Wondering What They See

Look Up While Walking

I often wonder what the subjects of my photographs think when they see me with a camera pointing in their general direction. The optimist in me would like to think that what they see is a creative in action, someone who has somehow managed to set himself free of the daily trappings of the world in order to pursue the higher calling, that of creating photographic art. Wouldn’t that be nice. However, I’m not sure that is the case, or at least not the case in the majority of situations. I have no doubt that for some people, finding themselves on the receiving end of a telephoto lens is the functional equivalent of finding themselves unwittingly facing a weapon. Not that they think for a second that the lens will do any bodily harm to them, but rather that their selection as your subject from amongst the crowd could prove to be somewhat of a disconcerting feeling. Why me? Who is this person? Has he or she been following me? Why is that photographer so fixated on me? We could go on forever with these questions.

What the subjects of our photos may not realize is that in the vast majority of cases, photographing them is a form of flattery, of recognizing their uniqueness in a particular setting or situation. Most serious photographers are extremely selective, and when they pick a person or a place as the subject of their photos, rarely it is with the intention of accentuating something negative. Look at a site like Instagram on any day, and what will immediately jump at you is the overwhelming positive nature of the photographs. This applies to photographers of all kinds, from the casual mobile photo enthusiast to the equipment-heavy pro. And while there will always be a few rotten apples in the bunch, their numbers are absolutely minimum compared with the millions of photographers who are using the their skills to tell a happy story. With their captures what they are saying is that you, the subject of their photographic interest, are special, a key figure in a creative process, and the unique protagonist of a story in the making. The photographer may be insignificant to you, but you are not insignificant to them. In that brief fraction of a second when the shutter clicks, you immediately become an integral part of a larger photographic narrative the world is eager to see, or at the very least, should see.  The photos that will be part of that story will remind people that there is a lot more to the world than their own, limited surroundings.  They will remind them that humanity is constantly on the move in a world that is forever changing.  The photographs, like the great travel narratives, will be part of the living record of society, of its people, and of the places that occupied our imaginations and time. The necessary proof of the wonders and tribulations of the world we all lived in.


Who Was That Man?

Sometimes someone catches your eye by the way they walk, by the way they dress, or by the way they contrast with the scene around them.
Sometimes someone catches your eye by the way they walk, by the way they dress, or by the way they fit into a scene.

I was headed to a museum today to photograph old, Oriental relics for a change.  But as it happens in far too many occasions on my way to a photographic interest, something catches my eye that turns out to be a little bit more interesting (from a photographic perspective) than what I had originally intended to photograph.  It is the proverbial “seeing of a photograph before you actually get to take it.”  So here I was today, standing in the middle of the street while cars maneuvered around me, waiting for this gentleman to fill a little more of my 50mm lens frame.  A quick three-frame burst later I was done and the subject of my photographic inspiration simply continued on his merry way.  Maybe this city is not as hostile to photographers as I once thought, or maybe it was because I was using a Leica instead of a bulky, in-your-face DSLR.  Who knows.  I guess only this “international man of mystery” would know.