Street Photography: Expression


The urge to express oneself can lead to some comical happenstance.  I was on Fifth Avenue, which is not a typical route for me.  But I was looking for something different to photograph.  I was not sure what I would find on Fifth, but I’m not as familiar with it and thought I might encounter something that would inspire a shot.

There wasn’t much that was of interest to me.  The avenue is lined with high end commercial establishments like on Times Square, but without the energy.  It was pretty boring and I was starting to think that I was not going to have any photographs worth perusing at the studio.  As it was, I only had only taken a few mundane shots.

It was starting to annoy me because I know from experience that the problem often does not have anything to do with my surroundings.  The fault is with me.  It’s my seeing that is mundane.  I’m being too passive and waiting for the images to come to me instead hunting them down.

That moment of self awareness was the ignition I needed to start actively and critically seeing.  Rather than hoping for an interesting scene or person to materialize before me, I began looking for something more abstract – relationships, contrasts, oppositions, and other conceptual connections.  Within minutes the small sticker declaring “Veggie Power” and “Meatless Monday” caught my attention.  Within milliseconds, I looked to see if there might be something in juxtaposition and there I saw the hot dog sign.  Maybe, in reality, my peripheral vision registered the sign and put the thought in my head.

There’s nothing high and lofty about this photograph.  I don’t mean to make more of it than what it is.  The point for me is remembering that photography is not just a passive intake of what happens to cross my way or – as the street photographer Joel Meyerowitz puts it – the collection of objects.  As soon as I became aware of that again, I became engaged with the environment and in the creation of – rather than the taking of – an image.


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Published by Xiomáro

Nationally exhibited artist, photographer, speaker, teacher, and curator. Author of "Weir Farm National Historic Site" (Arcadia Publishing).

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