A Street Photographic journey is like photo-walking on a busy street, it is most of the time confusing. The chaos of is just everywhere. Everybody goes somewhere, everyone speaks somehow, everything is in the state of why. It also reflects the state of the community of Street Photography itself. Everybody has something to say. Some say this and some say that. As the daily bombardment of photos that had greatly reduced SP’s originality of vision and that radical authenticity, – one could easily get lost in this journey, it is best to carry a set of principles.
Stephen Covey had put it beautifully in his masterpiece:
”Principles are like a compass. A compass has true north that is objective and external, that reflects natural laws and principles, as opposed to values are subjective and internal. Because compass represents the verities of life, we must develop our value system with deep respect for “true north” principles.” (page 94, Principled Centered Leadership 1992)
I read Principled Centered Leadership when I was still managing a furniture factory in the mid-1990’s and it somehow glued to me. Principles are proven and enduring guideline for human effectiveness. Since I see shooting Street Photography as documenting the journey of one’s life, I must have a compass so I will not get lost. A principle is a motivating force, it is an idea that is also considered as a vital element to a process. Applied to creating Street Photographs, Principles are key characteristic that separates a mere technique approach (background-fixing, geometry, silhouette, puddle reflection) which loses its luster in time, compared to a Principled Process that promotes the sense of what values the photographer. A process that brings forward the brand-in-effect, that identifying mark of individuality of the shooter. Using a principled approach when shooting will bring out the best in you. Clone proof. Personal Vision.
Radical Authenticity without even trying.
The Four Principles that would boost the way you create your Street Photography are the following:
1. Perspective– The way you look at things.
2. Intuition– The impressions, meanings and patterns of what things are like.
3. Editing– The way you choose and select on what is important.
4. Scale– Relationship of Parts to the whole.
We begin tackling these Principles on how we look at things– Perspective.
Leonardo da Vinci knows this not only by heart but by practice. He even specifically recommended this to his students and “perspective”abounds in his paintings, even in portratits. With a keen eye, you know that the last Supper and La Gioconda was made by how he look at things. He had that Perspective, how he saw that everything connects to everything else.
“There are three aspects to perspective. The first has to do with how the size of objects seems to diminish according to distance: the second, the manner in which colors change the farther away they are from the eye; the third defines how objects ought to be finished less carefully the farther away they are.”
Perspective could be articulated in the following manner:
1. TECHNICAL perspective, the leading lines, vanishing points, picture planes etc.
Technical Perspective is the basic Form of most photos. Usually people who understand and apply this well, creates pleasing to the eye photographs. Isolation is a perfect example of one-point perspective. Stanley Kubrick uses this well in his films- one line, one focus. Even Leonardo da Vinci in his Last Supper depicts a one-pont linear perspective. It is also the basis of an effective Layering. If one can see where is the vanishing point is and the point-of-entry and the exit, it is a valuable lesson to learn.
2. Philosophical Perspective– worldviews that define the nature of the world, the individual’s place in it, and the possible relationships to that world and its parts. It is your kind of Vision on why, how and what you shoot.Philosophical Perspective is the thing that make your stamp. It sets you apart from the rest, Without it you are just a copy cat. Beauty contestants are trained to have an advocacy. It is their PERSPECTIVE of what Beauty is. Without it, it is just another gathering of pretty people. So what is your philosophy?
3. Psychological Perspective which provide a foundation for learning and instructional theories.It is our interaction to one another. The sphere of influence. The movement. The culture. Most of the time this is looked in passing but it greatly influence our SP. In this social-media age this perspective sets what kind of photo you have.
“Indeed, in the world that Yabao sees, there’s no need to exaggerate, no need for hyperboles. He simply captures life as it is. The magic lies in the way he sees beyond what is ordinary, as it happens, when it happens.
And at that exact moment, between dimensions and split seconds, Yabao freezes the time. The result is a visually stunning moving world captured in a huge backdrop of truth and magic realism, of fantasy and reality, of the daily grind and its parallel universe.
Because he wants to, because he can, because he sees and because he is wide-awake even when he is sound asleep.”
Now we go to what is usually unseen, that Feeling. The-You-know-it-is-there.
Trusting your intuition can produce iconic street photographs. It is the surprise.
Paul Sills, the legendary theater Director puts eloquently when he once told The New York Times:
“There is no technique. You just need a little respect for the invisible..”
