The Street Project

We all have a unique vision of the world and photography is such a great way to express your vision. The more you shoot, the more focused and recognizable that vision becomes, a style if you will. But you don’t set out to create a style, your style reveals itself when you get through a volume of work. It’s unconscious and not contrived. Others might see it before you do…you’re too close to your work to always recognize it.

I have been a street photographer since I first picked up a camera as a young kid, wandering the streets of Montreal.

Pic 1 Simon
Mother and Son on Montreal bus, taken with my Nikon FM and 35mm lens when I was 14.

In my experience, one of the best ways to develop as a street-shooter is to take on a project. It helps you to find meaning and purpose in your picture-taking process and you will learn much about yourself while elevating your personal photographic vision.

When working on one story over time—the inch-wide, mile deep approach— it challenges you to see new details, notice nuances, get deeper and deeper in your process. You know what you have which often tells you what you need and where to find it.

When it comes to the project, the idea is everything. Think big. Find that story or theme that inspires you to commit and drives you to work hard, moves you past frustrations, through obstacles and pushes you towards a photographic place of competence and excitement you cannot even imagine when you begin work on it.

If you can’t decide on a grand project, try a short term one first: a person, an event, business; a “day in the life” or portrait series. It can be urban landscapes specific to one block or one city, or other groups of images with a common thread that ties them together, like shooting in the rain.

Rain2

Look for subjects and environments that you’re going to enjoy and have fun with. Access really is everything to maximize shooting possibilities and strengthen the work. Choose a subject that you have unfettered access to. Having a mission or artist statement for the project can help clarify and focus your vision for a consistent point of view, as well as form a framework for future shooting.

Many of your best ideas will come from your own life;  your personal experiences and exploring your connections. Be original, authentic, and true to who you are as a person and photographer when looking for your passion project.

Look at photo books for inspiration. It’s all been done before, do it better; do it your way.

You might pick a project that scares you a little. If your still a bit nervous approaching strangers, maybe a street-portrait project is a good choice. If it moves you from your comfort zone, I find I learn the most and it liberates me from my routine and is very rewarding photographically and as a life experience.

 

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1 Comment

  • I love your photographic style and editing however I strongly disagree with your idea of photographing people against their knowledge. Being in a public environment doesn’t mean we, as people, accept to have our image stolen by a photographer with a purpose. The law might say it’s legal but the human side is different. Okay, you never had bad experiences stealing somebody’s moment and appearance but it doesn’t make it right. I watched your Coney Island photo essay, and although I love the resulting photos I still felt very uncomfortable watching you take photos of people, even the ones who agreed. Their food was getting colder and their non-verbal communication was often off, bothered, unhappy and uncomfortable. Same when you photographed a woman about the cross the street a few inches from her face – she was reserved so didn’t say anything but she looked very uncomfortable and unsure. The moment passed and you got your photo. But I’m sure a lot of people felt violated afterwards, realising what had just happened. And you should think of the consequences when stealing people’s image and moments, particularly the aftermath, once they realised what happened. This is my 2 pence on the subject but I see so many people teaching bad human behaviours when it comes to photography. Be a good photographer, either ask before (even if the photo is not as good as you wanted) or be extremely invisible to your victims. Photographers do what they do for their own purpose, but is should not be done without real care of people’s emotions afterwards. I have been shot this one way once and although I tried to convince myself that it’s okay, I still feel that a moment that belonged to me was stolen from me and that I was violated in some ways even in a public area. Street photographers play with the idea of fast action and quick pressure so people say yes without thinking, then they move on. But please care about how people may feel afterwards, not just their first reaction. If somebody feels bad because of one’s behaviour, then that behaviour should be suppressed.

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