Zen & the Art of Street Photography.
I bought a new camera. Over the years I’ve been interested in photography I’ve bought and sold tons of cameras, all trying something new, trying to change my photography, my eye, the way I look at the world. In all mediums of art, that’s what we hope to get from the artist: a glimpse into their perspective, and a look at how they view their surroundings. And in meditation, we practice looking more deeply at ourselves and what’s around us.
We’re just getting out of Winter here in Chicago, and I haven’t really shot many photos during it. It’s just too cold to do the sort of walking around photography I mostly gravitate towards. It’s a time for reflection and contemplation. I have spend a lot of the past months looking at the photos I have taken recently, and over the last year, and am largely disinterested with them.
They’re not bad photos, technically speaking. They’re well exposed and composed. Most of the time, they lack a sense of intimacy with a subject; I’m viewing the world from behind a metal box from across the street. Robert Capa once said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” I believe he was talking about emotional interest, not only physical distance, but the saying works both ways. I wouldn’t consider most of the photos I’ve taken on the street to be ‘street photography’; it’s all too far away.
Looking back at the photos I took and not liking them, as well as being able to go out in the weather from the coming spring, both make me all the more enthused to view the world closer, clearer, more vividly. I want to take what I’ve learned and the tools I’ve gained to improve my eye and the work I put together.
This is also how I feel after an absence from meditating. I’ve written before about how meditation offers a mindful awareness of powerful, human moments we might otherwise miss. Especially in an age that values distraction as much as ours, approaching each moment as pure and unbiased as you can is increasingly its own treasure.
“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough." — Robert Capa
Walking around with a camera in my hand changes the way I view the street I’m on, the city I’m in. I search for the quiet moments. I seek the dappled light reflected off the glass & steel. I look for the shadows that creep and the people who breach them. It’s a state of resting awareness I have rarely experienced otherwise.
I love the way it makes me think. Photography is almost always exploitative, but at its best it is also extremely empathizing; allowing us for just a moment to glimpse a world or a view we could only dream of otherwise.
As the Spring air winds its way around the buildings, and the Winter light begins to wane, I look forward to wandering the streets, camera in hand, looking for a frame. Hopefully I can share that all with you.