So did Gordon Parks. So did all of those New York photographers in the post-WWII era who roamed the streets, letting their cameras dangle at their side, using what I call The 30 Shot technique to capture the lives of ordinary people around them and proving that neither they nor their lives were ordinary.
In those days, people looked around themselves, they engaged themselves in the world around themselves. In many photographs from that era, the subjects look directly into the camera, which makes me suspect that very large ones drew people’s attention.
Today, people on the street do not engage themselves in the world around themselves.
They absorb themselves in their own.
This is not a nice thing to do to second-rate hack amateur photographers such as myself.
How does a second-rate hack amateur such as myself capture The Decisive Moment as described by my boy the HC-B (Henri Cartier-Bresson, or however he spelled his name) where no decisive moment exists for the capturing? These next three pictures took less than 30 seconds and captured scenes no more than 50 feet apart from each other.
What the heck is interesting in these?!
Cell phones have not become the photographer’s friend, they have become our enemy. Sure, it feels good to know that when you need a camera you already have one, and yes, the best camera in the world is the one you have in your hand right now. The trouble is that cell phones, especially the ones smarter than us, make our potential subjects less interesting because their faces look downward, you can hardly see them..
Look at these two.
Yes, they are friends, yes they are together, and yes they are hanging out with each other on a perfect weekend afternoon in the Upper Haight, but are they really together, are they really hanging out with each other–or are they hanging out with their phones and treating each other like accessories?
See what I mean?
Never mind that people nowadays do not present themselves as ideal subjects for random street photographers–even if that does pose problems for second-rate amateur hacks. They live in of the most interesting cities on by far the most interesting known planet in the universe (know anywhere else you might find chocolate ice cream or a duck-billed platypus or chocolate duck-billed platypus ice cream?)–and yet they do not live in suitably interesting fashion.
Missing out on the world in which they live means more than just missing out–it also means almost getting themselves killed. Yesterday I espied a woman who walked into Market Street traffic against the light and nearly walked into the bus taking me home from work. She had no idea that cars swerved around her, and I strongly believe she never saw nor sensed the 50 foot long bus into which she nearly walked.
Come on people. Put the phone down.
And smile. I might be taking your picture.
Vonn Scott Bair