Of Hunters And Romantics

While photographic micro-scenes are everywhere, it sometimes takes a lot of work, and patience, to find them.
While photographic micro-scenes are everywhere, it sometimes takes a lot of work, and patience, to find them.
A totally-relaxed woman reads the newspaper front pages at the Newseum in downtown Washington, DC.
A totally-relaxed woman reads the newspaper front pages at the Newseum in downtown Washington, DC.
An obviously tired woman catches a catnap at the National Gallery of Art's courtyard.
An obviously tired woman catches a catnap at the National Gallery of Art’s courtyard.

Just about every street photographer you talk to these days is in pursuit of that elusive, candid moment when people are just being themselves, oblivious to anyone around them.  The less romantic interpretation of this search has been equated by some to a “hunt,” which I guess alludes to a photographer’s self-perception as a chaser of some sort, always at the ready with a camera and with the index finger on the trigger (or shutter release in this case).  Conversely, there is also a somewhat more romantic version of this street photography process.  This particular version (which we will call romantic for lack of a better term) alludes to the search for endless, small moments of human expression which take place every day in every city around the world.  At its core it refers to the desire to look for these fleeting moments in order to capture them in a photograph for all humanity to experience.  These different artistic approaches have lately left me wondering whether they are nothing but mere “distinctions without a difference,” or whether the street photographers who fall in either one of these categories are indeed different creatures practicing different forms of photography.

Arguably, a hunt conjures notions of finality, of a limited lifespan with a discernible beginning and an end.  At some level it implies that the relationship between the photographer and the subject is that of a pursuer and prey, with the final moment of capture crowning a day’s achievement by the mere act of having completed the capture.  What’s more, it would appear as if any talk of a hunt places the photographer at a different playing field as that of the subject of the hunt, as if referring to different realities that by definition have produced two very different, and distinct characters.  One is a chaser, the other the object of a chase.

In contrast, the romantic photographer doesn’t see the world this way.  For him or her it’s all about evoking human emotion in perpetuity, a desire to share what unfolded before his or her eyes for only a brief moment in the endless continuum of time.  These special moments are as random as they are unique, with only a split second decision standing as a stoic arbiter between moments that will be forgotten by history and moments that will be frozen for eternity.  That incredible visual zenith in an unfolding scene is what they live for.  For them, that “moment” like no other–the never-again visual second standing between immortality and oblivion.  It’s dramatic briefness renders it almost impossible to record on a regular basis, but the seemingly impossible odds will never stop the romantic street photographer.  On the contrary, they are the source of his or her passion–a passion which most will define by a handful of incredible “moments” captured over the course of a year out of the tens of thousands of photographs taken and thousands of miles walked during that year. Crazy? Perhaps, but not for that incurable romantic with a camera.

So next time you go out with your camera in search of those special, human moments that will visually reward you for the rest of your life, consider whether you will approach them as a hunter or as a romantic.  Will you just watch a scene unfold before you from a distant, vantage point, or will you make yourself part of that scene in order to feel the pulse and rhythm of the human drama taking place right before your very eyes.  Whatever you do, it bears remembering that you, the photographer, is what matters.  The camera is merely the equivalent of a painter’s brush, an instrument by which to translate your creativity onto a canvas that others can see.  In the end, it all boils down to the tireless pursuit of that short-lived moment in a scene when your eyes, your camera, and the strumming beatings of your heart line up in perfect harmony.  It is as rare as seeing a comet, but just as rewarding.

 

Napping In America

While most Americans frown on napping, it appears that the so-called power nap is alive and well in America.
While most Americans frown on napping, it appears that the so-called power nap is alive and well in America.
A population on the go will nap wherever they can, even if it is on hard surfaces on a city park.
A population on the go will nap wherever it can, even if it is on hard surfaces on a city park.

Do you nap?  If you are like most people, you probably won’t admit to it, even if you secretly grab a “z” or two throughout the day.  For some reason, the old siesta trend has never taken much of a hold in North America.  Coffee, mid-day power walks, and slacker phobias make sure that this doesn’t happen.  Where Europeans and Latin Americans see rest, people in the good-old USA see laziness.  Not that a little rest nap is less needed in the USA than any other place in the world, but rather that in the name of über-productivity, you are not getting paid to doze off while on the clock.  Oh, sure, you can chat all day at the office and waste time like the best of them while getting paid, but napping?  Just forget it.  But as these photos show, sleeping in public places may be a new, socially accepted trend in America.  For the modern worker, this could be a much-welcomed development.  Going out for lunch can now be combined with a quick power nap at a park bench.  No park benches where you hang out?  No problem.  Any flat, solid surface will do, as the only requirement seems to be that the surface be uncomfortable (which will send the message that you are not trying to get too comfortable).  Knee up or knee down?  I would recommend knee up because it conveys a more dynamic pose, which implies that while you are flat on your back, you do intend to get back to something productive soon.  Who knows, this may just be what you need to move your career to the next level.  What level will that be?  That I’ll leave to you to find out.

To Look Or Not To Look

Perhaps people are not invisible when stepping outside as they would otherwise think.
Perhaps people are not invisible when stepping outside as they would otherwise think.
Then again, the notion that everyone is always noticing what we do could be highly overstated.
Then again, the notion that everyone is always noticing what we do could be highly overstated.

We have to sometimes wonder whether it is best to be noticed when we are out and about, or whether it is better if no one ever pays us any attention.  After all, some of us do spend a little bit of time color coordinating, placing the hair just so, and making sure that there is not much out of place before we venture into the open world where self-anointed fashion critics lurk around coffee shops and sidewalk restaurants to mercilessly critique our threads and the way we wear them.  OK, I’ll admit that this is a bit overstated, but hey, that’s the way it feels sometimes.  Of course, I must admit that I’m using “yours truly” as a point of reference, which is all I’m an authority at, and that most of you out there are quite the head-turners (in a good way, that is).  But be that as it may, the point is that while some people do deck-up so that at least someone notices them, other folks couldn’t care less about the unwanted attention.  That’s a pity, because being noticed reminds us that we are alive and that we are part of the great human story of our times.  So go out, strut your stuff, notice and be noticed.  Take it all in, because these will be the memories of your life.