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.


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