Spring started in February, and I was itching to get outside. I made a trip out to Annapolis on my own one afternoon to simply shoot whatever. It was fun interacting with the random people on the street, and I quickly got into a “pop-up session” groove. I’ve never been a big fan of the exploitative aspects of street photography, but have always enjoyed working with strangers when I can win their cooperation. It makes sense that I’d feel that way too. As a teenager, I had a certain loathing for humor and exhibitionism purely at someone else’s expense. For example, I hated when my friends would do a drive-by shouting—you know, where a bunch of teenagers drive past a pedestrian and shout something they think is funny, and the pedestrian looks confused (I’ll admit, I was guilty of this a number of times in pursuit of my peer’s approval). I also hated the TV shows that pushed people’s buttons just to see what they’d do, and especially when the intention was just to make them mad; like, almost everything descending from the Jackass franchise.
On a side note, Tom Green was the first and last one to do the “pushing people’s buttons for fun” schtick well. If you can’t tell the difference between “what would happen if I pour a milkshake on this guy?”, and “what would happen if I built a mobile smoking box and carried it into non-smoking restaurants and tried to smoke in it in the restaurant?”, we are probably not meant to be friends.
Anyway, I’ve always felt a little gross after coming home from a street shoot filled with photographs of people unaware they are being framed, and interpreted, and turned into a message. Certainly, there is some kind of importance to that, but I’m pretty sure about 95% of it is now just exploitation, self-centered hack-philosophy and like-farming.
So, when I approach the street with a camera, I look for people I think will be amicable to a quick little portrait session experience. I approach them, and I ask them whether they would like to collaborate with me in this small way. And, I always promise to send them the images, no strings attached, if they choose to email me—which they sometimes do, and which sometimes turns into an unlikely friendship. I’m fond of my approach because it requires I exercise respect for, and give dignity to, someone I have no knowledge of, or obligations toward, whatsoever. It also scratches my social itch to meet new people and experience something about their world.
Let me give you an example from this past month. One of the people below didn’t speak any english, and another one was completely deaf. In both cases, the challenge for me as a hearing, english speaker, was not in seeing or taking the photo, it was in thinking about this situation from their perspective as best as I possibly could so that they would want work with me and also so that I would be able to make them look like best versions of themselves in that moment. I think that’s an extension of how I see my place in the world—-I want to lift people up and help them make the biggest impact they can. And indeed, I do want to end up being lifted for doing that. Eventually, somehow.
After my first outing, I decided I’d make a concerted effort to repeat the practice each week for the month, and the weather was more than permitting. I had company on a number of those days. My new friend Brian Tagalog came along on a couple of days, as did Erik, Felipe, and Jef from the Petruzzo Photography crew. At the end of the month, these were my favorite shots. Some, in part, because they have the more polished look of a full session from what was perhaps 5 minutes at most. And some because the interaction was really genuine and memorable.
In keeping with my promise not to identify any of these folks, I won’t share anyone’s story here. But I hope you enjoy the photos.