Shyness in the Street

“If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” —Robert Capa

There is a very popular street photography pattern that I should call “Little figure surrounded by negative space”. This is the classical picture of a human being or a group, very far away from the camera, surrounded of an extensive natural or architectural space. The human is barely distinguishable, most of the time a blurred dark-gray silhouette. The lonely runner running away onto the fog, the little umbrella walking under the bridge, the couple kissing silhouette at the end of a tunnel, are very common examples of such nice beautiful pictures. Many street photogs had found a niche in this genre with nice looking results.

But, what is hidden in those images is the natural fear of anybody confronting the tremor, the crude acknowledge, of being the photographer in a public place: the shyness. Little figures pictures denotes «voyeurism», in a good sense, of course. The photographers acts as a voyeur, following diligently his visual victim from an adequate, unnoticeable, distance, and waiting the moment for the attack. The “moment” is no other than the instance when the figure enters your “scenario”, the setting you choose for visual pleasantness of the espectator.

Seeking for meaning in photography is to visually compose an image with a bundle of ideas, intuitions, intertextuality, inspired from the visual elements  of the frame as linguistic features. The negative space configured from  a luminous settings, a majestic building or bridge, a natural marvel, highlights by itself, allowing little to the value of the picture from the perspective side of the photographer. It’s not difficult to seek those spaces in your city. It’s not difficult to find the perfect angle to present those spacial jewels. This is not a critique. I love most of those pictures, but its meaning weight is very little from the creative effort of the street photographer artist.

By contrast, (and pardon me again for overusing the examples) look the images of HCB. If you see images like the man jumping a puddle, or the cyclist down the road, both from 1932, the little human figures are undefined, dark silhouettes, within a geometrical, but irregular, environments. Neither space in those pictures, is a beautiful, harmonious, building or natural park. On the contrary, they are rotten, blurred, irregular, asymmetrical, spaces. Places in ruins. The harmony is based in the human forms with a formal symmetry or unity with the geometry of the locations. Spaces that have the complexity of the heterogeneous, with the simplicity of the lines, spirals, angles. That’s the hand of the artist: looking for the visual patterns in the normal elapse of life.

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