The Magic Frame: On The Street

The Magic Frame
The Magic Frame

This particular post has come about on account of a writing exercise that I did. I was to write on something I do daily. I don’t photograph daily, but I always look for opportunities. So, here goes.

“I photograph often enough, and I have been doing so for years. The manner in which I photograph has changed over the years. In the beginning, I used to just shoot. Then, as I started to ‘see’, I began to look for shadows, shape, light,  texture and perspective. Later, as I took to the streets, I started to shoot people. As I photographed people on the street going about their daily business, I slowly started to interact with them.

During those early years, I would photograph poor people, with the purpose of depicting them as poor people. Misery, is what I wanted to shoot, and depict. I wanted to capture this in all its glorious detail. There was, I believed, a huge gap between the rich and the poor. The rich were happy, powerful, and had no worries in the world. They roamed the world in their fancy cars, walked around in their robes, and strode in the world, confident in their arrogance to rule and manipulate. They were, and to some extent, are still a very boring subject matter for me.

As I look back on some of those early photographs, what I have discovered is that, despite my best efforts to the contrary, the people I shot came across as people with a quiet dignity of their own.

Sure they cannot discuss the economics of a nation, nor can they discuss abstruse philosophy. In many ways they are constrained by their own prejudices and superstitions. However, I have found the same to be true of many rich folk. The difference is, I think, that the people I saw on the streets wear their masks close to their skins. It is relatively easy to see through to the person underneath.

During those early years, my favoured weapon of choice was a camera, with a long 300 mm telephoto zoom lens. I would stand behind pillars and poles and click photographs of people without their knowing it. I still do this from time to time. There is value in this, as it does help me capture a candid moment.

Yet, there is a crucial difference in my street photography of those early years, with my street photography nowadays.  During those early years, I was aloof from the happenings on the street. I stood apart.

These days, I tend to plunge into the maelstrom of life. I squat by the road. I do not apologise for my equipment. Sometimes, I make eye contact and smile. I chat with folk, and listen to their stories. I try and become a part of the daily hum.

There is a big difference in the quality of my photographs when I am aloof, and when I am part of the daily rhythm. When I stand aloof, my photographs lack life. They are flat and listless.

When I am part of the flow, then the camera becomes part of me. I start to enter the zone. Sometimes, a bit of magic happens, and I come alive. “

8 Comments

  1. Brilliant Rajiv. It’s a long journey from being remote and indifferent to being engaged and concerned and in many ways we all travel that road. That road leads to respect. That ‘people have a quiet dignity’ is a very true and telling observation. I hold your viewpoint in high regard.
    Thank you.
    Regards, John.

  2. Great that you are emotionally connected to the people you take pictures of. I don’t take people photos but I would think that would be a great way to convey emotion in a shot.

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