Living Out Loud

About Street Photography


When I am on the street with my camera I feel relaxed only when I sit down and have a cup of coffee and don't try to take any pictures. The rest of the time I'm borderline miserable. The decision to take a shot of a stranger usually has to be made in an incredible short amount of time. I ask myself and then answer question after question:

1) What do I see?
2) How do I frame it?
3) Am I in the right position?
4) There are a lot more questions but I'll skip to the last one because it's the one that's the most important - Am I going to get yelled at, called a creep, chased or referred to a cop who doesn't care about my legal rights and just wants the complaining party to go away happy? 

Usually I get #4 right. Twice yesterday, I got it wrong. Actually, I'm being dramatic, but just a little. The first time was early, while the breakfast places were opening. An employee carried a sign onto the sidewalk. She was dressed in black slacks and a white shirt. The sign was a black chalkboard with white letters. She was young. African-American and when she saw my camera, she turned her back to me and through clenched teeth said "I'm not for you. I'm not famous" Her body language clearly showed she was NOT OK with the situation. I moved on, shaken up. Later that night a Miller Lite employee running a carnival game yelled at me. That was kind of bizarre. 

I hate stuff like that. It comes with the decision to do street photography. Supposedly the fear goes away. Most people develop a way to deal with these situations and one day find their heart rate doesn't even go up when they get yelled at. I'm waiting on that day.

(Note - I wrote this a while back. I eventually stopped doing most street photography, even though the finished product was my favorite by far of all the genres with which I experimented. I started doing street portraits instead, where I just ask people if I can take their photo, explaining that I'm just an amateur photographer who wants to take their photo because they have an interesting look. Believe it or not, I've never had anyone say no. And, as a result, I have a lot of photos I really like that didn't cause me unrelenting anxiety.)