Tuesday, August 19, 2008

City of People: Sunglasses Galore - Exploring Street Photography #3

Sunglasses Galore

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.


Hilda said...

A vendor of sunglasses which I took in Baguio will be up in a couple of days — along with other "people in the park" shots.

I have one of those small Canon cameras with a swivel LCD screen — perfect for taking photos of people without their knowing. I can actually be facing elsewhere while taking their picture. Doesn't work as well with young ones though — they know better than adults to look where the lens is pointing! ;D

Anonymous said...

Good Morning Eki!! that is definately alot of sunglasses!.. Thanks for the tips on Street Photography.

Anonymous said...

Nice tips you got there. Street photography is one of the most difficult for me. It's too easy to be overwhelmed with everything.

Chuckeroon said...

This is a good shot. You captured the "moment of the transaction" which is what I wait for when trying this sort of scene. I do like the mass of glasses on the rack - nice touch. Like Hilda, I also have an Olympus with a swiveling screen...ideal! In my opinion that is a very important feature for a didgital camera.

Today I was out snapping deer browsing in Richmond Park. They always knew where I was! You need 400 mm catch them!

Virginia said...

I was just reading a new book I bought featuring Cartier-Bresson's photographs of Paris. You are so right, he was the master. It's hard to do though. I am always afraid someone will get upset about having their photo taken without my asking. I have an article about Meredith Mullins you might enjoy. I will email it to you if I can find your email address here somewhere.

Virginia said...

I'll just paste the site right here for you and anyone else that is interested. It's an interview with photographer Meredith Mullins. Her In a Paris Moment is a great book.

Rambling Woods said...

All those sunglasses. Interesting history Eki..and thank you for the tips. I should get out in the city nearby as you do...

Mo said...

Great photo and really interesting info about the sunglasses. I agree with your comments about street photography. The link from Virginia is also interesting. I just use a short lens on the street. Sometimes I just sit and watch. Other times its just an instant that you catch really quickly.

Blognote said...

Talking about sunglasses: what a great photo this is!!

Tine said...

Wow... how many sunglasses are there?? Did you buy one while you take this picture sir? ;p you always give new information on your photos, We can see your various photos and know about these information too.it's really interesting sir.