Wednesday, 10 August 2011

POV: Street Photography, An Addiction?

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Yes, it is.

It's been a little more than 5 months since I've acquired the Leica M9 with a couple of lenses; an Elmarit 28mm (which is my mostly-used lens), and a Voigtlander Nokton 40mm. During the first two months, I used it gingerly, almost self-consciously...waiting for it to "grow" on me, and for my instinct to take over. I took it wherever I went, virtually daily...and it slowly became part of me.

I normally walk around with it either dangling from my neck, or from my shoulder...or more recently, in a Domke waist pouch which seems to have been manufactured for it, when I don't need or want to use it. It has come to the point that if I don't have it with me, something is missing...sort of like forgetting my cellphone or my keys.

I've learned to look (as distinct from seeing) for "characters"...I've learned how to look for interesting faces some 30-50 yards from where I stand or walk to anticipate the framing and composition of the images I eventually make of them...I try to pre-visualize scenes (but haven't fully succeeded yet) such as anticipating the faces of construction workers when they see a pretty woman in a short dress walk by...or that of a child seeing his mother when coming out of school..and snapping that moment. I've learned how to pretend to be checking my cellphone whilst clicking the shutter at the same time....and I've learned to frame the image without looking at my subjects.

I am lucky to live in Manhattan...the most street photography "friendly" (or should I say 'interesting'?) city. I have favorite streets. Broadway and Canal Street...14th Street always has interesting characters, and Chinatown is a haven for street photography just because it's heavily touristic, and its residents are used to photographers.

The Leica File is a gallery of my NYC street photographs, 

"I allow myself to be seduced... I grow. I evolve. And I like that...a lot."

But the best is this. I don't look at the images that I shoot from the hip (or from the waist, in my case) until I return home and download them. Heck, that almost brings me back to the exciting good old days of film!

As for my gear, I have to say the M9 is almost the perfect tool for street photography. Nothing new here. I qualify that perfection because while it's inconspicuous, virtually infallible and it's almost silent...the lack of auto-focus is still a pain in the ass. Leica will not like me for saying this...but it is. I've learned to pre-focus or just move my feet until my image is sharp...I've also learned the zone focusing technique (still not very well, it seems)...and manage to muddle through the focus issue. But I still salivate at the improbable idea of a Leica with auto focus capabilities.

Finally, as a side benefit of all this addictive street photography, I am partly ensconced in a black & white phase...I allow myself to be seduced by toning, by special effects, by Instagram-like colorization, and by a multitude of other "sins" that I normally don't indulge in.

I grow. I evolve. And I like that...a lot.