In intuition, we pay the most attention to impressions or the meaning and patterns of the information we get. We are interested in new things and what might be possible, we think more about the future than the past. In it we like to work with symbols or abstract theories, even if we don’t know how to use them. We remember events more as an impression of what it was like than as actual facts or details of what happened.
(reference: Looking at Type: The Fundamentals by Charles R. Martin (CAPT 1997) )
Thus, using this principle in shooting Street Photography we shoot what and when we feel there is something in it. Just like shooting hipshots for example, when we produce a photo with very admirable quality of light. We did it, because we know it is there. Shooting without looking and we produce a magnificent photo that have a kick-ass Layering of Subjects. We go down-down to a very low angle shot and we get a very good juxtaposition, arranged like you peeped-in your view finder. To use this, a photographer must fine-tune himself to his intuition and forget more about what the person read and saw.
I like to illustrate in this light, the works of Xyza Bacani whom I met four years past to this date. Having conversations and the usual exchange of photographs, during the raw days, I say that her shots are like theater , not much of a technical shot, it is a feeling. There is that beautiful rawness in it, a kind of hunger for images, a reality of the moment that can only occur with spontaneity.
This is the best way to put the best foot forward. Photo editing is like decorating a room, you know it is done when you can no longer take something away without it being missed. Here your sensitivity to the essence of subject matter is the utmost imperative. You decide among a set of photos expresses the core of the situation or event. You let go of the others, so The One will shine. It is in Editing where your judgments demands a Why. Interpretations depends on reasons. Because without reasons, it is not beneficial to declare something is good or something is bad, you need conclusions that are founded on established or accepted standards or ideas to support it. Evaluate. So if presented, interpreted photos, like judgments depends on how well or poorly they are argued.
“photo editing is the entire process of selecting photos from the photographer’s take, cropping them, determining, or at least influencing, their use on the printed page…. Photo editing begins when you press the [shutter]. You should be thinking about the needs of the story and the photos you can make that will tell the story best” (p. 210). Photojournalism: Content & Technique (Greg Lewis, 2nd edition, Wm. C. Brown Communications Inc., 1995).
1. Define your viewers
2. Go and gather all photos that speaks to you. Do not hold back
3. Narrow your Selection by removing repetitions or duplicates.
4. Spare yourself from the emotional attachments. Go for founded reasons.
5. Get feedback.
6. You will know your best ones if you edit ruthlessly.
I remember my brother Jayvee who was my shooting buddy until his untimely demise, would always carefully shoot what to post or share. He would choose what to shoot, camera in hand, but never pressing the shutter until that perfect moment that suits his vision. Then he would spend a great deal of time, reviewing his photos. Looking at them, back and fort, back and fort. Evaluating what could be easily read by his viewers, then looking at them back again. He has his reasons which he kept for himself, but were effective enough for others to grasp from his photos. He had his trademark, which he achieved in editing. He always put his best photo forward.
Here in I also learned that Editing too are your activities. Your Street Photography activities. Choose only what fits you. Post only where there is wisdom in critiques and prudence in appreciation.
This principle gives the person looking at your photograph a frame of reference. Scale is often an under-utilized technique in photography. In fact many beginners in photography will even go so far as to remove people from a landscape photo thinking people in the image detract from the view. As humans we need scaled to know how large and small the surround world is. In photography it helps us to enjoy the image instead of adding mental work to figure out the size of various elements. Scale do not only communicates to our viewers how big a scene or subject actually is, it also conveys the values or the hierarchy of the subjects we choose.
“Look at photographs and consider the size of elements in relation to each other and in relation to the frame.” (p209. “The Visual Toolbox: 60 lessons for Stronger Photographs” – David duChemin)
And yes Scale does not speaks only about your photos. It also speaks about the amount of time and effort you give to your Street Photography in relation to your life. Your big picture is the story of your life. Is it balanced? Is it in proportion to your priorities?
Rommel Bundalian have this admirable principle. In his photos and in life. I remember our photowalk in Bonifacio Global City, where we produce some iconic shots , and I was shooting layers, and we were really estatic about what we were doing, I gazed some of his photos and I see he had this sense of man’s relationship to his environment. In life as a Fujifilm Ambassador, he is aware of his place, yet he understands the scale of it in all humility.
Now pick your metaphor!
that Radical Authenticity