Alive on the Street

Street photography has always been to close to my heart. Remember, I wrote about the importance of shooting from the heart in a post two weeks ago (From the Heart). What draws me to street photography is the feeling of being alive amongst my fellow human beings, seeing and learning from how they each embrace life—at least by their public appearance.

At first look, street photography indeed seems to be about appearance. But it only becomes truly interesting when a photographer is able to dig under the facade we all put up and capture genuine human behaviour and earnest emotional moments. That is when street photography becomes like a universal porthole to life; when it speaks about experiences that we all may share, even when the appearance is utterly unique or uncommon.

Another part of photographing on the street that I like is the challenge it impose. Because it is a challenge to go out and photograph strangers on the street. It’s like putting in a personal investment and not knowing what will happen. Street photographing forces you out of the box, out of the comfort zone, which is always good for any creative endeavour. It generates that little bit of jittering uncertainty and discomfort that may boost you into something extraordinary. Not all the times, but sometimes—when you are willing to let go and just flow with whatever happens. And when that happens, that is when I feel the most alive.

In May this year, I attended a photo workshop in Rome, taught by the visually proficient photographer Martin Bogren. It was five days of intense and good street shooting. Now I have turned what I started in Rome into a new project. Whenever I visit a city, I will allocate time to photograph its streets as I did in Rome. I also plan to go places only with this project in mind. The last couple of weeks, I have been shooting in Seattle. Over the next couple of weeks, I will continue the project first in Panama City and then in Santa Cruz in Bolivia.

These images here, are from Seattle. If you want to have a look of the images from Rome, you will find them on the posts A Roman Stance and Streets of Rome. By the way the project is called “Cities of delution”.

52 thoughts on “Alive on the Street

  1. Street photography is one of my ‘things’….I love the challenge of photographing strangers and trying to capture emotion, or find juxtapositions, and contrasts, experiment with motion blur, capture a silhouette or two – depending what story I am trying to tell, what mood I want to convey….

  2. Great photos, Otto. I too have become intrigued with street photography, and love finding those moments with people unaware, or aware of being photographed with no pretenses, or artificial posing.

  3. Love your street photography candid moments, but, well at least on my computer, the exposure is very dark and the details are a little hard to see. Did you mean them to be so dark? Or is it my computer screen? I admit I have my screen brightness turned down a wee bit so as to make it easier on my eyes. Perhaps you deliberately shot them at that exposure strength?

    The 1st, 2nd and last shots are my favourites and I would love to see them lightened.

    In my (limited) experience, street photography takes a fair amount of time and one has to be willing to walk around to catch some of those unexpected scenes of everyday life that make one’s street photography unique, although if the city is crowded and the scene is everchanging, sitting or standing in the one spot for a good length of time can be an interesting challenge in itself.

    1. Street photography indeed takes a lot of time and plenty of shooting. For these photos from Seattle, I probably took around 1600 photos which resulted in about 15 images I can live with…

      As for the darkness, yes, I deliberately processed them this dark. This is how this project is going right now, but of course, I might change it at a later stage. 🙂 Sorry for the inconvenience.

      1. Not an inconveniece as such, Otto. Wasn’t sure whether you meant them to be dark or not. Obviously you did. I’ll look forward to seeing some more as you review the trip.

  4. From the very beginning of following your posts I have loved your street photography the most, Otto. You really know how to capture people in ordinary activity and although I might have walked right on by, in your photography I always see something interesting!

  5. I love capturing people when they don’t know they are being photographed. Everything is more natural, nothing forced. But capturing that moment is part luck, part patience!
    These are stunning!

  6. i’m sorry lol but as soon as i saw the chihuahua i got distracted 🙂
    as far as i go, street photography is just another reason for people to hate me for no reason and tell me to fuck off lol

    1. It sure can happen, but most people will be surprisingly willing to be photographed, even on the street and by a stranger. That is a least my experience. Of course, people in these photos, didn’t even know they were photographed. Sorry about the chihuahua.

  7. One day after Robert Frank’s dead seeing your street photos, so different from your usual work reinforces in me the idea that photography is such a powerful tool to express our feelings, specially when the photographer is able to do it in a personal style.
    For sure the “dark” treatment of your street photos is particular, maybe it express that kind of alienation present in some (all?) big cities, this is my first reaction. I’m a little surprised because following your blog since years and after we met in Bergen you seems me a more solar person…
    It’s an interesting project, I’ll be glad to follow the development…
    PS last moment thought: just about Antonioni movies about alienation…

    1. Thank you for the lovely words, Robert. The darkness in the images is indeed partly about the alienation I often see in bigger cities. And, yes, it was sad to read about one of the greatest photographers passing away.

  8. Beautiful photos, especially the last one. I am ‘selectively shy’ and would not be bold enough to take photos of random people on the streets, with or without their consent, so I will live vicariously through you. 🙂

  9. I admire the challenge … putting yourself in unknown and possibly uncomfortable situations … and then making connections. The low-key processing gives them a somber but real feeling.

  10. These are excellent photos and reveal a great deal about the characters, the atmosphere and the situations. I too am an enthusiastic ‘people watcher’ – but from a distance. I prefer to observe and create my own backstory about the lives of characters who appear in my ;tableau;. I suppose its a different form of creativity and one better suited to my natural temperament.

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