Street Photography - 2 by Subroto Mukerji

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<ul><li><p>7/24/2019 Street Photography - 2 by Subroto Mukerji</p><p> 1/16</p><p>STREET PHOTOGRAPHY Part 2</p><p>Exploring the Limits</p><p>In Part 1 we covered the basics of street photography what it is, why its</p><p>important, when and how to practice it and how to go about it. This part dealswith some issues relating to these points but expands on them, besides covering</p><p>affiliated topics.</p><p>Life is an endless stream flowing past us and also carrying us along with it, so it</p><p>is obvious that we, too, are part of the overall picture. But as chroniclers,</p><p>recorders, commentators and interpreters of the seemingly confused jumble of</p><p>events that greet us at every turn, we need to mentally distance ourselves from it</p><p>while, paradoxically, being part of it at the same time.</p><p>Although opinions vary as to what exactly street photography is and what it is</p><p>not, I think there is a consensus that some things just do NOT apply to it :</p><p> Posed, pre-conceived, studio-type pictures</p><p> Coverage of stage or concert performancesper se</p><p>1</p></li><li><p>7/24/2019 Street Photography - 2 by Subroto Mukerji</p><p> 2/16</p><p> Manipulation in software that alters an image drastically</p><p> Merging two or more different scenes to produce a composite</p><p> HDR</p><p> Trying to give meaning to meaningless snapshots, i.e., pseudo-street</p><p>photography Things that fall within the domain of pictorial or news reportage</p><p> Landscape or nudes</p><p>I would include candid portraiture in street photography since candids are</p><p>neither posed nor contrived, but captured on the spur of the moment to reflect a</p><p>certain attitude, mindset or circumstance.</p><p>I would therefore also include pictures that are suggestive of these, even if</p><p>human existence and its concomitants are reflected only indirectly. A broom or a</p><p>bouquet, captured spontaneously, can equally reflect one or more human</p><p>attitudes and / or priorities.</p><p>If a biodegradable broom, made from locally available vegetative matter is</p><p>photographed in an artistic and poignant manner, it can be made to suggest the</p><p>importance society gives to protecting the environment by using articles that will</p><p>2</p></li><li><p>7/24/2019 Street Photography - 2 by Subroto Mukerji</p><p> 3/16</p><p>degrade naturally without any harmful side effects to the environment. If lying</p><p>used and abandoned, it can speak of life cycles and the inevitable fate of all</p><p>physical objects including humans a heavy topic indeed.</p><p>On the other hand, away from the grimmer facts of life, a bouquet reminds usthat even if a beautiful flower blooms for only a day, it has succeeded in its</p><p>mission: to transfer the message of truth, light and beauty to all its admirers.</p><p>Human existence and social conventions are only</p><p>indirectly portrayed here, but they are of no less</p><p>consequence because of that. Yet there are as</p><p>many styles of street photography as there are</p><p>photographers, so restricting it by a definition is</p><p>not only futile but absurd as well.</p><p>This is its true strength, for anything that is hard</p><p>to define and lends itself to myriad</p><p>interpretations is going be really big and all-</p><p>pervasive, if not totally invasive. When one takes</p><p>3</p></li><li><p>7/24/2019 Street Photography - 2 by Subroto Mukerji</p><p> 4/16</p><p>up street photography, one grabs a tiger by the tail. Its got you as surely as</p><p>youve got it.</p><p>SOME THOUGHTS ON GEAR</p><p>THE CAMERA</p><p>I think it is clear that a camera that is suitable for street photography has to be</p><p>small, fast, equipped with a good lens of adequate zoom range and a low light</p><p>capable sensor. Additionally, it must ideally have a sufficient number of external</p><p>controls to allow quick adjustments to things like aperture, ISO, shutter speed,</p><p>white balance, focus area mode, metering mode, etc.</p><p>To be quite honest with you, the ideal street camera is yet to be built, but twocompacts come close enough to being perfect for the purpose: the Sony RX100</p><p>and the Nikon Coolpix P7700. They are evenly matched, feature for feature, and</p><p>if the Sony wins by a whisker, that is not to say that overall performance-wise, the</p><p>P7700 is any less. In expert hands, either of them will do a great job.</p><p>BAGS</p><p>Do not carry a bag that shouts Photographers camera bag ! Study the types of</p><p>bag people are carrying nowadays (one or the other is always in vogue), and getone that fits in. It will help you avoid the unwelcome attentions of thieves and</p><p>bag snatchers.