Exercise: Shooting from the hip

Preamble: the notes suggest watching a video of Eric Kim shooting on the streets with flash. Why, I have no idea. Kim is a terrible example of a street photographer, with an extremely abrasive and invasive style that is the exact opposite of good street photography work. He comes across as a poor man’s Bruce Gilden (someone else who gives street photography a bad name). There are any number of excellent contemporary street photographers that could have been held up as examples: Jeff Mermelstein, Trent Parke, Matt Stuart, Maciej Dakowicz, Melanie Einzig, Jesse Marlow, Ying Tang, Nick Turpin and most likely many others. Highlighting Eric Kim is odd to say the least.

OK, now I’ve got that off my chest, onto the exercise.

Brief

Take some time out to develop the technique of shooting very quickly. You’ll probably produce some very blurred and even disastrous images, but fortunately mistakes aren’t as expensive in the digital age as they were when Winogrand was working the New York streets.

Produce a set of eight images that demonstrate the life and vibrancy of city living. If you don’t live anywhere near a city, choose a spot or a day when there’s a lot going on – the busier the better. If you need to, re-read the safety advice in the Introduction to this course guide.

Analyse and reflect on your final images in your learning log or blog:

  • What makes the successful images work well?
  • What difficulties did you experience?
  • How do you feel about this type of work? Is it honest? Are your images a truthful representation or did you edit the truth in some way, consciously or sub-consciously?

Response

I shot over a couple of days in the city of Nice in the south of France. The city centre and the promenade are the two busiest parts of the city so I focused on these two areas.

To the questions in the brief:

  • What makes the successful images work well?
    • Composition: capturing the ‘decisive moment’ (accidentally, it has to be said)
    • Content: images with ‘lots going on’ seemed to work well in some cases
    • Action: capturing some movement or interaction that give the viewer a sense of the vibrancy of the place
    • Emotion: I was drawn to the images where I caught someone expressing something gesturally as I found myself empathising
    • Incongruity: spotting something out of the ordinary happening (like a man urinating on a palm tree)
  • What difficulties did you experience?
    • No ‘external’ ones such as people objecting; only technical difficulties such as blurry images, until I found the right combination of aperture, shutter speed, ISO – and my own speed of walking!
  • How do you feel about this type of work? Is it honest? Are your images a truthful representation or did you edit the truth in some way, consciously or sub-consciously?
    • I quite like this kind of work, although I recognise that successful  images are hard to come by and it takes patience and perseverance to find the gems; an exercise like this is necessarily contrived as it requires a number of images in a relatively short space of time and so none of these are of the quality that I would normally share
    • It’s ‘honest’ in as much as the images are unposed and are of moments that naturally happened, but…
    • I edited the truth in many ways through the process: I chose what to point my camera at (even when it wasn’t held up to my eye) and when to press the shutter; I decided which images to reject and which to include; and they have been slightly processed (cropped/straightened) for visual effect
    • In summary, they are ‘a’ truth, not ‘the’ truth (if there is such a thing…)

Sources

Howarth, S and McClaren, S (eds.) (2010) Street Photography Now. London: Thames & Hudson.

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