flower in the button hole
I am not a fashionable man myself, but I find I’m drawn to fashion more and more as I continue to experiment with photographing people in the streets. I recently read Scott Schuman‘s book “The Sartorialist” and had never heard of the flower in the button hole thing before that. To see a man wearing one on the streets in Denver was fascinating. How many times have I missed this flowery fashion trend on other men walking the streets? The photography of Bill Cunningham of The New York Times is also very inspirational. In his article “Bill on Bill” he writes:
“The problem is I’m not a good photographer. To be perfectly honest, I’m too shy. Not aggressive enough. Well, I’m not aggressive at all. I just loved to see wonderfully dressed women, and I still do. That’s all there is to it.”
That sentiment is shared by many creatives. The constant drive to be better, the self deprecating comments on our own abilities as well as the art we create. It is nice to hear it from a man who has established himself as one of the great photographers of our time. Photographers like Bill and Scott are an inspiration to me, guys who work in the street producing amazing photography, documenting fashion and life. The modern day flaneurs. Recording life in the streets is my passion and you don’t do it very long before you realize that fashion is as much a part of the streets as the grit, grime, and homelessness that saturates American cities everywhere.
In the interest of keeping things even , I offer you this unflattering self-portrait. I turn my camera loose on the people I run across in my day to day life, it’s only fair that I be subject to the scrutiny of the lens as well.
It is my contention that the emotional reactions that I capture have a lot to do with my brusque appearance. I’m sure I don’t always look exactly like this, but I do know that after 4 or 5 hours of shooting in the streets, I grow tired and I wear that weariness on my face.
This is what I love about photography. The fact that even though everyone has a camera and everybody is a photographer, I can still share images that are unique, pictures from the perspective of a cross-eyed man, from the perspective of me. No one’s images will ever look exactly like mine.
Pictures taken from someone who is socially awkward compared to someone who is full of self confidence and has an outgoing personality are going to look completely different. That being said, focal lengths, camera settings, whether you shoot film or digital all have a major effect on our images as well. The point is, each photographer’s vision is unique to them.
I couldn’t bring myself to take the photos of strangers that I do without knowing in my heart that I would be willing to be a subject in someone else’s image. Thanks to my ability to read and comprehend words I know that I am under camera surveillance almost 24 hours a day. Every stoplight, every store I walk into, every fast-food drive through, the ATM, the gas station, the grocery store, city streets, people with camera phones, people with hidden cameras, we are never not subject to being photographed or captured on video.
It’s important for me to know that other people understand my photographs are meant to illustrate my experience in the world. I want to take an unflinching look at the society that I am a part of, but I want to do that while keeping people’s dignity intact. I want to promote human connection. It’s not my goal to hurt other’s with my photos. So I struggle when deciding whether or not to share certain photos.
When I’m photographing people nothing is off limits. However, when I begin processing the photos I try and think about how someone else might feel seeing that image shared with thousands of people. It feels like a big responsibility. The images I decide to share reflect directly back on me. I love looking at the work of Bruce Gilden and Martin Parr, but I often find myself questioning if I could share those type of images as they do. I wonder if they struggle internally before deciding what to put out there.
The world is full of imperfection, and I want to show that. I want to help people understand that somewhere out there is someone that we can relate to, regardless of whatever it is that we are struggling with in our own lives.
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