“Stay humble, stay low
Know you’d rather see me die
than to see me fly.”
-Christopher George Latore Wallace
A.K.A Biggie Smalls, A.K.A. Big Poppa, A.K.A. King of New York
The popular term these days is “Street Photographer”, but really I consider myself more of a flâneur. It isn’t as popular of a term, nor does it garner as much attention as the term Street Photographer. The term seems to create some confusion as to what it is that constitutes Street Photography. Is it photos of actual streets? Do the images have to be black & white or color? Should we only take super close shots, or stay further away? Should we use film or go digital? There are many opinions and ideas about what makes an image fall into the category of Street Photography.
I like what Susan Sontag writes in her book On Photography:
“The photographer is an armed version of the solitary walker reconnoitering, stalking, cruising the urban inferno, the voyeuristic stroller who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous extremes. Adept of the joys of watching, connoisseur of empathy, the flâneur finds the world “picturesque.” —Susan Sontag, On Photography, pg. 55
This quote accurately describes how I pass the time most days. I walk for hours and hours, hang around on public transit lines, and go the long way on purpose. I try to get lost in the city, to get sucked into the center of it all, alone in a crowd. That is why photographing in the streets appeals to me. I’m color blind, cross-eyed, painfully awkward and shy, but not when I’m holding a camera. When I have my camera, which is always, I make about a thousand times more eye contact then I would if I didn’t have it. It makes me super aware of my surroundings, almost to the point that it makes me a little paranoid, like everyone is watching me.
The camera is my best friend. I like to wander the streets and breathe in life, observing everyone and everything. So I guess that makes me a flâneur, and I like that term, so I’m just going to own it. As for what Street Photography is I have always considered that to be in the eye of the beholder. Street Photography is the result of passionate photographers carrying on a tradition of photographing candid images of people in the streets, if the frame doesn’t include a human being it falls into the category of Urban Landscape. That’s just my opinion, and if you have been a photographer for very long you know that fellow photographers can be super critical, to the point of being cruel. Photographers like that might be more strict on what they consider falls into the genre. I’m not like that.
I hate labels for photography almost as much as I hate how we always seem to have to come up with a snazzy name for every subtle difference in music. Electronic music has something like 12 different sub-genres. It’s confusing, I could never tell someone if I was listening to breakbeat, dubstep, garage, Hi-NRG, Eurodance,Techno, or trance. I’m just like hey check out this cool song with this awesome beat. Music is music, and photography is photography. Why get hung up in all the ridiculousness. Always remember the K.I.S.S. method: Keep it simple, stupid.
I think that photography in general should be open source and we should all try and educate those who aren’t yet privy to the wonders of the craft. Photography trolls who rail on and on about how everything is so cliche and spend most of their time bitching about how much they hate everyone’s photography so much should just shut their mouths and take some more pictures. Show the world what good photography is by showing us a good photograph, not by pointing out how everyone else’s work sucks so much.
Somewhere along the line, I got lost in this post. I will end it like this: If you are kind of a loner and maybe a little bit quirky in the eyes of others, grab a camera, any camera, go walk around your neighborhood and just observe the world. You can learn a lot that way, and it’s a great excuse to get up off the couch and experience life.
tuned in to the birds
pecking away at the street
buzzing by my head
“Often people ask what I’m photographing, which is a hard question to answer. And the best what I’ve come up with is I just say: Life today.” William Eggleston
“who journeyed to Denver, who died in Denver, who came back to Denver & waited in vain, who watched over Denver & brooded & loned in Denver and finally went away to find out the Time, & now Denver is lonesome for her heroes,” -Allen Ginsberg, Howl and Other Poems
I walked around the city for a few hours today. The sun was bright and high in the sky, which alters the colors of everything I see. I donated some clothing and food to the Denver Rescue Mission, but my attempts at gaining access to photograph the inside of the mission were rebuked. “Pictures are Taboo,” he said. “Get permission from admin,” he said. Frustrated, I asked him why. He just kep repeating the words admin and taboo.
So I walked away and turned my attention to the grafitti that the area is seemingly covered in. The River North District is bursting with color. I return here frequently to browse Denver’s street art scene. the landscape stays the same, but the colors are constantly changing and found in abundance. In these alleyways, among all the spray painted walls, and chemical smells, and original creations from the brains of amazing human beings, I find solitude. I find peace. I find a quiet moment to contemplate life. I could roam these alleys for days, but the responsibility of parent hood tugs at me to get back to the car, to cut this trip short so I can make it on time to preschool for the pick-up. I don’t have ten bucks to pay the late fee if you don’t pick up your kid on time.
“Writers are socially observant. We find people endlessly fascinating, and real life is mysterious. Sometimes it’s hard to stop staring at the strut and squawk of my fellow man. They can be quite inspiring. Sometimes it’s hard to stop talking to them to see what in the world they’re thinking.”
“Bushido is realized in the presence of death. This means choosing death whenever there is a choice between life and death. There is no other reasoning.”
― Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai
I love this piece. You can find it on Colfax & Dahlia in the Park Hill neighborhood.
“The Bookshop has a thousand books,
All colors, hues, and tinges,
And every cover is a door
That turns on magic hinges.” ― Nancy Byrd Turner
Rock Bottom City
a portrait of homelessness
human in distress
“Bleak, dark, and piercing cold, it was a night for the well-housed and fed to draw round the bright fire, and thank God they were at home; and for the homeless starving wretch to lay him down and die. Many hunger-worn outcasts close their eyes in our bare streets at such times, who, let their crimes have been what they may, can hardly open them in a more bitter world.”
― Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist
I think of the homeless often, because I am surrounded by them on my daily wanderings throughout the streets of Denver. I have heard the argument that it would be wise to avoid photographing the homeless because you are somehow exploiting their plight for your own personal gain. I take this into consideration while I am out photographing in the streets, but I just cannot ignore the feeling I get when I come across a homeless person. I am overcome with the urge to photograph what I see as interesting, colorful, ordinary or out of the ordinary, the truth and reality. If I choose to ignore what I see as real, as something that is a problem, what kind of person would I be?
If all I ever shared were pictures of the beautiful people, the ones with the most interesting fashion sense, the ones that are juxtaposed in amusing ways, the ones who stand out in a crowd for whatever reason, that wouldn’t be reality either. I want to share my reality. I don’t want to leave out any of the gory details. For those that think I would take a picture of a homeless person for personal gain, you are right, I am looking to better myself as a person, contribute something to society by raising awareness, and feeling better about myself as a human being in the process. I don’t make one dime off any of my photography, and I am in fact deep in the hole financially because of it. I always tell the guys that carry signs on the corner, that they should probably be lending me some money. I am unemployed, I know for a fact those guys make more than me!
The best way to help: http://www.denversroadhome.org/
“Peace begins with a smile..” ― Mother Teresa
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