Friday, April 3, 2009

First steps toward street photography

Let's assume for a moment that you are a little hesitant to try street photography. Perhaps you are worried about photographing strangers. Where do you start?

One good way to get your feet wet is to take pictures of people who will appreciate the attention. One day in Paris by the Bastille metro stop I happened upon a group of skaters doing jumps off some stairs. Their sport is very much about spectacle and showmanship. Each jump is an attempt to impress fellow skate punks as well as the inevitable onlookers—Place de la Bastille is hardly a secluded area. You can tell by the angle of the photo that I wasn't trying to be subtle about my presence. In fact, I was crouched on the ground fairly close to the landing point. I was shy at first, taking a few photos from the side, but soon I realized that with only one exception they didn't mind at all. I caught the attention of the one wary skater (not pictured above). He happened to have the best style and most interesting board, so I approached him and volunteered to send him copies of the photos via email. That was all it took.

If there is a lesson to be learned here it is to start with people who don't mind the attention. Offer to share your photos with them. After all, unless your picture is horribly unflattering (and I highly recommend cultivating a sympathetic rather than a judgmental eye), most people would probably love a copy of your work. Suddenly, your intrusion will have become a free photo session. This kind of quid pro quo is not always practical, but it is a good strategy to keep in the back of your mind.


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