Practice assignment #2 for street photography: Geneva walkabout

1G5A5035For the third and final set of the second assignment to take street photography, I simply walked around Geneva: From Right Bank to Left, across Mont Blanc Bridge and down rue de Confederation, over to Place Neuve, through and around Plainpalais and back again to the Right Bank, ending at Bains des Paquis. I went out several times, sometimes stopping at the train station to photograph people en route and other times just sitting in Place des Nations, at a cafe or spending time at the Geneva farmers market on Sunday and waiting for a moment to photograph. Sometimes I was literally moving when I took the picture, other times I was waiting in the moment, appreciating the calm and seeing it like a form of meditation or relaxation.

I thought a lot about how I approach photography and how it affects others being photographed. Normally, for ad hoc situations that are in the public realm, if I see something of artistic or photojournalistic value and if there is no ethical reason not to take the picture, then I proceed to photograph. If I sense tentativeness on the part of a person, I either shift my focus elsewhere, move on or ask if it is okay (sometimes verbally, or maybe with eye contact for reassurance). I also keep in mind that I can choose not to publish it later if I question it in the aftermath or if someone specifically requests this. Bottom line, I do my best to in any given moment, take measure of my comfort and theirs, and follow through accordingly. There are still many times when all arrows point forward, when I still feel tentative and hesitate to take the shot, perhaps due to inexperience, being in discovery of my own parameters and boundaries, or by some shyness on my part.

What I have come to realize is that my demeanor directly affects how the person being photographed responds. If I am sheepish and unsure, the person I am photographing tends to be suspect. However, when I am calm and friendly, conspicuous but gentle in my approach and respectful, and above all having my own internal sense that I belong there – then on the whole the person being photographed responds positively. I can see these reactions in the body language and expression of the people in my pictures. Such as on my off days, people seem physically closed and colder to me. But when I feel self-confident and relaxed, connecting with the people or the place and being mindful, the outcome is more positive and warm. I also have more fun when I relax into the moment. I engage with people, talk with them, hear their stories, tap into my own enjoyment of photography, and as I go along casually but thoughtfully snap away with my camera. Essentially, I see a psychological framework in photography by the perspective of the photographer and by the response of the individual being photographed. We all have different motivations, convictions and insecurities that are brought out by photography.

Perhaps you will see this psychology reflected in my images for this assignment. Some days I felt off where I did not see creative opportunity, did not seem to connect with people or place, and where I had less success with the camera controls. Other days I felt that I was being received positively, plus also felt good and centered, and normally in this good place my technicality improves too.

As with the other assignments, I used all manual controls, black and white, fixed lens (this time 28mm) with limited ISO, although I took it up to 1600 at times indoors. I am embarrassed to say that I only now discovered how to use my meter for exposure, but this one learning advance has made a difference for me in better premeditating the coordinated controls for ISO, exposure, F-stop to what I want to achieve.

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