The summer holidays are drawing to a close, the children will soon be back to school and slowly my mind has begun to wander back to the streets. It's an exciting thought, but it also makes me just a little nervous...........excited, nervous, thats good right?Now when you think of New Zealand, you no doubt think of crystal clear lakes, stunning mountain ranges, long sandy beaches and you'd be quite right to do so. But go to the cities, go there and walk the streets with your eyes wide open and they are like cities the world over, they are a diverse melting pot of cultures and characters and as I discovered last year when you shoot the streets anything can happen.
8 months ago, if you'd have asked me what I thought of Street Photography I would probably have said "It's not real photography" thats how dismissive I was of it as a genre. It took just a morning, a morning when I was at a loose end for something to photograph that I decided to give it ago. I realised the potential almost immediately, an ever changing environment, the chance of the unexpected and the buzz that comes with it, I was hooked from that moment.....
Now I shoot my street from the hip, often I'm not even looking at my subject at the time I press the shutter and I think this can lead one to believe they are almost invisible, but people notice cameras regardless of where you hold them. I never really gave a second thought to the "what if" scenarios that could potentially unfold, my "No Dogs" featured image is an example in point, at the time I'm pressing the shutter this guy is telling me to "F**K OFF", fortunately it amounted to no more than that.
Love Nuckles - Fuji X100 f/4 ISO 200 1/1000 Sec
In this image I was drawn to the guy's appearance, I'm sure you'd agree he looks quite menacing. When your observing people and their behavior the subjects one is invariably drawn to are what I'd describe as "characters" they stand out for one reason or another. It's true that once you've experienced negative reaction it can be quite difficult to take a shot like this, but I try to put that to the back of my mind. In this instance we merely passed each other without incident.
Happy Hour - Fuji X100 f/2.8 ISO 320 1/900 Sec
This shot was taken with the camera to my eye, why, because I was asked to take the photo. It's 11.00am and clearly not too early for a drink, the guy has shouted me over, again he noticed the camera. The girl on the left gets camera shy, he's very "happy" for want of a better word and the girl to the right, well she's not so happy..........no harm done but another example of a situation that you wouldn't normally find yourself in.
Hardcore - Fuji X100 f/2.8 ISO 320 1/250 Sec
When I look at this image now, all I see is the missed focus and the over exposure, there is however more to this shot than that. I'll be honest, when I saw these two approaching all I was thinking about was getting the shot, the shot that in my mind had the potential to be superb, photographically I blew it, but thats not the story. As they walked past me the guy with the "Ta Moko" or facial tattoo makes a grab for the camera and me, fortunately I'm able to fend him off. There's a verbal exchange and he proceeds to follow me around for 5 minutes, it's mid-afternoon in a busy city centre and the camera, once again has drawn the kind of attention I can clearly do without. A little shaken I continued to shoot that afternoon, it was not until I downloaded my images that I noticed the "claw" on the other guy and thought about what could have happened. Is there a lesson to be learnt, I don't think so, it just pays to be aware of what could happen.
Bus Stop Buddies - Fuji X100 f/4 ISO 320 1/800 Sec
It's the day after the "Hardcore" image incident, different city, walking the streets. I see these two guys down the road and figure there's a shot to be had. I have to say, this was difficult, confronting your fears and asking to take a street portrait can be hard anyway, asking another Maori guy with a full Ta Moko, a guy that looks more than a little like the one that tried to mug me, well it was a big ask of myself. Anyway your looking at the image, I confronted my fears and they kindly obliged, restoring a little of my faith.
There is no magic formula for getting the shots you want and keeping safe on the streets, I think you really just need to be aware, an awareness that quite naively I did not initially have.