</p><p>CLOTHES</p><p>I have a notion that ordinary street clothes that everyone wears is best for the job,</p><p>even jeans and T-shirt, if thats what everyones wearing. Try not to look</p><p>outlandish or worst of all a photographer !</p><p>STEALTHI have never felt the need for stealth. On the contrary, I often talk to my would-be</p><p>subjects, and often quiz them till they take me for granted or even get bored by</p><p>my silly questions.</p><p>This is my favourite ploy to put people at ease and even to get them to consider</p><p>me a bit of a nuisance. When they have tuned me out, I can work the subject</p><p>4</p></li><li><p>7/24/2019 Street Photography - 2 by Subroto Mukerji</p><p> 5/16</p><p>from different angles and no one even notices me. The picture of the cut fruit was</p><p>taken this way, as were dozens of others.</p><p>I do not subscribe to the school of thought that insists on avoiding eye contact.</p><p>What to speak of eye contact, I often engage future subjects in conversation, so</p><p>that they accept me as one of their own.</p><p>5</p></li><li><p>7/24/2019 Street Photography - 2 by Subroto Mukerji</p><p> 6/16</p><p>The flower sellers</p><p>even guided me as to</p><p>the best angle to take</p><p>their picture, then</p><p>sat back trying tolook tough !</p><p>Below is a picture of</p><p>confidence: a foreign</p><p>tourist quite at ease</p><p>The vegetable seller lady below insisted I take her picture; it seems I had taken</p><p>everyone elses picture except hers, on a shooting spree at a rural vegetable</p><p>market. They were so flattered that I had taken time out for them !</p><p>6</p></li><li><p>7/24/2019 Street Photography - 2 by Subroto Mukerji</p><p> 7/16</p><p>I had to use flash,</p><p>for once, it being</p><p>very dimly lit in her</p><p>corner. The H70 hasa weak flash, typical</p><p>of a compact</p><p>camera.</p><p>I have done some</p><p>post processing on</p><p>the jpeg to burn in</p><p>the highlights and</p><p>dodge the shadows.</p><p>Beyond that, the</p><p>photo is un-</p><p>retouched.</p><p>Litigation is a fact of life. I was delighted to see that the vintageGodrejmanual</p><p>typewriter was going strong despite 25 years of hard and constant use </p><p>A child sleeps soundly through the din and confusion of the marketplace</p><p>7</p></li><li><p>7/24/2019 Street Photography - 2 by Subroto Mukerji</p><p> 8/16</p><p>Some put their faith in steel, some in the binary code </p><p>]</p><p>8</p></li><li><p>7/24/2019 Street Photography - 2 by Subroto Mukerji</p><p> 9/16</p><p> and some in Sai Baba, here looking a bit perplexed as he sits in the bole of a</p><p>tree surveying the scene !</p><p>9</p></li><li><p>7/24/2019 Street Photography - 2 by Subroto Mukerji</p><p> 10/16</p><p>The barber working next to a wall that might collapse any moment (near</p><p>Kashmere Gate, Delhi) has full faith that the Baba will keep him safe from any</p><p>harm ... he has not one but two pictures of the saint, for double protection.</p><p>10</p></li><li><p>7/24/2019 Street Photography - 2 by Subroto Mukerji</p><p> 11/16</p><p>There is urban decay and</p><p>blatant neglect everywhere,</p><p>but there is also a spirit of</p><p>achievement, of hope, of a</p><p>better tomorrow brought</p><p>about by hard work and</p><p>good business sense.</p><p>And while ragpickers eke</p><p>out a miserable existence,</p><p>the city is on the move the RITZ has been revived</p><p>and is back in business</p><p>after many years of closure.</p><p>11</p></li><li><p>7/24/2019 Street Photography - 2 by Subroto Mukerji</p><p> 12/16</p><p>12</p></li><li><p>7/24/2019 Street Photography - 2 by Subroto Mukerji</p><p> 13/16</p><p>RECENT TRENDS IN SECURITY ARRANGEMENTS</p><p>AND A MISPLACED SUSPICION OF PHOTOGRAPHERS</p><p>There was a time when the erstwhile Soviet Union was the butt of jokes for its</p><p>restrictive approach to street photography. Today, many democracies the worldover look askance at street photographers. The reason cited is SECURITY, an</p><p>umbrella term meaning in effect an attempt to curb terrorism by restricting</p><p>photography at sensitive public places.</p><p>Yet the searches at airports and Metros are most casual and the instruments used</p><p>are rudimentary, so that on the off chance that a terrorist reallydidthink it fit to</p><p>avoid Google Earth or the myriad other sources of information on the Metro and</p><p>other security sensitive installations, he would find it easy to get his picture. It</p><p>has yet to be proved that photography preceded any of the Mumbai or Delhi</p><p>bombings, or even the raid in Mumbai on the Oberoi Hotel.</p><p>There is a global trend to curb personal freedom, and restrictions on street</p><p>photography are just a part of the overall scenario. It is therefore best to avoid</p><p>such places and police in particular, and concentrate ones efforts elsewhere</p><p>places where people, in living their lives, provide the raw material of human</p><p>cultural, commercial or social interaction.