Monday 26 June 2017

Getting Caught

“A photograph, which cannot contain all that swaggers on the eye, 
can at the same time reveal what the photographer did not see at the time.”
- Teju Cole, Blind Spot (New York, 2017)

I have sung the praises of Teju Cole in previous blog posts. The photography columnist for the New York Times Sunday Magazine, he has just released Blind Spot, a collection of photographs and accompanying commentaries. His photography, similar to his writing, is cryptic, insightful, and crackling with intelligence. Appropriately, I bought the book in Manhattan last week.

Bill and I were in New York for six days: Bill to take a quilting workshop and me to practise my street photography skills.

As I become more interested in street photography, especially the people who are on the streets, I realize that I keep holding myself back, fearful that I will offend someone by photographing them in public – and fearful of being caught. So my personal challenge last week was to push past those fears and simply click away while wandering the mean streets. The fear was still there, but it didn’t keep me from recording an engaging collection of human faces. (See last week’s blog posting.)

What keeps amazing me, however, is the number of times that one of my subjects ‘catches me in the act’ without my knowing it at the time. It is only later when I download the images that I realize, ‘Oops! Caught again!” As Cole says, a photograph can reveal what the photographer didn’t see at the time.

With this is mind, I went back into my collection of photographs over the past four years and found photos where, despite my efforts to remain anonymous and invisible, I had indeed been caught. These photos are not comfortable for me to look at, but they do have power, even if it’s the power to make me squirm. I offer them to you, not as examples of perfect photography, but as examples of photos that have LIFE in them.

Street photography – and anonymous photography of people in public – is very much a work in progress for me. And I’m still afraid of being caught, just not enough to stop doing it! As always, I welcome your feedback.

In the meantime, enjoy!

Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto

Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto

University Avenue, Toronto

Dundas Street West, Toronto

Harbourfront, Toronto

Remembrance Day Ceremony, Belleville

VIA Station, Belleville

Luna Park, Sydney

Martin Place, Sydney



Brookfield Place, Toronto

Canadian Pacific Holiday Train, Belleville

Wednesday 21 June 2017

Humans of New York

“I’m a believer in the ordinary person, that the ordinary person is just as important and has an equally unique perspective on the world as someone who is famous or perhaps more privileged.”

“The great thing about New York is that if you sit in one place long enough, the whole world comes to you.”

- Brandon Stanton, American Photographer and
author of Humans of New York (St. Martin’s Press, 2013)

Brandon Stanton is one of those mega-watt characters who illuminates the world with his talent. His specialty is creating extraordinary images of ‘ordinary’ people. He started out with people in his native New York City and then spread the franchise around the world. Have a look at his website here. He is an inspiration to street photographers everywhere, including me.

Last week, I had a chance to practise my street photography skills in Stanton’s New York City. Bill and I spent six days in Manhattan – he took a quilting course while I wandered around Manhattan and Brooklyn with my camera. We both had a great time!

The term ‘street photography’ covers a lot of territory, from architecture to everyday urban life. The key to street photography is to record the spontaneous moments that life presents you with. The more invisible you are as a photographer, the better. Blend in, observe, use your peripheral vision, and have your camera always ready. The technique I used in New York was simply walking along the busy streets with my camera on silent mode resting against my upper chest. I just pressed the shutter whenever I saw someone interesting ahead of me. Because I wasn’t using the viewfinder, I didn’t know if I was recording anything worth looking at. I made hundreds of images – and deleted most of them later. Many of these deleted images featured feet or second storey windows; many more were terminally crooked, despite having a bubble level on my camera. Many more were blurred. But about one in thirty photos really had something to say – a slice of humanity that had a story to tell. Glorious! As a photographer, I found the process to be thrilling.

The photos that follow are offered with a sense of gratitude and humility. I thank these unnamed, unwitting people for their visual energy. The photos are not always focused or straight. But they do have an energy to them.