Glasgow – on the street and thinking :The best street photographers conjure up the extraordinary from the ordinariness and the mundane of everyday life.
From the stripped back street comes something that is, wild and free and somewhat anarchic like an Arctic Monkey’s song : Bet You Look Good On The City Street, or Fake Tales Of Street Photography?
Existence, for the vast majority of us, or maybe all of us, is about trying to give meaning or purpose to our lives? So, we are out on the street to rush to work, to meet our wives or husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, partners, business partners, drug dealers, associates in crime, best friends, the person who sold us that camera on Ebay? Maybe we are making our way to that business meeting, audition, job interview, lunch?
It doesn’t really matter, the street photographer is there to catch and distil that rush and tear in solitary moments of existence, and in a creative sense – it is an art.
But, street photography, as well as clicking into the historical and geographical moment, also cuts across the cultural, socio-economic, psychological.
Despite this potential importance, street photography remains the jagged edge of the photographic genre. The enfant terrible of a supposedly ordered world of camera.
But what marks the street photographer out is the need and desire to record the drama of the street, the great theatre of life in all its subtle nuances and colour (and sometimes, of course, in understated black and white).
Ordinary people going about THEIR meaningful business, whatever that might be, seldom read their fellows – in the sense of trying to analyse the people we share the street with. More often, we simply glance without another thought. Our fellow creatures are invisible to us as we race around our own existence, rushing toward a distant Armageddon, only we don’t really know it is Armageddon, even if it is OUR Armageddon?
And, sorry no, I am not talking about the Bruce Willis movie!
In this great rush, we don’t think too much about the people who surround us as we head from one part of the city to another, on foot, by bus, by underground, in a car, in a taxi. Often we are unaware that someone somewhere is watching us, following us as we make our way across the street. As we duck into Starbucks. As we pass beneath the towering sky-reaching buildings with the smart names. As we stare at the screen of our smartphones.
“I always enjoy looking at people, at how they interact,’ Brazilian-born, street photographer Rhawi Dantas told me “How so many things can happen at the same time and no one notices. Everyone is so focused on their lives that things just happen around them and no attention given. And, everything is very quick.”
Dantas, who lived in Finland for ten years has now moved to Stockholm, Sweden, is keen to find meaning in his work. Eager to express what street photography means to him.
“Some people think that I am taking their photo,” He explains. “But what I am trying to see is how everything fits. The more I take photos the harder it gets because of this. One person sitting on a bench alone does not catch my eye, but multiple things happening around this person and then suddenly you have life, emotion.”
We, ourselves, as street photographers, dance through the busy streets of urban habitats in our headlong rush toward a future we constantly imagine in our heads but which is often very different in reality. Just think of the countless times when we have been convinced this is the best shot we will ever take, only to be disappointed when we delay for that split second and miss the shot we had imagined in our head. Or, the time we shot too quickly before a situation had fully developed and by the time we have realised, the moment had gone. The world and the people of the street have moved quickly on. We hold what could have been in our head, but, alas, not in the camera.
Some would suggest there actually is no future because it never arrives. We have a past that is often captured in photography, and we are always in a constantly arriving present – as soon as it is here it has gone and rapidly becomes the past, but the future constantly lies beyond us, as an ‘otherland’ we never quite reach? It is only when we decide to get involved in street photography that this great universe of human behaviour, time and space open out before us, past, present and…
As street photographers we begin to notice things that slip past when we are not in creative mode. We start to pick up on the street, the subtle cues, the incidents that happen, the life and death race of existence. Meanwhile we linger, loiter, wait. In the space and street of the city, we wait…watching for that unimaginable dip in the curvature of the universe…to shoot.
Header image credit – Rhawi Dantas