Human Backpack

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I shot this about 10 days back and in doing so broke one of my personal rules (as opposed to one of the rules of composition). That is, don’t shoot people from behind without a very good reason.

Why not, you might be wondering. For a couple of reasons.

Firstly, Facebook and Instagram of already chockablock with street photography images of people from behind. If your goal is to add to the noise rather than create something actually fresh and interesting, then I can’t think of a better way to produce mundane, done-to-death images than photographing the backs of people.

Secondly, it’s a very lazy way to produce street photography. One of the biggest challenges with creating great street images is finding the courage to point your camera at people while facing them. It feels invasive and rude, to be honest. But the cornerstone of great street photography is the capture of interesting faces and expressions in the crowd. Hard to do that when you’re shooting someone from behind, right? The only way to get over this fear is by forcing yourself out of your comfort zone and practising pointing your camera at people. Each time you engage the shutter and photograph a person from behind is a missed opportunity to practice shooting people from the front. You’ll never improve as long as you keep shooting the backs of people in the street.

By adopting this personal rule, coupled to my other rule of not using a telephoto lens for street photography, it left me with no other choice than to get past my shyness of sticking my camera in strangers’ faces. I’m still shy about it, mind you, but not nearly as much as I used to be. And using a wide angle prime forces me to get up close and personal, rather than standing back at a distance and zooming in.

Now, with all that said, there are times when perhaps shooting someone from behind works. It comes down to the subject matter. Maybe the person has a funny or poignant slogan on the back of their t-shirt, for instance. Photographing this person from the front, in this example, means missing that slogan on their back. In this photo above I liked the way the mom was holding her son as she piggybacked him across the street. A photo from the front wouldn’t have done it justice. Even then, I wasn’t sure if this shot would ever see the light of day, since I’m waaaaay more critical of my shots of people from behind than with shots that capture their faces.

So in conclusion, I would suggest you try to refrain from shooting people from behind unless you have a really strong reason to do so. Even then, once you’ve taken a “from behind” shot, review it later with a critical eye during the post processing stage. If you still really think the photo works, then maybe it’s a keeper. But assume most shots from behind are not, and you’ll be safe.

This is only my opinion, of course. As always, your mileage may vary.

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Nike Airs

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When I approached this homeless guy he was sound asleep outside a derelict storefront. At first I thought to shoot the whole scene, which would offer up more of a story. Instead, I shot only his shoes and lower legs, which tells no story at all.

What it does do is offer up a healthy dose of ambiguity. When it comes to single shots I think it’s a bit of a waste of time to worry about trying to tell a story. Storytelling in photography works best when you present a photo essay (3 to 15 photos) that leads the viewer down a path and in the ends suggests the story the photography wants to tell. A single photograph just won’t cut it when it comes to storytelling; at least most of the time. Obviously there are examples when it can strongly suggest a story, but mostly street photography tends to be random, candid moments that really don’t tell much by way of story.

The best street photography, in my view, is usually ripe with ambiguity. The ambiguity in an image invites the viewer to ponder what’s going on and in the end come up with his/her own story in an attempt to resolve the ambiguity. Of course it has to be a pretty compelling image before the viewer will feel inclined to think about what he/she is looking at. An image that’s ambiguous yet relatively boring will only make the viewer ask, “What’s going on here, why am I even looking at this,” before moving on to another image. No one wants that, right?

Had I shot the entire scene with the homeless guy sleeping outside the storefront, the resulting image would have left nothing to the imagination. You’d understand what’s going on immediately, feel a little empathy and perhaps sadness for the guy’s situation, and be done. With only his feet showing in the image, it makes you wonder about the rest of the scene. There’s content but no context. Any sense of story lies in the context, not the content.

This sort of thinking and style of shooting lends well to street, but would be a failure if one was shooting documentary photography. With documentary photography the goal is to provide enough visual information that the viewer understands what he’s looking at and why. Plus, documentary photography is usually used to augment the written word. Street photography, on the other hand, sometimes works better without words, or even a title. Let the viewer’s imagination run wild rather than try to contain it with words, is my thought.

Anyway, hope you enjoy this photograph. My move is finally complete and the old house closes tomorrow, so hopefully I’ll have more time for photography now.

 

 

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Legs

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Shot this at Dundas Square Saturday afternoon. Seemed odd to see a tourist bus with a poster of legs on it, and buddy sitting there with one missing. In street photography we call that “juxta” (short for juxtaposition). Hope you like it.

 

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I wanna hold your hand

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Spring is in the air. It’s always heartwarming to see couples holding hands. Hope you had a good weekend.

I’ll start posting again more regularly come July, once I’ve finally cleared out my old house and completed my move downtown.

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Young Love

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She notice me taking the photo and gave me a big, sweet smile. Such a cute moment.

Sorry I haven’t been posting much of late. Been very busy trying to get my new place all dialed up for the big move. I’m hoping to move in next Wednesday. I still have to sell off everything in my house. It’s all so time consuming. Anyway, won’t be long now.

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Puppet

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I shot this on Queen St near City Hall late March. If his sign doesn’t encourage people to contribute I don’t know what will. He’s actually an articulate and intelligent gentleman. He doesn’t like using shelters because he’s been robbed too often in them. I don’t understand why we build shelters that are unsafe for people. Anyway, hope you like the shot. I specifically waited for the bus to fill the frame behind him.

So I sold my house and am moving downtown. It’s a major downsizing for me. My new space is less than a third the size of my house. I’m selling everything I own and starting new. By moving downtown I’ll be a lot closer to where I spend most of my time. But man, talk about anxiety inducing. I have so so much to do and sell. Thankfully the closing is June 28th so I have plenty of time to get organized. Already sold off a handful of items. Lots more to go. Wish me luck.

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Storefront Chef

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Shot this about a week or so back at Kensington Market. They make Japanese style pancakes at this place. I’ve yet to try it but it sure looks good.

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Mind The Puddle

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Got out for a good walkabout downtown in the rain today. Noticed this big puddle and parked myself waiting for everything to come together. Cars would drive through the puddle but with no people walking by. People would walk by it with no cars splashing through it. Finally after like 10 minutes all the elements converged and the photograph was made. It’s all about pre-visualizing your photograph and then having the patience to wait for it to come together. Hope y’all have a lovely Easter long weekend.

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