</p><p>I am intrigued by the</p><p>fact that even as</p><p>government gets</p><p>more stultified,</p><p>paranoid and inward</p><p>looking, Indian</p><p>society is evolving,</p><p>moving into a space</p><p>freer and less</p><p>restrictive than it had</p><p>ever enjoyed before,no doubt driven by</p><p>western influences</p><p>and impact of the</p><p>media.</p><p>13</p></li><li><p>7/24/2019 Street Photography - 2 by Subroto Mukerji</p><p> 14/16</p><p>We can respect the privacy of</p><p>individuals by a self-imposed</p><p>code, yet we must never forget</p><p>that it is our right, as</p><p>photographers, to documentanything that falls within or</p><p>occurs inside the public domain.</p><p>The very fact that something is</p><p>open to the public also means</p><p>that it is fair game for a</p><p>photographers lens.</p><p>To give my market subjects due</p><p>credit, only one or two expressed</p><p>concern and curiosity as to my</p><p>purpose in taking pictures of</p><p>their establishments.</p><p>I was able to disarm them by</p><p>explaining that I was making a</p><p>series of scenes on India for foreign friends who could not make a personal visit</p><p>due to age or infirmity. This was true, so my prompt reply and lack of furtiveness</p><p>convinced them. Yet the fact remains that the constant barrage of anti-</p><p>photography messages on the Metro, railway stations, airports and other places</p><p>has created a false sense of security consciousness and paranoia among the</p><p>public at large.</p><p>I find it is the small shopkeepers and</p><p>petty traders and businessmen who</p><p>are most receptive to my efforts, not</p><p>to forget the submerged classes the</p><p>desperately poor and downtrodden </p><p>who think it a privilege to becaptured by my lens.</p><p>The reason for this is simple. The</p><p>vast majority of Indians live obscure,</p><p>desperately impoverished lives from</p><p>cradle to grave. No one bothers</p><p>14</p></li><li><p>7/24/2019 Street Photography - 2 by Subroto Mukerji</p><p> 15/16</p><p>about them, except during elections, when politicians make fulsome promises</p><p>that are rarely honoured.</p><p>They have no share in the countrys growth or its march to prosperity, which are</p><p>mere buzzwords for them. So their fleeting instant of recognition via your lens is</p><p>a moment of delight for them, that their brief, miserable lives have been thoughtworthy of being recorded on camera. I have yet to meet even one of these faceless</p><p>people who did not cooperate when I lined them up for a shot.</p><p>It is also the reason why I do not need to be stealthy or sneaky these are</p><p>western attitudes that do not apply here. The faceless masses are deeply gratified</p><p>that I have considered them fit to be photographed. People often stop me in the</p><p>street and ask me to take their picture, as if the act of being photographed will</p><p>give them a sort of relevance, a justification for being alive something that will</p><p>assure them that they have indeed lived and not drifted through life unknown</p><p>and unsung, valueless and dispensable. It is a pathetic and heart rending</p><p>situation.</p><p>The faceless masses of India would never dream of protesting at being</p><p>photographed. It is not an invasion of their privacy. Most Indians cannot afford</p><p>privacy, it being well beyond their means. They have no concept of it. Being</p><p>photographed is not an invasion of their (non-existent) privacy, it is a thrill !</p><p>CONCLUSION</p><p>These are some of my thoughts and experiences, such as they are, on street</p><p>photography in India. Despite the paranoia spread by a government traumatized</p><p>by terrorist acts, the fact remains that the vast majority of Indians have never</p><p>owned a camera or been photographed except by state-owned agencies issuing</p><p>ration cards, voters ID cards, etc. There is thus little need for a stealthy style of</p><p>street photography so prevalent in western countries: the poor of Indiawantto be</p><p>photographed !</p><p>India is a land of vast diversity in climate, geography, culture, and social mores.But we have one thing we can always fall back upon: our common heritage. Let</p><p>us use street photography to bring a smile to the drawn and haggard faces of our</p><p>stricken fellow countrymen, and help renew their faith in life and in themselves.</p><p>All we have to do is to put them at their ease, for they are shy, too. But if they</p><p>sense you are a friend, they will do anything for you. My heart goes out to my</p><p>15</p></li><li><p>7/24/2019 Street Photography - 2 by Subroto Mukerji</p><p> 16/16</p><p>brothers and sisters in this great land, once described by Mohandas Karamchand</p><p>Gandhi as a rich country full of poor people.</p><p>16</p></li></ul>