The Picture That Changes Everything: the Pleasant Madness of Street-Photography part 4

4: The Glimpse

There’s the world surrounding the subject, there’s the energy of the streets. It’s part of a story we will never fully know. The Street-photographers tries to capture this part of the story inside the flash of his camera. It doesn’t always work, the focus might be wrong. The eye must receive the necessary information in less than a second. The eye must feel compelled to take a closer look. If this happens, the photograph is good. It should capture the viewer immediately. There is just something, even if its a photograph of something mundane, that captures their attention. If this does not happen, if the viewer loses interests within seconds, the photographer has failed the story.
Imagine a movie, a dramatic scene of dialog between two spouses who are on the verge of getting a divorce. The actor must the emote the tragedy of the screen, the connection is becoming lost between these two people. The chemistry must be there, but if you take a still picture of that scene, the body language must confirm the content of this scene. Image them looking away or looking down, or looking at each other with wanting and desperate eyes. If the still is at the wrong moment, this information might be lost. Timing is everything.
One must remember though that there is always something interesting going on, even in the mundane moments. It’s just that not every moment is as picturesque. A war-torn country has a lot of energy, I’m not saying that everyone can make beautiful photographs there, but you are bound to make some interesting ones. There’s a greater victory in capturing normalcy, making it look beautiful. You wouldn’t notice the old man reading the newspaper, but the Street-photographer saw something and now this old man is something special. Now you begin to wonder about the old man’s story.
Often times The Street-photographer never really knows if the picture will work. Sometimes they are so sure that they have something special but when they look back, it’s not there anymore. The angle was wrong, the ISO was too high, the shutter-speed is off or they simply missed it. They were simply too slow. They missed that one precious second that would have made all the difference. Other times The Street-photographer manages to make a picture that at first, didn’t seem that noteworthy but when they look through the collection of the day, they realized that they have something much more than they had initially thought. The caught the energy, the subjects come alive. They have more of a story than they had initially presumed. We often don’t know we have a story until we actually look at the photograph.
They forget that the shutter catches more than you think. There’s the story of graffiti in the subway and as the Street-photographer pushes the shutter button, a lone human lighting a cigarette is getting captured inside the flash as well. Both the graffiti and the human become one subject, one whole story or two sides of the story; the history of the graffiti- the city perhaps- and the history of the lone man. It doesn’t matter how shitty the graffiti art is or how seemingly unassuming the lone man looks, if you capture it right, you catch part of an interesting story. There’s a wonderful book of Polaroid pictures, Colors, The Polaroids by Dennis Hopper, which, as the title suggests was made while he was scouting for locations for his gang-land drama Colors. Looking at the vast kinds of graffiti in L.A., he understood there were stories behind these paint sprays, it enamored him, he needed to make pictures of this- besides being an masterful actor and director, he was an equal master photographer. He understood there were stories there, they deserved to be seen. He captured not just the atmosphere of the streets but the mindset of the youth and artists who left these messages on these walls.
The first time I really began to get serious street-photography, I started with makings numerous pictures of trash such cans of energy drinks or cigarette butts, whatever you could think of that would be lying on the street, and many, perhaps rightfully so, laughed at me, ”why is that guy making a picture of that can of coke?” one pedestrian said to her partner as they passed me. Irregardless, I felt there was something there, though at first I couldn’t explain exactly why. I guess it could be subconscious, you more you let yourself be free with your art, the more you reveal of yourself. Often times I’m writing and suddenly veered into a subject that was dear to me, even though I wasn’t planning on it. It’s about the imagination then, if you make the art vague enough, the viewer/reader might interpret it in their own way- perhaps the pictures of trash by Mr. van Dijk represents the our carelessness of the environment! Art needs to be personal, not just to the artist but to the one that enjoys it. Even if it isn’t personal to the viewer/reader, he will make it personal. An artist often times doesn’t know why he’s drawn to one direction. He just feels there’s something there and so he needs to go there- same as how this article went.
It’s the little things, if you can capture the little things, the bigger things come easier. A shattered beer-bottle might have been used during a fight, perhaps if you look close enough, you would see some smears of blood. This was a battle between two brothers, the story of Cain and Abel resurrected in the twenty-first century. All these examples are props for the seemingly mundane yet complex stories. Just like artifacts of an ancient past, we wonder about what we are seeing, we research and we can only image about its users. These props were used while these subjects were contemplating great things. A little moment might evoke a greater truth. A simple moment captured between two lovers on the streets can be considered everything, making a picture of them sharing a piece of pie might be even better than seeing them kiss on the streets. The kissing might evoke youth, the beginning sparks of a promising romantic relationship while the sharing of the pie, might evoke comfortability with each other, a deeper intimacy between the two- if you made a picture of them together in a private hotel room, you would see one of them laugh as they smell the fart of their significant other. If you made a picture of the plate where the pie was eaten, with the fork laying on it, some crumbs still left, you would catch part of a story. The story might be more clear if the couple were in the picture, but the glimpse of their story is there. Remember: it’s always about the glimpse, the street-photographer will never get the full story, the writer may but never the street-photographer. We can only catch a glimpse, the glimpse is all that matters. Our job is to catch that glimpse and make it look good so that the viewer of the photograph, can wonder about what was behind that glimpse.
The details are everything, you want to be like Sherlock Holmes and catch all the details so you can uncover the mystery but you never will. The random person on the street, seemingly on a great mission, we can only wonder what this mission was. The rambling drifter, we can only imagine where his madness came from. The worried middle-aged woman, what was she worried about? The pubescent with green hair and dirty clothing, is this a sign of rebellion and individualism or this a sign of neglectful parenting? Tourists, people on a break from the jobs they hate. People on meditation retreats, closing their eyes, feeling the moment. There’s so much to tell, you wish you could freeze time just so you could make pictures all day. If there was an eternity, I would spend a hundred years just making pictures.
In the end, we are storytellers, even if we catch only part of the story. Sometimes that little seemingly insignificant part is just as poignant as the whole story. Photography can teach us, in a sort of Buddhist manner, to look at life differently. Unlike a movie or literature where often enough life is perceived as ‘the whole story, where every part is intrinsic to this one character, his tragedies and ultimately his death. It’s not always like that and perhaps it’s not even a proper way to perceive our existence. It’s one way to look at it but not the definitive way. We shouldn’t perceive life as so simplistically cinematic. Life is a series of fleeting moments, it all goes away too quickly. To my mind, in this fleeting moment of consciousness this wisdom comes to mind: the only way we can keep these moments safe from our fleeting memories, even if the complete experience is forever gone, is by taking a picture.

