Saturday, September 21, 2013

Just Get It: The Street Collective Vol. 1

The Street Collective Vol. 1 is a beautiful, content-rich, 60-page downloadable (free for a "limited time"—I don't know how limited, so I'd suggest getting it right away. I mean, you can't beat free.) book full of inspiration from a variety of street photographers.

I love to hear photographers talk about their work. I know that some people feel that their work should speak for itself—and I get that from a viewer's perspective—but photographer-to-photographer, c'mon, give me something. And that's what this volume does. You get ten very different photographers, each interviewed about their own work. Ideally, I would have like to see even more photos, but I guess that's what the links are for. You definitely get enough to get a clear idea of each photographer's unique style.

Bryan Formhals talks about stumbling into street photography as a cure for writer's block. His thoughtful and unassuming answers to the interview questions are like having a coffee house chat with someone, rather than a lecture. When he says, "I'm very suspicious of my own photographic motivations, though. It's my belief these days that I don't necessarily know what I'm doing" you feel like he's working through questions with you. He's not putting on a show. For me, the underlying message is that we're all just making this up as we go along, and that we should be honest with ourselves about it.

There's an expression "douze Fran├žais, treize opinions" (actually, I'm not sure that people other than me say that, but it sounds right: "12 French people, 13 opinions") that probably applies just as well to photographers. For me, finding a variety of opinions helps me better figure out my own beliefs. For example, in an interview with Julian Berman, the photographer gives the well-worn advice that you need to find your personal style so that you stand out from the rest and get jobs. Clearly, that approach has worked for Berman. That doesn't stop the contrarian in me from disagreeing. I have seen the "style-seeking" anxiety in a lot of photographers, but I think that if you take the long view, that's all just misdirected energy.

From the interview with Lee Jeffries
Denied. Sometimes photographers draw the line at certain questions like "Could you give us a quick breakdown of your post-processing workflow?" Although I would always prefer transparency over the trade-secret mentality, I like that the question and answer are there. It gives you a better idea of how the photographer sees their work. ("I have never and will never purport to be a Scott Kelby or the like." Snap.)

In short, there is a lot of good advice. And free—at least for now, so get going. And if I hadn't recently fallen down the stairs and sprained my ankle in a cookie-related accident (yeah, you heard me right. The cookies of doom that my wife made on Monday. I was mesmerized by their scent and lost my footing. As I lay in pain on the ground, broken cookie tragically in pieces around me, my wife came running and the first thing I said was "Can you get me another cookie?") I would get my butt out there and do some street photography. My favorite. But hey, for now, I can read inspiring interviews while elevating my leg. And eat cookies.