Artists at the Howl Festival 2011. Tompkins Square Park. East Village, New York City.
I went through some of my photos from various street festivals, parades and events that I took this year and came across this photo from the Howl Festival which took place in June close to where I live. It’s one of my favorite photos that I captured during that event for several complex reasons having to do with a shift in my own perspectives toward street photography and exploration of my photographic process.
I wrote briefly about my feelings regarding street photography here in this post back in July. While street photography not my main focus at all, it’s interesting to view these photos now because they conjure up an almost tangible change in perspective.
I try to not deeply analyze my own shots as I take them. I think this stems from my first foray into college back in my early 20s (which isn’t so long ago but feels like several lifetimes away at this point!). I initially went to FIT and after becoming disillusioned with the fashion industry (my leanings were more towards art) I transferred to a local city college to pursue art history. I had very little direction in terms of where I wanted to go with my schooling and I ended up dropping out after several semesters since I was in dire financial straits due to being entirely on my own. The few semesters of art history classes that I did end up taking fascinated me since I found that I loved the analytic process. I actually looked forward to the tests in each class which were elaborate writing assignments. In retrospect, I think I enjoyed the writing and history aspect the most. However, these classes definitely made me think deeply about how artists approach their work.
When I started delving into photography nearly a decade after this short foray into art history, I found it really interesting that my own process of taking photos ended up involving a very stream of consciousness approach. I shoot with a certain abandon. To this day, I don’t over-think shots possibly out of a subconscious avoidance of allowing what I photograph to get too mired in analysis (latent trauma from over-analysis in art history classes?). The ironic part of this is that it’s impossible not to let this analysis occur since I love writing and exploring emotions via photography. I have found that it’s in the post-processing process that I am most shocked at what I manage to capture in terms of what the photos end up conjuring up in terms of emotion, nostalgia and overarching themes.
I started thinking a lot about this after a discussion started on one of my recent photos over on Google Plus here: City Hall Fountain at Dusk. I was asked a series of thought-provoking questions by Max McNally: “Do you ever take it for granted when you capture amazing pictures like this? Or do you still, from time to time, gaze totally enraptured by your own creations? Do you think that you see the world a uniquely wondrous perspective or is it only when you and camera play together that the real magic happens?” which made me recollect much of the musings in this post considering my own history and approach to photography. My answer was: ” I think that photography fills an enormous void in that before photography, I would attempt to write about things that filled me with wonder but it always seemed inadequate. It was only when I started taking photos that I finally felt I could properly capture and convey what I was striving to convey all along. I wish I had discovered photography earlier! ”
While what I answered was certainly one part of the answer, I think it’s also an insufficient answer in some respects after revisiting it due to the context of this post. It’s quite possibly a series of questions that could take a lifetime to answer. Every artist views the world with a unique perspective but it’s hard to encapsulate one’s own view of how they approach the world via their own artistic expression. I do sometimes have moments where I view images I have taken and I am totally gob-smacked because in the moment that I took those images, I didn’t fully realize the full potential of what I captured. It’s a hard thing to admit and write about because there is an element of inner-analysis and an air of effortlessness that comes off when that confession is put into writing. I sometimes don’t know if it is my own lack of formal training in photography or how I approach the process of capturing images in such a fast, seamless fashion that makes me feel incredibly insecure about sharing my own process. I know I will always be learning, of course, but this entire experience, whether it be whenever a commercial client approaches me for usage of my photos or when people purchase my prints to name a few examples, often proverbially knocks me off my feet, so to speak.
How does this all relate to this photo? Well, I realized when I shot this particular festival that I was completely engrossed in the process of capturing artists engaged in their own artistic processes. There is a flow state that occurs when someone engages in what they love whether it be writing, dancing, photography, painting, drawing, making music or really anything that inspires total passion. The rest of the world disappears and all that exists is whatever someone is engaged in. It’s a beautiful feeling to experience but it’s also intriguing to witness. The two artists in this photo were completely wrapped up in the moment individually and yet totally in sync with each other in respect to the designs they were painting on the same mural. I was completely entranced by watching them. There is a definite magic in capturing people in moments that are usually private and treasured. It wasn’t until I took this set of photos for this festival and subsequent ones that I truly started to appreciate street photography in that regard. I couldn’t be more grateful to have had this epiphany.
View this photo larger and on black on my Google Plus page
View my store, email me, or ask for help.