What is street photography?
To me, ‘Street Photography’ is anything that is random in the public areas. My subject is preferably elderly human beings and candid. But I also shoot anything that appeals to me, such as cute animals or antique stuff lying on the streets.
I don’t know why I like taking pictures of random strangers of the streets, especially elderly people. Perhaps the aesthetic feel? Perhaps I am interested in the story behind them? The history, the hardship they went through when the world had just recovered from instability? Or maybe I want to emphatise with them?
Honestly I have no idea. I am still searching for an answer. Or maybe one day I might just get sick of snapping elderly and start to adore children or plants or buildings. Because once upon a time, I liked taking pictures of buildings (architecture photography). Now I find it boring.
Do people like being photographed?
Since I like my subjects to be candid, I need to take pictures of strangers. Once, I was out for lunch with my parents in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. Basically, most parts of Malaysia is like Hong Kong, except much less cramped, the old streets that have never been renovated or rebuilt since the 60s. I am attracted to such scene. Most importantly, there was many people. It’s a good time to take street photography!!
While waiting for my lunch, I started pointing my film camera at people around. Then my father reprimanded me. He said I was wasting the film and people do not like me taking their photos. My mother said the same thing to me previously. She doesn’t understand why I like to take pictures of strangers.
Yes, it is true that people don’t like a stranger to randomly point camera at them. If I put myself in their shoes, I would feel awkward, too. I would feel my privacy is being invaded. If I don’t know what street photography is, I would feel offended if someone just kept pointing their camera at me or right in my face.
That is why we need to be skillful in taking street pictures discreetly. My Master, Keith, can do it. His tips for me are:
- Be natural: Don’t behave like you are taking pictures. He said I hold my camera like I am taking a picture. So he demonstrated, while he did it, I didn’t even know he had taken my picture -.- Be natural, sounds easy, but it definitely needs a lot of practice and experience.
- Experience. He has been a photographer for more than 20 years. He said when you are very familiar with your gear and lenses, you know the range or the area your camera can capture. This means you can frame your shot beautifully and accurately without looking at the LCD or viewfinder. You can place the camera at your waist, chest, at the side and shoot.
Yes, candid human-based street photography is challenging. You risk being scolded, yelled or even physical assault if you were extremely unlucky and messed up with the wrong people. If you are determined and love what you are doing, I believe we all can overcome the challenge. Who knows, one day, shooting without looking at the viewfinder might become our second nature?
Just don’t give up. As a saying goes ‘It is easy to set up a business, but it is extremely difficult to maintain it‘.