Saturday, May 24, 2014

There are three little girls next to the buckets of fresh flowers out on the street. Two mothers are talking to each other, oblivious to their offspring who are equally oblivious to them, playing a private game that involves stamping their feet. They are wearing dresses and I already have pulled out my phone, am calling up the camera function impatiently, dying to photograph flowers, dresses and small stamping feet while appearing to be doing something else, which is not so hard with a phone as it used to be with a full-scale camera.

I only get one shot of the little girls, not really the one I wanted though maybe tomorrow it will look better. As I continue walking I keep the camera function operating, and unobtrusively point it towards the people I pass, pressing the button as casually as I can, never sure that I have gotten any picture at all, let alone a good one. I feel a twinge of guilt, taking people’s pictures without them knowing, but reassure myself that I do them no harm, and the fun is too enticing to refuse.

My mother had cameras when I was a little girl and a darkroom in the room nearest the bathroom. I was used to cameras and the light meter she held in her hand before every shot.

In high school I pulled off the shelf The Family of Man, a book of black and white photographs from around the world, mostly of people unaware that they were being photographed. I kept the book in my room, unable to put it back. I loved every photograph, every face – some in pain, some laughing, faces caught in motion.

I took the high school photography class, the first place that felt like my place. I still felt shy there, and could not speak, but I was not scornful like I was everywhere else. My mother let me use her Exacta. I started out trying to recreate photographs I saw in my head, was always disappointed by the results that never matched what I saw inside, and learned quickly that I liked my photographs better when they caught something unexpected.

Still, how to capture people’s beautiful unaware faces in the street? How to get pictures like in The Family of Man? It was scary, pointing my camera in public. I tried stopping people and asking if I could photograph them. That was better than nothing, but not really what I wanted. 

I couldn’t afford a zoom lens and was jealous of my friend who had no trouble photographing gangs in Alphabet City. 

A few years ago it came to me. I started wearing the camera around my neck and just pointing it at people as they went by, taking a chance on what I’d get. And I started to get pictures that excited me. 

And now with the iPhone it is even easier. I never had more fun than I did last weekend, taking these pictures on the streets of Manhattan. 

(And then I kept thinking of more photos I wanted to show you -- made myself stop. But the last 3 are from 2010 in Venice, Italy). 

1 comment:

Heather James said...

Ooh I like these images and the writing too. You were obviously enjoying your day when you took these photos. :)