and more about simplicity, and that’s why a zoom lens is fine, as long as you can discipline yourself not to actually use the zoom capability. Pick 35mm or 50mm and stay there. If you are out for a couple of hours, maybe shoot 35mm for one hour, then shoot 50mm for the second hour.
Posted in Street Photography, Tips, Techniques, Guides Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

The Introvert’s Guide To Street Photography, Dealing With Fear

Okay, maybe that was a bit too audacious a title. Because this isn’t really a guide, as much as it’s an honest assessment of my social awkwardness in the process of embracing street photography. And notice I said “dealing” with fear. I find you never really get over fear, at least I don’t, but you learn how to deal with it, and put it in its proper place.

I’m not really a people person, and I’m most definitely an introvert. I’m not a person drawn to social situations. In fact, I actively avoid them. But I’ve always been an observer. I’m endlessly fascinated by people, what they do, what they think, how they interact, and I think this is why I’m so drawn to city life in general. Even though I’m an introvert, the fact that people fascinate me is why it makes perfect sense that I got into photography, because it’s yet another way to observe the human condition.

But there’s just one problem, until recently, I mostly avoided photographing people. So how can an introvert start photographing the human condition? (light bulb moment) Ah ha! Street photography! It’s kind of interesting actually, and it is something I find amusing, that it seems even some of the most outgoing people are intimidated by the idea of photographing strangers on the street, yet here I am, Mr. Anti-Social out on the streets, doing just that. And I’m not going to tell you that I’m somehow immune from intimidation, but for someone like me, who is very much social phobic, but who nonetheless wants to photograph people, the street suddenly doesn’t seem so intimidating, especially if I’m ever to fulfill the need to observe and capture the human condition.

But don’t get me wrong, it took me years to get to this point. And even now, I need to talk myself into it. I need to psych myself up. I don’t know if I’ll ever be fully comfortable with it, but maybe being somewhat trepidatious is actually a good thing, as long as it doesn’t completely shut me down and stop me from doing what I love doing (once I’m doing it).

So if you want to get out there on the streets and get those candid shots, I don’t have a formula for you to follow. I don’t have a 7-step plan for how to psych yourself up. I don’t have a magic set of words that will put you in the right mindset. You really do just have to stop thinking, then stand up, then grab your camera, and head to the nearest town center or city and start taking photos. There’s no other way to get there other than to just start doing it. It will be intimidating, it will be awkward, and in fact, you might just face a confrontation or two, but you will also experience a natural high, and a fulfilling satisfaction of doing what you want to do, even when you weren’t sure you could.

Posted in Deep Thoughts, Photography, Street Photography, Tips, Techniques, Guides Also tagged , , , , , , , |