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Friends with cameras

“When I started really getting into photography, I had never heard the term ‘street photography.’ I just knew I enjoyed taking pictures of strangers.” I’ve said those words, or some arrangements thereof, more times than I can count. For years. And once I got into photography online, my head exploded not only with the amount of street photographers, and street photographs, out there, but also with the amount of discussion about it. The discussion carries on in my house, in restaurants and bars: why, does it make sense, is it weird.

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Recently I decided to consult Google about it - what is it exactly? What I found made me laugh. I’ve copied & pasted it below, with some edits.

“Street photography, also sometimes called candid photography, is photography conducted for art or inquiry that features unmediated chance encounters and random incidents within public places. Although there is a difference between street and candid photography, it is usually subtle with most street photography being candid in nature and some candid photography being classifiable as street photography. Street photography does not necessitate the presence of a street or even the urban environment. Though people usually feature directly, street photography might be absent of people and can be of an object or environment where the image projects a decidedly human character in facsimile or aesthetic.

The photographer is an armed version of the solitary walker reconnoitering, stalking, cruising the urban inferno, the voyeuristic stroller who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous extremes. Adept of the joys of watching, connoisseur of empathy, the flâneur finds the world "picturesque".

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The street photographer can be seen as an extension of the flâneur, an observer of the streets (who was often a writer or artist). — Susan Sontag, 1977

Framing and timing can be key aspects of the craft with the aim of some street photography being to create images at a decisive or poignant moment.

(See more on Wikipedia )

Flânerie is the act of strolling, with all of its accompanying associations. A near-synonym is 'boulevardier'. He is an ambivalent figure of urban riches representing the ability to wander detached from society with no other purpose than to be an acute observer of society.”

Urban riches! Haha! I’ve never thought of myself as an observer of society, but ok.

Sometimes, I wish it wasn’t my passion. Sometimes I think that being passionate about some other kind of photography would probably lead me down a more lucrative path, a less frustrating one, one that didn’t involve sometimes feeling like an interloper. But you love what you love! A true passion is like a Harry Potter wand: you don’t choose it, it chooses you.

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Street photography seems to be best carried out alone, not only so that I can focus but also so that I don’t feel like I’m being rude to the people with me, although at the same time there is perceived safety in numbers. Having the padding of other photographers or even camera-less friends alongside me makes me feel less conspicuous as an individual (even if we are more conspicuous as a group). Anyhow, it can be lonely, It’s getting together with other photographers is a challenge, what with the demands of daily life in general. BUT WHEN IT HAPPENS! It’s magic.

Part of the reason is freedom. These people, these lovely friends, have cameras too. Love to photograph. Are (mostly) happy to sit and pose for a photograph. I don’t have to resort to bribery (daughter) or subterfuge (strangers). They understand: sometimes you just need to stop in your tracks. Sometimes you need to wander off. Or stand in one spot for a long time looking and waiting. We all have different visions, but we all speak the same language. There’s a great amount of comfort in that.

Part of my shying away from street last year was not feeling like I had it in me to navigate the reality of photographing someone unawares. There’s at least a touch of sneakiness to it, especially since I don’t like the idea of making anyone uncomfortable. I have a tremendous amount of respect for my fellow humans, and try very hard to exercise that respect even when I’m making a photograph of them without their knowledge. Sometimes balancing my feelings and personal convictions with the energy involved in street photography is too much, and so I gravitate toward making portraits of people who don’t mind. Other photographers are the perfect subject! Interesting, beautiful, understanding, and kind. Friends with cameras. Friends who get it.

Back in March, thanks to a fellow film photography enthusiast visiting Austin for SXSW, I got to spend a couple of afternoons wandering around with a friend/s with cameras. If you’d like to see some of the results of their work, we published a little group article today on the Film Shooters Collective website. They are both talented photographers! Please go check it out.