Tuesday, August 19, 2008
City of People: Sunglasses Galore - Exploring Street Photography #3
Text and picture by © Eki Qushay Akhwan
Did you know that experiments with tinted lenses that are now used in sunglasses began as early as in the 18th century? Did you know that sunglasses (or tinted lenses) were once believed to be able to correct vision impairment, and even cure diseases such as syphilis? If you didn't then you can find the answers here.
For all the interesting and incredulous facts about sunglasses, they are now part of modern artifacts that many people love and use (or wear); not as a cure to a kind of STD disease as they were once believed to be, but more as a fashion statement and/or eye protector against the harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.
According to the same source I linked above, the first inexpensive mass-produced sunglasses were first introduced in the United States by a paticular Sam Foster in 1929. He found a ready market on the sunny beaches of the Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Anyway, I took the photo of the sunglasses vendor above on the steets of Bandung as part of my exploration of street photography themes.
In the previous posts here and here, I already wrote what street photography was essentially about. Now, allow me to write a bit about the technique.
As street photography is about taking photos of candid moments at public places without interference with the subjects and/or the unfolding event, being stealthy and inconspicuous is important for the photographer. Otherwise, you would disturb the subject's (and the unfolding event's) "candid equlibrium". This is a challenge that is not easy to meet, especially when we have to get close to the subject. On the one hand, the subjects would usually feel jittery, uncomfortable of an approaching camera on a public space. They would probably start acting unnaturally or become suspicious of the camera's presence, and this is a failure in street photography. On the other hand, the photographer him/herself would would probably feel shy and inhibited about approaching a stranger on a public space.
To overcome this, we could probably start with telephoto lens to avoid getting to close to the subjects. But this can't be our mode of operation all the time as photos taken with long lenses are not the same as those taken with shorter ones. Therefore, after a while you should try to be inconspicuous in other ways. A method that was practiced by practiced by Henri Cartier-Bresson was to make the camera invisible by wrapping a large piece of cloth around it and by "blending-in" with the subjects, e.g. wear something that makes you "invisible", act like you were one of them, and "befriend" them if necessary; take your time to get familiar with them and let them get familiar with you and don't rush into taking photos until your subjects feel comfortable with your presence and the camera.
I hope this tip is useful to you.