It has been a number of weeks since I wrote about street photography, in part because I am unable to visit San Francisco as often as I would like; a city rich in culture and ethnic diversity, making it a photographers dream.
When I did go last week, it was to attend a presentation given at the Apple Computers store by Bay Area photographer Caren Alpert, on electron microscopic fine art photography. Though I have no specific interest in this subject, the reason for attending was that Apple Computers asked if I would consider giving a presentation on iPhoneography in a couple of months, but first I wanted to see what I would be getting into before making a commitment.
Speaker Ms Caren Alpert
So I came to San Francisco a few hours earlier to walk around the streets, hone my stealth skills and possible obtain a few shots. Deciding for a more challenging environment, I chose to venture into one of the worst areas of the city, known as the Tenderloin, a six by eight block area that is part of the cities downtown. I knew I would stand out, but the desire and drive to enter into a gritty and darker side of life was simple too strong, besides it also offered a most challenging situation for taking photographs.
Apart from having the iPhone ready and set with my favorite street photography app, Camera Awesome, due to its rapid autofocus feature, I proceeded into the center of the Tenderloin, constantly observing my surroundings for possibilities including my safety.
Within half an hour I noticed two men arguing. Moving in closer I watched from across the street. One of them went into the local corner liquor store, while the other remind outside. I figured the argument might continue once the other man would exit the store, I looked around for a strategic place with the advantage of proximity and advantage of light.
Looking around, I noticed that just outside the liquor store entrance was a light pole and mailbox, perfect for shielding me and so there I waited.
Before too long the other man exited the store and upon seeing the other person approached him, shouting loudly and swinging one of his arm and hand at the direction of the other. It was now only a matter of escalation before a physical fight might ensue, but in the end the street light changed and the most vocal person decided to continue his journey back to his abode.
A moment of truth, July 2012 (iPhone 4S)
I remain, hoping for an interesting person to cross my path, having learned that using structure to partially shield myself from the objective target. I did not have to wait too long and with iPhone in hand and ready, the other person involved in the altercation moved towards me, rested his arm on the mailbox, I lifted my arms and without looking at the screen, rather choosing to look at the man himself directly, I captured the image above.
As he started to argue with me, I retreated and told him “You head that way and I shall go that way” in the hope of quickly defusing the situation.
Not all images captured that late afternoon were successful. Most were disappointing, including the ones below, but it comes with the territory of street photography. Still we can learn from the results and make future adjustments for similar situations and though there are no set of rules, there are a few guidelines one should observe for a successful adventure.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Most imperative is ones own safety and knowing the area in which one traverses.
- Locate a spot of advantage and let the subject matter come to you.
- Have any and all sounds turned of your mobile unit turned off.
- Set up the iPhone/smartphone to your favorite camera application
- When stealth fails and confrontation ensues, rapidly assess the situation and retreat.
Previous posts on Street Photography