Photograph a Stranger..

I saw this article from Gawker posted on my fb page today about "The Problem with Humans of New York"

No street cred like the suffering of others.
Hasselblad 500c Ektar 160
It's a thing now from photography workshops to Facebook groups to flickr meet ups ..street photography is cool!  Photograph a stranger and prove that you are a storyteller, a photojournalist! If it's a homeless person then it proves your street cred!  If you're shooting film...wow, then you're old school cool!  

It's no fun if it's a thing, it's not original if it's expected.

However it seems to be an outlet for people to be recognized by having their snapshot taken by this guy. Someone who wants to hear about them, who sees a little wisdom in whatever nugget they choose to share. There is something about it people relate to. The project as a whole is a powerful interaction between subject and audience because of the narrative.

 But once it went viral it also became a thing to monetize, to capitalize on as pop culture losing it's original appeal because the subjects become more "posed" in every way. It stopped being real.

Yet I can't help thinking about those seemingly insignificant people who WANT to be recognized, who WANT to share their little nuggets of wisdom, their slice of life. It's a powerful thing, this need to be recognized on this planet of billions....to be special even for just a moment.

This guy wants recognition forever, so you won't forget his name.
Sony A900 50mm

I am one of those people that meets a stranger and they start telling me their life story.  I also notice and feel the pain, neediness and angst of a stranger feeling compelled to make a connection as if I can alleviate their burden just a little.  I do that by taking their photograph.  It seems easier now that I hold a camera.  I used to feel like the Empath from the old Star Trek series.  I'd listen, take on their pain and for days carry it with me, anxious and praying for people I'd never see again.  But with a camera I might capture their pain but I aim for something more...their hope, their beauty as a human being and that spark of something that I can see is special.

Is "real" really real?  Is a beautiful smile enough?
Sony A900   
It's amazing when you see the "Aha!" moment as they see the first image on the back of my camera that I warm up with then the last one after we've talked for a few minutes, I notice some spark in their conversation to draw out and I get them to talk about what makes them happy or feel good about life.  When they recognize it in their own face...that it's there even for a moment I know that they will look forward to the email with the photographs, a couple of my favorite inspirational quotes and feel good about themselves.  It's powerful but is it just because it's a "thing" that I had to do it?

Maybe no one else can see the story in my images but I am compelled to do this thing.  I don't want to do it because it's expected or because people will see it.
An unlikely brotherhood
Something to offer
A brief smile
Sony A900 70mm

But people should think about the power of a photograph being taken, the connection that can be had between the photographer and subject...if even for a moment...and no one ever has to see it but the subject and the photographer.  It can be about being "human".  I learned so much about storytelling watching a recent workshop by Kristen Lewis that just blew me away.  It was the Aha! moment I needed.

So...I am changing the direction of my photography as I shoot more film. Overall I hate my own results but I love the work itself. I've been all over the place trying to figure out what type of photographer I want to be when I grow up.  As I get older I realize the small moments are just as powerful as the big ones.  It's been a long time since I've been a kid and yet I've never been more of a kid than right now.  

So I'll keep taking every kind of photograph like a kid in a candy store til the sugar high wears off, throw up or learn what kind is my favorite.  Pretty sure it's all about being human whether it's in New York or my own little corner of the world.
Life can be like peanut butter...sticky, messy and a whole lotta fun. (iPhone)

The old mama dog,

Virginia Smith

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