Take a glimpse of the street you are standing on. What do you hear? Now close your eyes and cover your ears. What do you see? That’s right. You can’t hear or see the pulse of the street with eyes and ears open, but you can now feel the life of the street you’re standing on when your eyes and ears are covered. Let me explain…
You instantly become a sleepwalker the moment your feet step onto the sidewalks. Unconsciously, you do things everybody else does. You walk, you act, you photograph—like a zombie. You don’t give yourself enough time to listen, to watch. You’re too busy to capture the moment yet you let the unseen slips away.
Street photography is no longer an art. You’ve turned it into a racing game.
When was the last time you wander down the streets just to watch life strolls by? Had you ever spent a moment to wonder what would this place look like 10 years later? Would the same street vendor be there? What would happen to that coffee shop on the corner?
No. You’re too busy to capture the moment. You let the precious street life slipped away. How could you?
Whenever I set out for street photography, I set out alone. I don’t even take my dog with me. I want to be alone with the streets. I want to hear it talks to me. I want to spend my time looking at it until my brain soaks up with light, shadow, color, and laughter. I want to understand the street life. I want to see the beauty and the ugliness sides of it. I want to document the special aspects of the ordinary spheres. I want to photograph the unseen moments of human conditions rather than chasing after the meaningless street appearances.
And I want to do all that with my own vision.
Today, street ‘togs come from all sectors. They’re doctors, accountants, lawyers, waitresses, cab drivers; only a few are purebred street ‘togs. That is the beauty part of street photography. Every street ‘tog has his own perceptive vision. The ugly part is that everyone must rush in and be somebody but himself. They try hard, too hard, to be like Zack Arias, Alexander Richter & Eric Kim. No one bother to acknowledge the hidden values inside them.
What can be wrong when a doctor photographs the street with his trained medical vision? Or an accountant approaches the street from his financial perspective? What stops them from applying their own specialties to street photography?
A cab driver spends his day looking at the faces of his passengers in his rear-view mirror, that’s his perspective; uninvolved and unobtrusive. Although he can only see his passengers partially, yet he is so close to them. Let just say you’re his passenger, would you take your time to observe your cab driver with the perspective of a passenger? Or you rather lift your camera as a street ‘tog and ask for a picture?
The beauty of street photography takes root in the chaotic life that occurs in front of our eyes. As a street ‘tog, you don’t take pictures to see how your subjects would look in your photos. Your mission is to reveal the stories that others failed to see. You need to observe your subjects with their minds and in their perspectives to understand their stories. Then you tell the true stories using your own creative perceptions.
Be authentic—especially with yourself.
Arias, Kim and Ritcher are prominent idols who conquered the streets with their charms and styles, but look closely. Has Kim tried to be Ritcher? No. Their styles are different. They’re authentic. Even if they share the same common techniques of speed, discretion, composing, they’re different from one to another. That is the key that makes them stand out from the rest.
You, as a street ‘tog, should make an effort to discover your own perception. You need to throw yourself into the middle of the chaotic and imperfect streets, stay focus and develop that perception to the fullness. Find a corner and shoot it a thousand times until your eyes see the unseen. Until that corner reveals its secrets to you.
Now, you’ve become a true street hunter.