Picture belongs to Tom Plevnik, https://tomplevnik.wordpress.com/
***

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Just That One Thing

‘’I wanted to be too many things. I never focused on that one thing. If I did, I could have been somebody. Now I’m just one of many… I’m not saying I could have been a great man, but just someone you could define. A artist perhaps. Someone with a story. A man of noble tragedies. You say there is no such thing, but if I had that one thing I could die for, just that one thing, I could see this ending with a lot more nobility.’’

Picture taken in Groningen, Holland
***

 

You Live Here for the Silence

”It was a small village, packed with farmers. The days were predicable. If you wanted fancy stuff you had to drive for an hour to the mall or to the city. The people live here for the silence….
They hadn’t seen him before. It was obvious he came from a different place. Cars would stop, doors would open. He’d tell the driver he was fine, ‘don’t worry, it looks worse than it is,’ he’d said, ‘I live close by from here. I’ll be fine.’ He would put pressure on his wound as he walked ahead. It wasn’t far from here, he believed this, though sometimes he forgot where he was supposed to go. He would think of home, but he wasn’t sure whether he still lived there, whether these people still lived there with him.
Things get so blurry. When you’re hurt, things become a blur. You get these images of the past. Streets. Roads. Houses. Buildings. Fields. You remember them so clearly. You feel your ghost still there.
He found a pathway under the bridge. It seemed so familiar to him. He went off the road and ventured into that pathway. They had been doing some construction there. There was nothing there, no houses. Only graffiti, evidence of youthful parties. If he made it far enough, he would find himself on the highway. Eye-witnesses said that he had a smile on his face, as if he was looking forward to something.
Sometimes you remember things so clearly and places become so meaningful to you, you need to be there. No matter how far it is, no matter if these places even still exist, there has to be a way.”

