Let’s think about these tree concepts in photography: the instant, the perspective and the content or composition. I will write about what I think is good for me. My aesthetic credo. So, although inspired by compositional and workflow patterns of many masters, these lines are my only views and beliefs.
I think that what we call life is a continuous flow of will, perception and memory. Every act that I realize is a manifest of my will, conscious or not. I know without thinking or planning too much, what I will write, where I will go, or why I end to do whatever I’m about to do in the next hour. Before perception and action, there’s a will to perceive, to feel, a will to move, to walk, or stay here, and—why not—to think. After the will, almost instantly, we enter into the perception zone. Each act of will imply to see, hear, touch. All around us is visible, audible, gustative. But the duration of any physical perceptually event is very little, too little. It’s the memory that hides to us the transit from what we see to what we remember. Instant or immediate memory is called. Our transit as living matter is this continuous flow where we act from a wish, perceive the world—ourselves included—to instantly remember it. Space and time—among other complex thing as the «identity» of the self—relate one thing we want, with the one we perceive, and the other we remember.
Our journey into the Street Photography world show us constantly this little instants when the eyes focus the attention to something—a very peculiar something—near us. A photo is a manifest of free will, we chose the content to be seeing. We go out to the place that we hope to find that special something. But also we decide the perspective of what we chose. Before pressing the shutter button, there is the intention to capture the light. Our arms and hands are prepared near our face to the immediate reaction to put the viewfinder in front, compose the image, and shoot…one, two, three times.
The «will» decide why we choose to wandering the streets, instead of open a portrait studio in our home, or advertise weddings photo packages. We want to capture those little, unprovocative gestures, movements, spatial compositions, perspectives. Once the time pass, the instant is no more. It vanishes, opening the scenario for new actors, backdrops, foreground, and actions.
From the artistic point of view (also from a journalism point of view) we take part of the content of the world. We, as all living creature move and act by our wish, protesting, walking, marching, hitting. We get close to our scene to grab this content within our eyes. As visual artist, we can choose where to be and when. A natural «eye-level» perspective doesn’t tell a new story for a viewer in a street. The viewer already have seen a lots of images from that perspective. But not all viewers had seen Paris, New York, or San Juan. They want to see what you have seen, living the same visual sensations you feel.
A «child-» or «god-eyes» are other perspectives, unusuals, with uncommon or unseen views. From below the background is the sky or the upper floors of the nearby buildings, or the branches of a tree. There aren’t trash cans or cars, dirtying your images shapes and colors. The forms acquire colossal dimensions, greatness is everywhere, but also distortion. From above, you will see the world as a giant. Depending of your field of view, you would have a larger panorama of subjects, actions, mix of forms and details. Or, you would get the god-view, belittling the subjects, distinguish their heads over their bodies and gestures.
How your content view, the lines and shapes, the figures and colors, get their beauty? How the conjunction of your compositional decisions from your perspective gave birth the harmony in this visual geometry? There are a lot of guidelines or «rules» about composition. The «rule of thirds» or «the golden ratio» are the two of the most comprehensives. These are guidelines for disposition of the whole content, not axioms. A very well set of guidelines, nonetheless. For hundreds of years, those rules have planted roots in the two-dimensional visual arts. Maybe our human sight capabilities and limitations explain it. Maybe it is because we tend to reject the chaos and the irrational. Our eyes need to reach a plausible «explanation» for what it is seeing. But, there it is: a rationalization of beauty, after it was created and memorized.
Intuition is the word. Your knowledge of guidelines—I prefer called them «patterns»—and well-established principles determine your movements, perceptions and decisions. Why am I here? Because you follow the beautiful lines, the movements or dynamics in the scene. Because you select the unordinary features of that model. Why do I stand at this point? Because from that particular point in the whole space you see what you want to see, the shapes, the volume, the light, the angles from that perspective. Why do I shoot now? Because the completion of the content, the structure, are there, now, not before. And you don’t know if they will persist or disappear at the second. But you can’t take that chance. A strong principles foundation will give you a whole complex intuition. (Would it be acceptable to talk about multiple «intuitions»?).
I’m a theorist. I made theories as other person collect coins or books. I’ve made theories for almost anything that had passed on to my mind. That’s because, after all the will, the perception, and the memory, there is the continuous act of conceptualization, the act of give a meaning. And, paradoxically, meaning involves and nurtures more meaning. To me, the structural organization of meaning in my theories are based on «patterns». I’m very fond on gather a clear relation of subjects, and give them a name that enclose the «knowledge», the secret, they hides to the innocent mind. It’s also a mnemotechnic resource very easy to apply. The title above is one of those little phrase that enclose the workflow pattern of photography in a general sense. It’s the underlying definition, dressed as intuition, for every instant before pressing the shutter and grab a miracle of light.