This last Thursday, along with four other mobile photographers I gave a presentation at San Francisco’s Raykco Photo Center which hosted OpenShowSF. The curated theme of the evenings presentation was about a collection of photographs of narrative in nature and that the collection was accomplished with a smartphone.
Having just earlier in May hosted the EyeEm Global PhotoWalk in San Francisco’s Chinatown, in which I had primarily focused my iPhone on trades people and their customers. I felt I had the perfect series, even though there were plenty of other images from previous visits I could choose from. Besides all the photographs were taken with the new Hipstamatic ‘First Friday of the Month’ release of the Monti HipstaPak, which was just released the day before.
While my subject was trades people, it would still be street photography and with a more narrow and definite focus, I would need to be more intimate with my subjects, while remaining mostly invisible to my subject, as I try to get as close as possible.
An issue for many photographers who shot in Chinatown is that the Chinese do not like being photographed and are leery of government officials incognito collecting evidence of improprieties. While this proves challenging, it is not impossible to capture a few gems.
So this calls for some creative thinking and a technique I employ, is to place my iPhone 4S against the stores window, allowing me to look behind the counter and observe the trade person’s activities. That particular weekend I decided to use two of my OlloClip attachments, in particular the wide angle for greater depth and a wide scope of a small confined area. Depending on the situation encountered, I would switch between the 3-in-1 wide angle and the 2X telephoto with a polarizer, which was also added to the wide angle lens for consistency in color saturation.
Back home, reviewing the days captures, I felt the Hipstamatic lens Sergio from the Monti HipstaPak produced too much of a yellow ochre tint. This would need to be toned down in post production to acceptable levels by desaturating the image, including selectively altering the level of the yellow, while retaining enough color to be considered a color photograph.
San Francisco Chinatown provides many opportunities for a photographer search of a long term project. One can spend days covering the alleys and side streets, including the hidden entrances that may lead one inside an apartment building or behind a building fire escape that takes one to the roof top for a different perspective. Even the space between the other building in the rear and the varied architecture, a mix of Western early 20th Century with Chinese decorative detail and trim. And let us not forget the different markets, butchers and fish mongers, and of course the very inhabitants themselves.
Over the last two years in which I have covered San Francisco Chinatown, I have slowly uncovered some of the layers, the very rhythm, the heart beat of a small section of town, only four blogs long and a handful of side streets.
There are two main streets that run parallel, Stockton and the other Grant Street, two streets that are different as night and day. Focusing primarily on Stockton Street because that is where the Chinese engage in their daily activities and when tourists are not around, it can feel like being in a foreign world of language and sounds.
The other street, Grant Street with its grand entrance gate, is strictly geared for the tourist trade with its souvenir trinkets, most of which is mass produced in China, is piled on top of one another. In the end, I prefer to focus on a culture that has carved out an existence along side other diverse and indifferent cultures in a city of multi-ethnicities.
The other four presenters that evening were; Julie Gebhardt, Bianca Tummings, Petyr Campos, and Erika Rae Langdon. If you are interested in having your work considered check out OpenShow for one in your location and what is being sought by going to their website OpenShow.
OpenShowSF FaceBook page
Rayko Photo Center website
All photographs taken with an iPhone 4S by
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