Photography taken somewhere in Poland. 

***

The Bit-parts

We honor those who never stopped chasing their dreams,
but we forget about those who get lost along the way.
We don’t think about all the ways they see while they are going the wrong way,
when they make the wrong friends,
when they fall in love with the wrong people.
There come the vultures, there comes the hunger.
Soon enough, we fail to even to recognize them on the streets,
we ignore them when they beg for change, we mock them when we see them talking to themselves.
The best thing to do, in order to protect our own delicate feelings, is to pretend they don’t exist.
When they make their presence known, don’t perceive them to be human beings. Instead, see them as decorations, like department store dolls.
They look like human, their eyes speak of a troubling history,
but that’s just how they made them.
They market them as ‘quality craftmanship of an uncaring God.’

They aren’t hungry, they want to be here.
Sometimes they entertain us and we throw pennies in their hats
and they thank us.
There are here to add to the atmosphere, to make your life,
the only one that matters, more urgent.
To inspire you to make the best of life.
You are the star, the rest of the cast are just bit parts of your greater story.

And when you can’t help but wonder and feel sorry for them,
just tell yourself:
”don’t worry,
They won’t die there alone,
the light will find them one day.”
Don’t question the logic, just move on, don’t look back.
Before you know it, it seems like they were there in the first place.
Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania street photography homelessness
Photo: Gabrielle Lurie

***

Our Disease 14

I am here, I am here, I am here….

Harry walked the same streets where just last week, five people died in a senseless and violent protest. There were a few flowers against the building of city hall, attached to it there was a picture of a loved one. The loved one was a beautiful young girl. The picture had been for the high-school yearbook. There were words ascribed atop her picture: She had nothing to do with it…
It was another one that died for other people’s battles. She had been there just to see spectacle. When the Droogs came and everything went to hell, the police started to have their fun. They never want to kill anybody, but they don’t feel guilty if they do. It’s part of the job: you get in their way, they have the right to use lethal force.The instigators, the one that organize such protests usually escape. They are still around, recruiting new people. There is probably a new one planned soon. In the post-modern world, people want something to die for, even if it doesn’t make much sense.

But apart from the flowers and the picture, everything looked like it always did. You would have to look for a sign that a tragedy occurred here. The world has already moved on. The dead don’t matter anymore. It’s strange how that goes. The older the human race gets, the quicker they get over mass-tragedies. But this is America, mass-tragedies are a common thing now. There’s probably another shooter on its way to slaughter the next generation. We are used to this now, it’s old news. We believe this is the price we pay for freedom. Our children have to die so we can have this freedom. It’s not the way we want it to be, but how America works.
Harry looked around, to the people passing him, his fellow Americans. He looked at people, straight into their eyes, he didn’t care if someone would get mad. He wanted to communicate, he wanted to let people know that he was looking for a friend. A few people glanced back. An old lady looked back with a worrying glance. A young man asked him ”what the fuck do you want faggot?” A little girl looked up with a curiosity, her mother telling her to stop staring. Mostly, people just didn’t focus however. People wearing digital glasses, living the dream in cyberpace. People in suits were talking about important things on their phone. The young ones had hot topics to discuss. There was shopping to do. There were worries ruminating in their head. They had no time for a lonely, desperate, middle-aged man. This is how the world works now, we can crawl into our little worlds and we don’t need to worry about the rest. This is why the violence isn’t bothering so much anymore. We had to escape the cave in order to make the modern world and in the modern world, we can crawl back into the cave. Perhaps that was the point of everything: finding a way, to recede back into the cave.
In retrospect, we shouldn’t have even left in the first place.

