Trying something new

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I’ve always been fascinated by street photography. Like so many other photographers, I was enthralled by Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work and fascinated by the idea of openly photographing strangers in public places, capturing poignant moments in time when most people simply wouldn’t be comfortable pointing a camera. Reading this article about Garry Winogrand only served to pique my interest even more.

The problem is, I’m relatively shy, and generally uncomfortable with the idea of sticking a camera in a stranger’s face. So I never thought I would ever really give street photography a try. But, what the hell, I was in DC’s Adams Morgan bar district on a Friday night, with my camera, and if there’s ever a place with interesting subjects for this kind of thing, that was it. So, while chatting with a friend I had met up with, I fired away.

(The funny thing is, I had a conversation with a total stranger earlier today about this. He saw me shooting some random thing on my way home from work and asked for camera advice, saying he was interested in taking pictures of people – strangers in public places, actually. Just kind of an odd coincidence that I would try my hand at street photography just a few hours after having that completely random conversation.)

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This was a pretty tough introduction, seeing as how I shot almost entirely with a 50/1.8; a wider angle lens would have made things easier. Also, the lighting was challenging to say the least, adding another thing that I needed to think about, as if cracking into a whole new kind of photography wasn’t enough. Still, for a first effort I think I had some reasonable success. Obviously I have a lot to work on if I ever try this again, not least being trying to capture actual interactions instead of single people or people just walking together. Though sometimes solitude in the midst of all these people makes for a neat composition, as in the above photo.

I was fascinated by people’s reactions to my camera. Most people never noticed me, even though I was hiding in plain view – often standing in the middle of a busy sidewalk with the camera up to my face. Of those who did notice, a few mugged for the camera, a few just looked surprised, and most looked completely uninterested. No one seemed the least bit annoyed. In that sense this was a good start. I wouldn’t say I felt comfortable by the end, but I definitely moved in that direction.

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Oh, and also… it was a lot of fun. Here’s the full set of some of my better shots from the evening.

7 Responses to “Trying something new”

  1. […] Street photography takes a certain amount of bold. Adams Morgan nightlife. brandonwuphotographyblog […]

  2. Janet says:

    Reasonable success? Good Lord! I’d say you had BRILLIANT success! The first two pictures are especially wonderful and the first one is breathtaking. If it was hanging in a gallery, I’d stare at it for hours.

    Good for you for stepping out and trying something new!

  3. lacochran says:

    I particularly like that long horizontal between the guy sitting in the window and the shakers. My eye just keeps traveling back and forth across it. Nicely done.

  4. I agree….this pictures are awesome, and I’m always a sucker for B&W.

  5. carrie m says:

    These photos are fantastic. I love street photography as well and have grabbed a few great shots over the years but never in a place like Adams Morgan on a Friday night. Well done.

  6. Carla says:

    Great shots!!!! I photograph street style in DC for my blog (just started actually) and I experienced similar reactions of people that you did, most of them definitely did not mind at all. You become more comfortable with it the more you do it, keep at it, you have a great eye for street photography!!!

  7. Brandon Wu says:

    Thanks for the kind comments everyone! I had enough fun that I’m definitely going to give this another shot… hopefully I’ll be able to share some more halfway decent stuff whenever that happens.