New Years in Istanbul is an experience of a kind. One group of the population does not care about it – the other parties. My 10 days in Istanbul in late December/January 2012-13 was a fascinating experience – I have heard about the inherent confluence of cultures, times, and geography – all draped in layers of history. Yes these are the cliches that we all hear – but to experience it is another thing. And then to allow it to soak and sink in completely is of overwhelming proportions. It is a different world. In the last several weeks the places I so languidly strolled around – sipping on Ayran and Doner Kebabs have been razed with disturbance. Politics put aside – this is unfortunate. I hope immensely – things will become normal soon.
I write this amidst a snowstorm that is covering DC area with snow that it has not witnessed before. This year has been interesting with how much snow we have seen. It has been a delight – with lots of photo opportunities.
Last Saturday, Georgetown vs Duke basketball game did not deter the lovers. Long queues and ticket sales colored the white snow and the entourage of police cars that covered the area for our President showed up for a good part of the game.
Penn Quarter and Chinatown is building its own character… distinct from the power circles that dominate most part of NW. There is color, restaurants, moods, and music …albeit within a few blocks. On one side there is the Portrait gallery, the Spy museum, bunch of hotels, and there are small hoops which sell bus tickets for New York, restaurants, and most importantly people of all kinds.
Another interesting thing I notice is the sale of this paper called “street sense”. Last Saturday there were quite a few hot young girls … on another day more seasoned street paper seller.
I was able to strike a conversation with one pretty color who seem to be quite persistent that I buy one paper from her. I usually dont do that in exchange for a picture. So I explained and walked away… although I was kinda torn to disappoint a pretty girl. On another occasion, this African American seller did not want to be photographed but then after a few ups and down in the street corner made him change his mind. “Come over you dont need to buy a paper. Just take my picture.” We then struck a conversation and he showed how he is trying to make a business by coming up with catchy slogans – mostly on Obama. “Interesting,” I said and moved on.
These are few instances which among others that make my life as a street photographer quite fulfilling. It takes a bit of moving out of comfort zone to talk to a stranger and ask a picture. Many times like the paper seller, it takes a bit of familiarity – even if it s walking around him a few times – to break that ice. But I have to admit, every time the ice is broken, and I get across another human being in the planet — connect with him, get to know a little bit about his world — I find myself fulfilled. It is this joy of constantly exploring the human condition around me and documenting in pictures that make my life enriching.
I never get tired of street photography. If I had to summarize and was asked to pick just one genre (if there is such a thing), that intrigues me the most — I would pick street photography. I have always awed and appreciated the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, and Gary Winogrand. The lovely moments they captured for proverbial eternity — boxes up culture, flavor, and rides of emotion and feelings. Just like a good poem keep talking to me at different levels as I grow and mature, their photos speak to me in a similar way. Another dimension that comes to light — more so because of the specific medium of photography –more precisely, street photography. And that is – it is damn hard! HCB has said that luck plays a big part. While I agree that being in Washington, DC is different for this kind of work is not same as being in NYC or Paris or London or some city in Asia. But the fact is the photographer matters. More than the camera he is carrying — albeit all the ravings and musings on using a Leica rangefinder (I use one these days too). But again it is not so much about the camera but the eye and “sting” of the photographer. Else, how come HCB has gone around the world taking pictures. I strive to mater the art of capturing the “decisive moment”. I say this again it is hard. But it is rewarding. I have just started to scratch the surface and I realize how great the opportunities for improvement are. As if there is a whole ocean to cross and I have just started wading the waters — not even swimming. Looking at the pictures of greats are by itself – humbling. Every time I start loitering in a street corner, I wonder how much it would take to create a body of work – that speaks of my style and tells a narrative. I wonder. My journey has just begun. Here are my first baby steps.