Harry continued to wander in the city, his head down now, since communication felt impossible. He didn’t know where he was supposed to go. Any destination seemed pointless. There came an idea in his head that perhaps he should never come home. Use whatever savings he had left and just leave this world, off the grid. He would disappear from this world and in time, they would think he’s dead. He’d still be around, but nobody would know it.
The voice of a street-preacher, for the church of Vonnegut:
”Tiger gotta hunt and birds gotta fly! Man got to sit and wonder ‘why, why, why?”’ He was holding a copy of Cat’s Cradle in his hands, ”tiger got sleep, bird got to land! Man got to tell himself he understand!” A large flag in the background, it was the drawing made by Kurt Vonnegut of The Star Spangled Banner, from his novel ‘Breakfast of Champions or Goodbye Blue Monday’- the exact same drawing was also used to portray an asshole.
Harry walked passed him. The preacher had the suit of an old college professor, a checkered jacket with wild slightly gray hair and a seven-day beard. There was a sad craziness in his eye.
”There’s only one rule that I know off… God dammit it…” The preacher then looked into Harry’s eye, there was remembrance there, ”you’ve got to be kind!”
Then he pointed at Harry, ”you there sir! I was waiting for you!”
Harry almost kept walking until he heard: ”you’re Harry right?”
Harry stopped walking, turned to him again, ”we’ve met before?”
The preacher walked towards him, looked around as if he’s worried about being watched. “’Do you smoke pall-mall by any chance?”
”No, just plain Marlboro’s.”
”That’s good enough.”
Harry grabbed his pack of cigs and gave the preacher a cigarette and himself too. The preacher lit them for both of them.
”Thanks. I’m so glad I still live in a state where you can smoke legally. You’ve know they’ve got a prison population in Utah now full of smokers?”
”How do you know my name preacher?”
”I’ve read your file.”
”Where did you read my file?”
”Oh come on Harry, you know how it goes. Once someone’s marked, they spread his file around, give anyone in the club some task if they ever come across them. This is the actually the first time I’ve encountered someone.”
”You work for Oblivion?”
”Well we don’t call ourselves that. That’s the name you and the government gave us. But we are bigger than that. We all have our little sects you could say.”
”What do you want from me?”
”I can’t tell you that yet. We can’t tell you unless you are ready.”
”How about you guys just leave me the fuck alone!?”
”What and go back to your life before? That’s not what you really want.”
”Yes I do.”
”No you don’t. You think we are just trolling you, making your life miserable. But it’s not like that. We are one of the good guys. Mr. Anonymous sees something in you Harry. He thinks you have potential. He’s actually a loyal listener of your show.’
”Who is he? How does he look like?”
”I don’t know, nobody’s ever seen him. He’s like a ghost. He could be anywhere. Europe, China, every fucking where. For all we know, he’s not even from this world.”
”There’s only one world.”
”So where do we go when we dream?”
”I’m tired, I’m really tired. I don’t need this bullshit.”
”We know you are unhappy Harry. So was I until he found me. He saved all of us. But in order to become this better version of yourself, you need to get through this. And you will. But you need to have courage.”
”But it’s not my choice. Not his choice! Mine!”
”He knows that if you continue you on your regular path it’s not going to end well.”
”What so he cares about me?”
”Many people need desperately hear this message: I feel and think as you do, care about many of the things you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people don’t care about them. You are not alone.”
”What?”
”He cares for every creature on this planet.
”Just tell me what the fuck you guys want from me.”
”I’m sorry Harry, but you need to find that out for yourself. All I can tell you is that you need to watch for Stone. Stone may seem like a friend but he’s not the friend you should have. He’s the one keeping you stuck into this world. If you get rid of him, you are one step closer.”
”You know that thanks to Stone’s help I can find out who you are and where you live.”
”You could.”
”If you don’t find the answers soon, I might ask him for help.”
”You could do that but it won’t do you much good. Nobody can get to him and he’s not going to stop. You think Stone is a powerful guy? Stone lives in a world where nobody believes in anything. He lives in a post-modern shithole. We live in a world full of believers. There’s nothing more frightening than a true believer.”
”And what if you what you believe in, is completely and utter bullshit?”
The preacher sighed, smiled, took a deep drag and said: ”so it goes.”
Harry looked him over, he had nothing left to say. A part of him wanted to thrash him, but there was little energy left inside him.
”I’ll be watching you preacher,” Harry said, ”I promise you that when I have nowhere else to go, I’ll be looking for you.”
”Auf wiedershen,” said the preacher, looking undaunted.
Harry turned around and walked away. He could hear the preacher continuing to scream his verses: ”We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be!”

