A new exercise, another new lens. This time I would be using the wide-angle lens. This exercise was going to require me to get up very close to my subject/s which would give the impression of being involved in the action (although the subjects would still be unaware that they were being photographed). The oft quoted Magnum photographer Robert Capa said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough”, which is where this exercise takes me. Photojournalists will very often use the wide angle lens to draw the viewer in to their photographs and invite them to feel the way the photographer or the subject did when they were in the middle of the process. It is also a great lens for being able to put a person in a place (geographically) to tell a bit more of a story where longer focal length would condense the image leaving less room for the background story (as it were). The difficulty for me here I felt was going to be the lack of interaction with the subject, something I am not used to doing. Most of my street photography ends up with, for better or worse, some sort of interaction with the subject.
As in previous exercises I hadn’t exclusively and consciously used this lens for photographing people before and so was inexperienced in doing so. I felt I needed to be somewhere relatively busy which would inherently mean the subjects would hopefully be otherwise distracted. I decided on a location and went ahead. The photographs are all taken with a 24mm efl lens and no editing has been done other than some contrast and brightness adjustment.
The first thing that became very apparent to me very quickly was just how close I was going to need to get to make a satisfactory image. I felt the situation wasn’t really suiting my needs and wasn’t wholly satisfied with the results. I felt there needed to be more interest, more going on in the frame. I was also aware that as there weren’t as many people around as I thought there would be I ended up ‘following’ around the same people, which was less than ideal. At one point I thought the woman with the long lens was actually photographing me but realised when I stopped looking through my lens that she was focusing just in front of me, completely unaware that I was shooting her.
I changed tack and headed elsewhere to try and get what I wanted. This lead me to a tourist hot-spot in Singapore where I thought the subjects would be to pre-occupied by taking their own photographs to worry about me. It also gave me a great backdrop to put the people in a ‘place’.
Indeed, the location did lend itself much more to this type of photography. So many people were taking photographs that one more lens in the crowd wasn’t going to be noticed. I wanted to try and capture the somewhat ritualistic photo frenzy that occurs everyday at the Merlion Park in Singapore. Hundreds of tourists are ferried in on coaches, jump out and spend twenty minutes or so taking photographs of each other (usually pretending to catch the water in various parts of their anatomy) and then jumping back on the coach the next destination. It’s a fantastic people watching location and I wanted to try and get this over in my photographs.
I think the difference from the first set to the last set is obvious. The people in the second set are clearly interested in what they are doing, not what is going on around them. In the first set, the lack of focus for the subjects meant they were always likely to spot me and thus start some interaction. Shooting with the wide-angle lens was a good experience and took some time for me to get in to. I tried different ways of concealing the fact I was taking photos of people. I shot from the hip, I used the wide view of the lens to pretend I was photographing something else and I photographed whilst walking past the subjects, all of which gave me varying results. However, on the whole I was able to take a relatively free and easy approach as everyone was having so much fun photographing each other they certainly weren’t interested in me! This was a very enjoyable lens to use for this kind of reportage work, very light and unobtrusive. The images are very different from my usual fare and I need to develop that to create my own style with this lens. On the whole my (street) photography tends to be more compositionally aware but using this lens and this type of street photography (i.e. with the subject unaware) gives a rawer, less composed effect, which I enjoy the results of.