I am an *awful* street photographer

Every so often, my friends at work and I are asked to give a “creative inspiration” presentation. I really struggled to come up with a topic that would show me (1) trying something I’d never done before, and (2) evolving creatively as a consequence. I suppose I could have talked about how I transitioned from journalism into advertising. But in the end, I settled on street photography instead. With my apologies to the friends who have already seen this …

I’d often wait several minutes for a scene to clear out and be devoid of humans.

Other times, I would include a person in the frame — but only as a visual element.

I liked the resulting images, yet somehow they seemed a bit empty and impersonal.

Then I got to know a handful of street photographers. Among my favorites was a guy who called himself Yanidel.

I adored his images; they seemed so honest and unselfconscious. He had a gift for capturing the very heart of what makes Paris so interesting and vibrant: Her people.

“I want to be a street photographer, too!” I decided. You know what they say …

But my shyness soon got the best of me.

Is it just me, or does the guy on the left look uncannily like Bob Dylan?

This poor puppy was disconsolate about having been left outside a grocery store. (Happily, his owner did eventually return and there was a loud, joyous reunion.)

I loved the way this guy’s tongue shot out every time he pressed the shutter button.

I also loved the contrast between this man’s bold, colorful attire and his dour expression. <<Bah, mais la vie est merdique, n’est-ce pas?>>

As for these two: I knew *exactly* what they were up to. Because I’d done it, too.

Street photography has a couple of basic tenets. First, you’re supposed to only observe and record. In other words, don’t try to change or stage the events as they’re unfolding. Second, be discreet. In other words, don’t get busted!

I was slowly getting more and more comfortable with raising my camera to capture “the decisive moment” …

I started asking my subjects about their surroundings, their opinions, and their lives. Like this clochard, who has three daughters somewhere …

… and this kind crêpe vendor, who hasn’t been home to Pakistan in years …

… and this park cop, who — well, I don’t know what his story was, but he sure loved hamming it up for the camera!

I may be one of the lousiest street photographers in all of Paris, but that’s OK. I found an approach that enriches me as a person, and that makes me happy. In the end, isn’t that the true purpose of any art?


    • Considering that you shoot a lot of bridges along you state’s quiet “blue highways,” you may have to wait for a very long time indeed to capture some human activity! But if you’re indeed inspired to photograph more people, I encourage you to get out there and just do it. I have a sense that you would have a very gracious, respectful approach and that people would respond to you in kind.

    • Isn’t it ironic that the simplest thing in the world — to capture a moment, as it’s happening — can be the most difficult to do well? That’s why the truly gifted editorial photographers earn the big South African rands, I suspect! 🙂 Although it may feel awkward at first to photograph strangers, I highly recommend it (within the guidelines of the local privacy laws, of course). Like me, you may find that it takes your photography in a whole new direction! Cheers to you from Minnesota, Xandré!

  1. You have NO idea how much Yanidel inspired me too. Even now although I’ve seen all the work on his website, I still find myself going there. His pictures is what made me fall in love with Paris. It’s tough being a street photographer and more so in the country that I am living in, (middle eastern) sometimes few get offended and flip out and sometimes I make images like a thief.

    • “I make images like a thief.” Wow … what a great line! I still sometimes feel that way, too — but, like you, I draw great inspiration from people like Yanidel who have overcome that feeling. I’m off to visit your blog and see some of *your* images. 🙂 Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

  2. You have “done it” again! Amazing post! I am blown away with your photographs and captions and how you pulled off the most incredible progression of talent – don’t ever put your camera down! You go Girl! LOVE IT!

  3. I love this. I love revisiting your photos of Paris, some of which feel like old friends. I love the way you have managed to pull a coherent and inspiring narrative from the chaos of creativity. And I love your street photography. So a bit less of the *awful*, please. xx

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