Podobny obraz
Art by Kurt Vonnegut
***

Chemical Imbalance

There are so many ideas in my head and I know that there is a way to make them beautiful.
There are so many theories in my head about who I am,
so many versions of me, an artist -a writer mostly- but an artist that can become a craftsman in whatever form he pleases.
I just have to put my mind into it,
I just have to give enough of myself and I will get something in return.
It took me so many years just to write one good sentence, it took me so many tries until I took a picture that was even half decent and I can’t still draw a decent line, but I believe I will be able to, one day. If I give enough of myself.

I don’t like talking about what it means to be an artist.
The subject frankly bores the shit out of me. Just create and if you can’t, shut up and try anyway.
But I feel like I’m forced to write this because I’m feeling empty again.
I feel like I’m a failure again.
Nothing comes out, suddenly all my ideas are gone and anything I hate everything I put on paper.
Perhaps it’s just another chemical balance. Perhaps that’s all that art is: a chemical imbalance.
I’m riding waves of over-confidence: suddenly I am able to do something special, suddenly I am worth to be seen by millions of other lonely people who are trying to make sense of their existence.
I’m riding waves of self-deprecation. I’m just a poser. Anytime I get to someplace real, I lose the moment. I have no discipline. I don’t have the necessary patience. I’m not doing this for the right reasons. I want to be like someone, I don’t want to be like me and you can’t be an artist if you don’t really want to be you. Or maybe it’s the other way around, I don’t know.

There are so many ideas in my head and many of them are gone. I have attempted to bring to live many of them, but I haven’t done many, if any, of them justice. Now they are in the void. They spoke something real in the moment and if I tapped into, I could have created something special. It’s too late now. It’s gone. You move on to the next project.

There are so many ideas in my head and no matter how many advices I seek from the masters, none of them have the answer. You can’t go to school to learn this. You can’t read it from books. You have to do it yourself. It’s that what makes it special.

There are so many theories about who I am.
Maybe I’m all of them, maybe I’m one of them. It changes depending on the chemicals on my brain. I just want to know who I am when I go out there.

It’s very scary there. They tell me I have nothing to worry about. They tell me I’m healthy and I’ve got many, many years.
And even if I don’t, there’s a life after this one, or so they say.

But nobody really knows and when they realize this,

I want to be there, to capture it.
And when you see it, when you see what I’ve created out of your moment,
I hope you will love me.

I hope I will still stay in your mind for a while, that you will carry me home
and tell your friends all about me.
Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania harry dean stanton black and white

***

Beach

”There are so many choices and so many lives are created by these choices. No choice is insignificant. They can lead to victory or defeat. The wrong choice can lead to our greatest tragedies, choose the wrong way and you can lose everything. Commit to something and you will realize later that you’ve wasted your life. They say the choices our made for us. It doesn’t matter what we think. Whether we feel free or not. We lead the story our genetic code.
I’m not sure if this is supposed to make us feel better or not. Even so, I’m in awe of all these choices. I am afraid to take a stand. I’m afraid to move.”