Most people who shoot on the street do so for certain reasons, and we will somehow discover that the motivations and reasons to shoot are very different from one person to another. Similarly, when the photographers attack the street subjects, the way they approach the subjects, choose and how they work with the given photography opportunity would vary. I am very sure many would have this in mind when they saw something they wanted to shoot: "How would HCB approach this subject? What can I do to make this shot look something close to a good street photograph?" Thank goodness that did not really happen to me because I was never a fan of HCB. Nothing against him, I recognize his great talent and accomplishments as an artist, but his photographs just never spoke to me.
Now this is where I believe I am different from many street photographers. I am not even sure if I should call myself a street photographer, but whenever I am on the street looking for subjects, I just looked for subjects that speak directly to me. I don't have pre-planning or that template of what street photographs should look like in my mind when I am out there doing what I do. As I take my slow walk on whatever streets of choice in Kuala Lumpur, I just let myself open to any opportunities, as long as the subject attracted my attention, that subject is worth my effort and time working my camera with. I do not have specific theme or "projects" planned out beforehand, or have anything particular I wanted to achieve. I call my street hunting sessions "shutter therapy", which means, the main purpose of me being out there shooting was purely a form of entertainment for myself, a way to enjoy myself, and have fun while doing photography. Hence, anything goes, really, and who freaking cares if anything I photograph would not qualify as street photographs anyway?
All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Digital 50mm F2 macro lens. Location of shoot: Chow Kit
Toys in Hands
At the corner
Boy with Flower
Facing the road
Not enough hands
The problem with the newcomers to photography these days is the "copying" culture. You buy that local photography magazine, and there is this amazing photograph shown in glorious two page spread, and then the next page there was a long description on how to achieve that shot, with details down to using what lens and camera, what settings employed and with bonus extra, finishing off with the Photoshop tricks and tutorials on the final touch. It was as if a good photograph can be mass-produced, manufactured and delivered to every single tom, dick and harry as long as you can read and follow instructions of easy steps 1,2,3. Everyone is made to believe that photography is easily copied and everyone can do the exact same thing. Now if that particular photograph has been done a thousand times by everyone else, what is the fun of contributing to a multiple clone production? It takes a lot of effort and time to understand what works and what does not, there never is any shortcut or 1,2,3 step by step instructions. You have to get your hands dirty and you have to do the hard work, again and again, going through the process repetitively until you break through and found your answer. Sometimes it takes a few attempts to get it right, sometimes it takes a thousand trials before you finally grasp the whole concept. There is no easy way out.
Another issue I find with many new-photographers, especially those who involve themselves in street photography generally, is being buried too deep into their philosophical world, surrounded by books written by prominent and established street photographers. Then they would go on and rave about certain "style" and "techniques" which made the photographs work wonders, much like what they have learned from the books. Even if those techniques and styles can be rather extreme and go against the norm of photography, it does not matter, because breaking the rules is the next big thing in photography. It gets worse and worse, accepting poor standards of photographs, such as "blur is ok, because blur can be artistic", or "why must photographs be in focus, out of focus can be interesting" or "don't look at your photographs for one year and you will start to think differently". As much as these extreme rules can improve your photography growth, being obsessed with them, not knowing to apply which ones that work and separate the ones that wont suit your own individual style, becareful, they could work AGAINST your photography. Not everything you read on books are necessarily practical or relevant to yourself. You have to do your own experimentation to find out what works. Reading and knowing (you think you know) are not enough. Photography is not about concepts or arguing about the definitions that define good photography. To me, photography is about shooting and producing good images. It takes time to mature, and grow. You will grow, when you spend more time shooting.
One last issue I would like to discuss is how many new-comers to photography are dying in seeking approval from their peers. Art, after all is a communicative medium that demands an audience, even if it is a small one. Being an interactive medium, photography will be viewed and discussed by the said audience. Therefore, this can be a dangerous thing. Some photographers have become obsessed with collecting "likes" and "praise-worthy" comments, when they post their photographs on all sorts of online platform (well it is a digital world now) such as Flickr, 500px and even Facebook. If their photographs received overwhelmingly positive response it would make their day, otherwise, depression and misery would follow if no one cared, or even a single negative criticism was received to slam the photograph shown. I am not too sure if this desease is a new thing in the digital photography world where social media and Internet have become the center of attention of everything, but surely, shooting to please others won't get you that much further. I do not have a Flickr, I had a 500px account which I am no longer active in (after I figured that social networking is the main thing, not photography) and I only share photographs of delicious lunch that I eat on Facebook. The only place I show my photographs freely is this blog, and this blog has become sort of a visual diary for myself, documenting my life and important events that happened around me. In this blog, you cannot click "like". In this blog, you cannot comment individually on the photographs. This was the perfect place for me, because my readers do not have to say anything if they don't want to, yet at the same time, I know, there are people reading and viewing my photographs (thus fulfilling the need for an audience in photography). And if someone decided to give criticism and comment, they usually have something important to say, most of the time it is something very useful, sometimes things that I never realized or saw in the first place.
I think it is very important to be yourself when you shoot. Show yourself through your photographs. It does not matter if the photographs you took does not resemble anything else out there or look like whatever they are supposed to look like. Being yourself means putting a part of you into your photograph, and that shows your identity as a human being, something that people will be able to recognize you as they look at yourself through the photography work that you show them.