Love some of the new of art appearing in the lanes, spotted this piece in Duckboard lane, it's by an artist who goes by the moniker of #n2o_jo
Another innocuous mobile screen lighting up a face near you or in this particular instance one evening down Little Lonsdale st. I liked this apt description of the word innocuous from the dictionary - Something that is innocuous is not at all harmful or offensive. Both mushrooms look innocuous but are in fact deadly. See more at jmphototours
Taking photos of strangers in the street is a staple of street photography it's very satisfying when you get a great shot but it's probably one of the more challenging aspects of the genre. If you want to explore this area of street and would like to capture images with more than just people doing walk through's from a distance, and you haven't quite had the nerve to get up close and personal to your subjects, start with small steps. One way to get used to pointing your camera at strangers in the street is to photograph buskers, up close not from a distance, I come across many when I'm taking people on my laneway photo tours, yes they're an easy target but it still requires some effort to stand in front of one and fire off some frames trying to capture an interesting moment, it's one little thing but it's all practice and it'll help break down some mental barriers to lifting your camera up to get those elusive, candid street photos that we all love to admire and sometimes if we're lucky, take ourselves.
Oh and don't forget to leave a tip for your captive subject!
Street photography and how to capture those elusive shots, obviously number one is time spent out on the streets, looking for pay dirt (to use a gold prospecting analogy) and panning (photographing) for those elusive specs of gold, also a functioning camera helps a great deal and a willingness to step out of your comfort zone. Street Photography Workshop MelbourneRead More
In his early years legendary photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, famous for his photographs on the streets of Paris would sometimes hide his camera under a handkerchief so he could capture truly candid shots of people and situations, however once when a gang of youths noticed what he was up to he had to exit the scene quickly, after that he decided not to hide his camera anymore, so even he wrestled with the realities of taking candid photos in public places. Much of street photography involves photographing people either directly or indirectly within a larger scene, a question I get asked a lot when giving a talk, taking a photography tour or doing a workshop is how I go about photographing in these situations.
If I think back to when I was starting out in photography and still on my L plates one of my first paying gigs was function and restaurant photography for a company called Happy Medium, the gig wasn’t so hard really if you didn't mind approaching strangers, dealing with lots of rejection and the occasional drunk. So how it worked was they would send me to a restaurant or function, once there I would endeavour to persuade as many couples and groups as I could to let me take their photo, I’d then jump into my car and race to a centrally located lab (a term I use loosely) tucked somewhere down a seedy lane in Richmond to have my film processed and printed. Then with a bunch of heavily vignetted photos under arm I’d hurry back to the restaurant where I would do my best to match somewhat inebriated happy loving couples with their photo in the hope of parting them from a sum of money. When I first started, the high rate of refusal from people had me struggling, no couples on film meant no prints and OMG! no sales, it was a little soul destroying dealing with that much rejection in one evening. One night having returned to the lab from the Hofbrauhaus restaurant with only one measly roll of film containing just 3 couples I was, I admit feeling a little sad and sorry for myself, why was I getting so many knock backs? Across the room was another photographer a dapper little Vietnamese guy, I had noticed in the few weeks that I had been there that he would always return from his functions with large bunches of film in hand bursting with couples, was it something I was saying or not saying. Seeing my grim look I think he took pity on me and came over and asked what was wrong, I told him my story of woe, whereupon he smiled and then gave me some very good advice, advice that I still use today when the situation calls for it, what he said was simple and also a little confusing at first, 'don't ask to take their photo, because invariably people will nearly always say NO it's their instinctive response'. ‘What' I said 'don’t ask, but how could you take somebodies photo without first asking?’, he smiled repeated the words as if to say you work it out, and with that he turned and went back to collect the mountain of prints waiting for him, maybe he was onto something.
I gave thought to his advice over the following week when I found myself back at the home of lederhosen slap dancing the Hofbrauhaus, however this time I had a crafty strategy, as I walked into the main foyer I started triggering my flash hoping the patrons inside, while they couldn't actually see me would see a flash going off and get a sense of something happening, then summoning up every ounce of self belief I could muster I strutted into the restaurant proper, walked up to the first couple and as I raised my camera as I gestured for them to cuddle together which they duly did without question, I snapped their photo and to my surprise and quicker than you could say ‘process this large amount of film’ pretty much every other couple in the restaurant dutifully fell into line and let me take their photographs, it was a lesson in human nature.
I tell this story because it has relevance to street photography, however the restaurant approach is a bit like using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut so you may need to nuance your approach for different situations because, while it is legal to take photos of people in public in Australia (you can read more on the law here) there are still ethical considerations to take into account, particularly if you are focusing in on an individual potentially intruding into a private moment in a public space, say as opposed to an overall scene which may have more than one person in it, I’m always mindful of this and it relies on judgment, common sense and respect for the individual or situation. As photographers we are always chasing that perfect street moment, think of those times when you've been out and come across a scene that you couldn't have dreamt up, you want to capture it but if you ask first and shoot second more than likely the moment will be lost, they'll stiffen up, move position or wave you away. So faced with a choice, you can do the above and possibly lose the shot, keep walking and put it down as the one that got away, shoot first explain later if needed, stand there with camera hanging around your neck pretending you’re not taking a shot when you actually are. It’s a judgement call, I've done and do all of the above. In this scenario when I've taken the shot mostly I'll keep walking, maybe give a gesture or smile if it seems warranted or I may go over and talk to them, tell them who I am and why I took the photo, ninety-nine percent of the time people are fine about it, you’ve just got to play it by ear there are no hard and fast rules, and remember, not everyone is fair game.
But of course, the first challenge is to simply lift the camera to your eye and start shooting! Street Photography Workshop Oct 21
A cry in her voice, a karaoke backing track and a captive rush hour audience, the only thing missing was Kenny G.Read More
Saturdays laneways tour started on a cool overcast morning with a few cracks of blue trying to squeeze through, a group of people were making preparations on the steps of the State library (our meet up point) for a marriage equality protest due to take place later that day. I noted on my way to our meet up spot that a large part of Little Bourke st in China town was blocked off as well as some lanes, so I adjusted that mornings tour accordingly. There's always something going on in the lanes and little streets, often public works are competing with artworks.
One of the things I like to do with the group before we head off into the lanes is to set a small challenge, I tell them to look for symmetry between things when framing an image, look for visual connections in a particular scene whether that be static objects or people, find the balance. In some quarters this is referred to as the rule of thirds, I don't subscribe to this method of dividing up a scene, it's too prescriptive. I believe you have to practice on an instinctive level until it becomes second nature to look beyond the obvious sometimes to the more subliminal elements, ask yourself, is there some kind of connection here? It might be shape, colour, scale or where someone is standing in relation to you and another subject, the scenarios are endless. Don't settle for the first view point, move around in an arc, go in closer or step back and then within your viewfinder compose the shot look for the balance and symmetry, then take the photo. With practice and patience you'll get better at seeing and in turn your photography will improve, and more and more you will see things where once you would have moved on thinking not much was there worth photographing.
Now having said all that, sometimes symmetry is not found within in a single frame but is discovered in a single lane, you can always rely on an artist to cut to the truth of the matter. I took the last two images in this blog in Hosier lane, by luck a shaft of light was reflecting from somewhere up high onto the poster, the subject matter is always topical, perhaps a little more so lately.