“..next time, stick around, don’t be afraid to engage with him, in a general way, and if he asks (why are you taking so many pictures), you can tell him its a study of life on the street, and that he happens to be a perfect fit, for part of it.
This way you can build a relationship with him, and trust, and you will get astonishing images worthy of note, as long as you maintain a core vision of how the symmetry of the elements work together in the frame, then your images will fucking explode.”
I also live and shoot in Seattle and have done for 12 years. Seattle is possibly one of the most photographer friendly cities outside of NYC. It is also one of the best places I’ve worked for the most incredible light which lasts for 5 months of the year, and is peaking July to October.
Seattleites are pretty reserved and have become used to photographers, when I first started here there was about 3 or 4 regular downtown street photographers and two more who were both mail delivery people. By about 2010 there was about 15 regulars and now I don’t know.
My behavior on the street is that I walk to my spots with my gear on full view, and I’ll typically scan the scene for a few minutes and then as things appear I will shoot. I’ve recently been doing a lot more video work which involves a tripod and two lenses. I’ve had 2 people this summer stop and ask what I’m doing.
I basically go into a scene with an intent and respectful command, and I will just start working like there was nobody there at all. I’m an exceptionally shy person who has to bring up my reserves of confidence to actually do this at all, and it is even harder when someone stops to ask, but I can do that now and I do it very well. I made my introductions with beat cops, and explained what Im doing by making a half page flyer and handing it out after an introduction, along with my ID. Now they know that I’m there doing my thing, and if I ever get grief from anyone they already have a little background on me upfront.
Very very rarely will someone get huffy about having their picture taken (and usually people get upset if they think they have been singled out) and if so Ill stop, if Im wearing sunglasses, Ill take them off make eye contact and offer to shake their hand and explain that Im an artist and invite them to see what I’m doing. I’ll offer them a business card, a nice high quality card that says, yes I’m serious about this work.
I believe that if I’m going to ‘use’ people as my characters models whatever, then they have a right to know what I’m doing and invite them to be involved with viewing the work. I offer them cards most take them and I very very rarely hear from anyone afterwards, however, I do make a big deal about them going to the sites and looking at the work, to educate them on my ‘vision’ and what I’m trying to achieve.
Basically if you treat everyone that you are shooting, like they are gods, and that you wouldnt, or couldnt, be there, to do what you do, if it wasn’t for them, and you tell them that, then they will have a radically different attitude towards you next time. And it gets passed on to their friends also.
I always give my name first, if there’s a particularly warm vibe at the end of a conversation then you ask their name and offer to shake hands, and the next time they see you, you will get a nice smile or an amazing photograph.
At the end of the day nobody wants to feel as though they are being abused or exploited, and ultimately we as street photographers are exploiting them because they are there. But our job is to be emissaries and educators for our art.
“…the act of thinking thoroughly through a scene and preempting a moment to capture it, comes with experience. The experience shows when is the right moment to take the shot. Because the shot is a legacy of that decision…”
Im happy that this one thing of shooting pictures on film has brought so many people a sense of happiness, but its really not that film did it. Its just a sense of comradery that people need to cling to (myself included).
Film is lovely, yes, and its really made its impact on me and my shooting style changed through the period I was using it, but ultimately its not film that made the growth, its just the excuse that film was that catalyst.
At the end of the day, I shoot my digital cameras just like I did my film cameras, Im fast and deliberate, conscientious and aware of the dimensionality of the scene that I fit my frame around. The medium never really had an impact on that for me, it really never did. I shot a lot of internet famous images on film and because it was an act of wanton refusal to accept the current trend of electronic image making, in the end, the images would have been so close to being identical regardless of the medium.
In the two years I’ve owned my current cameras, which are digital, I’ve put 66,000 images on them which is a mere fraction of the amount of normal digital quota. When you see the camera as a functional tool to make an astounding image then the fact that its film or digital really shouldn’t matter at all.
Originally, I went back to film knowing that Id want to only ever use it like it was as free as air and as fluid as water. So I fired my shutter button as much on film as I ever did digitally. Now I’m back to digital, Im slower than ever, and every single frame I get has meaning and is calculated.