I was out for my bike ride this morning when I came across a street fight. I felt 100% comfortable jumping off my bike, grabbing my camera and squeezing off a few (mostly out of focus) shots to capture the action from a safe distance. In the end I think my presence helped break up the fight, but that wasn’t my intention.
Why did I feel so comfortable doing this? Well because the brawl was between a rainbow lorikeet and a raven.
And in that moment I realised I love street photograph – capturing a candid, unobserved moment in a pubic space – just so long as the subjects are birds or animals. As soon as there are people involved I become outrageously self conscious.
What I need to remember is that when I first got a DSLR and a decent sized lens, I felt uncomfortable getting that out to even photograph birds, so with practice and perseverance comes growth and confidence.
I needed to try for a city or industrial portfolio piece recently which took me right out of my comfort zone. After trawling around seeking inspiration I finally came across a scene I really liked, but couldn’t summon up the courage to work it. I came away with a hurried picture that had potential, I think, to be much more that that. I know enough from my wildlife work that once you’ve missed a candid opportunity it won’t come again.
I’ve read up on the rights and responsibilities of street photographers as published by ArtsLaw Australia and it is suprisingly wide open. That means that the inhibitions I have relate to my own innate respect for privacy. There is a quite a bit of discussion on the issue in the public domain, and I’m not sure yet where I will settle.
I know some people who wouldn’t bat an eyelid, and others who would agonise over it as I did. There will be still others who wouldn’t even consider taking a picture of a stranger ever, at all, under any circumstances.
I could have approached the guy on the bench and asked him if he’d mind me taking his picture. He might have said yes, he might have said no. In asking the question I would have changed the moment, I could have worked the picture and then approached him afterwards. I did neither, I took an ordinary picture and scuttled away feeling a little bit guilty.
If the man had had a dog with him, I would have trotted up and asked to take a picture of course. Go figure.
What I will do next time is a question I’ll be exploring this year.