People on the Street

vendadera de china

Originally, I was planning on taking the summer off of blogging and concentrate on photography. The fates were against me. My beloved Mamiya 6MF is in the shop for repair. It will be 2-4 weeks before I have it in my hands again.

The other night I was having dinner with a friend and we were talking about (as usual) photography and in particular photographing people on the street. Many well known and highly respected photographers have admitted that it is a terrifying thing to approach some stranger and ask permission to photograph them. Hiroh Kikai a photographer recently featured at ICP’s Heavy Light exhibition has been taking street portraits of people in Tokyo since 1973 and he admits that each and every time he approaches someone he is terrified.

I was not surprised when my friend told me that she just does not take pictures of people on the street even though she had just e-mailed me and told me of her desire to photograph people just hanging out in her neighborhood. From her comments I could tell that she was afraid of approaching people which is not unnatural.

Now I don’t really take portraits of people although every once in awhile I do, just to push myself and face up to my natural shyness. What I photograph is my perception of the urban environment and people just happen to be in that environment. In the above image I was attracted by the peeled oranges which brought back delightful childhood memories of the Hispanic neighborhood I grew up in. I brought my camera to my eye and while focusing realized the female vendor standing by the oranges. I kept on taking the picture and afterwards walked up to her and explained I was making photographs of Broadway and that her oranges reminded me of my grandfather who would sell oranges on the street when he first came to New York from Puerto Rico. She smiled and I then purchased one of the oranges and ate it as I continued my sojourn on upper Broadway.

In a way I bypass that moment when photographers like Hiroh Kikai decide they will approach someone and ask permission, which is the terrifying part. People walk into the scene I am photographing so in a sense they enter my world without invitation and I interact with them only when I feel it necessary or desirable. Most of the times I don’t say anything but some of the times I interact to be polite and to be more friendly especially in neighborhoods that might not.

I’ll post a few more examples from my Broadway shooting in the next couple of days.


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