Wednesday, 8 June 2011

POV: Is Shooting From The Hip...Photography?

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
This is not really a POV...but more like vocalizing a bunch of thoughts.

Since I bought the M9 and a couple of lenses, I've been gradually learning the ropes, and getting more comfortable with the art of street photography by walking in some of my favorite areas of New York. Naturally, the technique of street photography differs from that of travel documentary photography that I'm used to...add to this that I am new to the Leica tools, and I have significant frustrating moments.

I've tried the zone focusing method as advocated by my friend Asim Rafiqui, and although it's far from perfect, it has freed me from having to focus manually,  waste time doing so and losing the shot. Don't think for a moment I'm not getting my share of blurry frames, I do...but not as many as before.

I am also experimenting with the shooting from the hip technique. Holding my M9 at waist level, I press the shutter without looking at the viewfinder. There are obvious advantages in doing so...candid scenes and a lower (a different) perspective, especially since I'm over 6' tall.
"...just visualizing in my mind's eye what it would look like...and it's also cropped. Yes, I never crop any of my travel documentary photographs...ever."
The above photograph (click it to enlarge) is one of the many results of shooting from the hip (or from the waist). To me, this photograph is a blasphemous event...for one thing, it is made without me looking through the viewfinder; just visualizing in my mind's eye what it would look like...and the second is that it's cropped. Yes, you can think of me what you will, but I never crop any of my travel documentary photographs....that would be sacrilegious.

For this image, I estimated the distance and positioned myself in the spot where I thought I'd get the composition I wanted...and just pressed the shutter at the proper time. Since I was using the Elmarit 28mm, I had extra space around the three main characters, so I, somewhat ashamedly, cropped it! Not by much...but it's still cropped.

The real nature of this post is to wonder out loud as to whether shooting from the hip is really photography. I didn't use my eye to compose the photograph, nor did I frame it in the viewfinder....it was a sort of "eyeless" photography. Others call it the easy way to candid street photography, and others describe it as "un-courageous". Is it photography? It must be...perhaps more like a hail Mary shot where the photographer hold the camera from above in crowded situations.

However the question I ask of myself is more personal. The question for me is whether I enjoyed making this photograph, irrespective of the result. And the answer is no....it felt as if I was shooting on full auto...having no control on the outcome.

Finally, if you like street photography, drop by Scott Strazzante's blog, Shooting From The Hip. He's really good.

PS. I should caption this photograph as "Yes, I've Eaten All Them Fries".