I started exploring photography in my pre-teens.
I used to borrow my mom’s Minolta Pocket Autopak 450E and would use it to photograph school and family events. I was always the designated photographer during family events. However, photography took a back seat when I was in high school and college.
Photography had a huge resurgence in my life in 2008 when I got my first DLSR. This was also when my wife and I discovered the joy of traveling, and with it we photographed our journeys.
At some point between 2010 and 2011, I felt that my photography plateaued and needed a “creative jolt”. Most of my photographs were in the category of travel photography – which I felt was too manicured, too clean and technical. Nothing wrong with that — but I was looking for something else.
Then for a while I explored macro photography, still photography and even fashion photography but none of these were giving me fulfilment. I wanted something different — something raw and edgy that somehow defies convention, that brings out my style. It was then that I started gaining interest with the works of Magnum Photographers. The photographs of Henri Cartier Bresson, Alex Webb, David Allan Harvey and Harry Gruyaert blew me away. In 2012, I started seeing the world through a different lens. Street photography became my genre of choice.
Street photography has always been a brief yet methodical process for me. I would first get a feel of the scene by looking around, orienting myself where the light is and how the people enter and exit the scene, and evaluating the exposure in that scene.
At this point I'll choose a specific location where I will be shooting and mentally frame the goings-on – how the people move in and out of my frame and the story I could possibly capture. If I sense that I can create interesting photographs in that location, I'll raise my camera or my mobile phone, get in a shooting position and start capturing the action. After several frames, I make a quick look at my outputs to check if the exposure that I wanted is achieved and if my subjects are placed in frame according to how I imagined it. If these are good, I continue shooting; usually exhausting the scene until I feel I have enough shots to select from.
Joy in street photography is — amongst the randomness and the multiple frames -- capturing a meaningful moment with a story to tell. That moment can never be replicated, and I feel fortunate to be there at the right place and time, to witness and record that magical moment.
I always carry a small compact camera and a mobile phone with me whenever I wander around streets. Both are easy to operate and don’t look intimidating when you’re in a crowd.
I've tried a few lens attachments for my mobile phone, hoping they can complement my street photographs and somehow enhance my mobile photography experience. The lens that I've tried were more like toys and they have not helped in improving image quality of my photos. Thereafter, I stopped using any external lenses on my smartphone.
Its uncompromising build and quality have given me superb results.
As a street photographer, what makes me want to hit the streets and shoot is the thought that there will always be a new opportunity to experience “magical moments”. I anticipate moments like these with great excitement.
Sometimes, you will go home with nothing – not even a single image worth keeping; but there will also be days when you have a lot of beautiful photographs that you are proud of sharing to your friends, and to the photography community.
Personally when it comes to getting that lucky shot, it has always been about location, opportunity and readiness. The location will provide you with the scene. Once you’ve chosen what you think and feel is the right scene, you wait for the opportunity for something interesting to occur or someone interesting to show up in your frame.
Luck kicks in when you are ready and alert enough, to see the resulting photograph in your mind and instinctively press the shutter button to capture that moment. If what you have imagined in your mind translates in your frame, you make one lucky street photographer.
The most important lesson that I’ve learned from shooting on the streets is that it will always be a reflection of yourself. It reveals who you are, your imagination, your hopes and even your fears. By presenting your work to the world, you are also opening a window for people to see who you really are.
Question is, are you ready to reveal yourself to your audience? That window will reveal to everyone if you are authentic with your vision or a mere copy cat just trying to get “likes“ from photography communities.
In street photography, our brand of storytelling will greatly depend on how clear our vision is and how we are able to translate that vision into an image.