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.
I love and respect all of the people I photograph on the streets. I see you, and I see you in the fragmented moments when you are off guard, unaware, and existing in the space between consciousness and biology.
To my heroes, my street loves; my respect, always.
I’ve been back from India just over a year now, back living in the US and in that time its been a real struggle, both on a personal level and financially.
Looking back on that time, a half-year spent in India, thinking about it and thinking about how much I miss it, and yearn for the Utopian chaos to run through my veins once more.
I have edited my photography over and over trying to extract the essence of the experience. However the personal journey that India was to me, has obscured my objectivity, something that only time can distill.
I have started once again on the editing process, going back over the audio recordings I made, and in doing so, had an epiphany about the work. I realize that I have no choice but to go back to India, and capture more audio, this time with an expanded kit. And to dedicate much more time and effort into making quality environmental recordings.
Audio recordings offer a taste of reality that video and photography simply cannot touch. Where video has to be constructed to make a compelling presentation, and photography provides specificity, and depth, that depth is within just that contextual intimacy.
Audio offers a living reality of time based exploration. Audio treats the consciousness to a wide layered mental vision, one that the mind is intrinsically connected to, there is no learning to listen, whereas there is learning to read photographs.
This Location Sound during the Anup Jalota concert at Pilot Baba’s Ashram camp 2013 Maha Kumbh Mela, Sangam Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh India. I had decided to walk around the sector 9 area where the ashram was located, about 7 miles from the actual main bathing area.
You can hear all of the local sounds, and the far distant sounds of the millions (130,000,000 to be more accurate) of pilgrims who existed at the ‘city’. Headphones highly recommended. Sit back and enjoy the Mela as I did for thirteen minutes.