Sometimes you get lucky and press the shutter button just at the right time. And this results in a great composition within your frame. However, that doesn't happen that often. I'm new to street photography having only tried it at last year's Out of Chicago photography conference. And I don't practice it enough. Occasionally when we are in Kiawah Island, SC, and go into Charleston I will leave the shoppers in my family and walk around the streets shooting images. I usually depend on that lucky happenstance for interesting shots. However, at this year's conference I participated in five different Photowalks in the streets of Chicago in the area of the University Center and that experience has changed my approach to shooting in the street.
The leader of each walk I went on had a different message and his or her own personal approach. Bryan Peterson emphasized finding unusual or interesting images in the ordinary, in the mundane. Frederick Van Johnson encouraged us to pick a theme and look for things in the street that reflected that theme. He then wanted us to weave a story from our images and video clips. Levi Sim likes to approach strangers and ask to take their picture, or "make a portrait," as he tells them. Mike Boening and Derrick Story took us to an old neighborhood of Chicago and challenged us to find interesting shots on the bustling commercial streets of Wicker Park or among its beautifully restored homes on side streets. Molly Porter, a native Chicagoian, gave the most direction as her walk was billed as an 'instructional photowalk.' As a result of these experiences, I got a better feel for the variety of ways one can approach this genre of photography.
Molly works in the area in which we walked and comes out onto the streets with her camera most days on her lunch break. She knows the area. She has her "favorite alley," her" favorite walls." She is not shy. She sees interesting scenes and approaches passers by to ask if they would model for her. She did that with us. There was a brightly covered wall advertising an Art Institute of Chicago exhibit and she had us stop and wait for people to walk in front of it. Not satisfied with what we were getting, she stopped a young lady and asked her to hold her colorful parasol and walk back and forth in front of the wall. And, she did it! Later, there was a young man waiting near the Jackson CTA metro stop and Molly asked him if he'd pose for us. He smiled and changed his pose a few times as a dozen crazy photographers snapped shots of him. So, these images are not lucky or accidental. They are created. But I like them. I like the technique.
Creating an image doesn't always mean you have to ask someone to pose or model, though. We were all standing at the edge of another of Molly's "favorite" alleys and I noticed a young woman standing nearby taking a smoke break. She was wearing a long, greenish skirt and had long hair over shoulders. Kind of "hippie" looking. I took a few shots of her straight on without her realizing it. She then went closer to the alley, turned, and looked down the alley. I took a shot. That's the one I like and the only one of her I shared. You don't know the young lady is smoking a cigarette. No, this is an image of a young woman looking down an alley, an image you can look at and make up a story. This is the kind of image I want to take, or "make," the kind of image that is not just another shot of someone in the street. Did Molly, Mike, Derrick, Levi, Frederick, or Bryan teach me that? Well, not directly, but by listening to all of them, working with all of them, I learned how to take advantage of serendipitous opportunities.
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