What are you looking at?

Taking photos in the streets of Seoul

A post of a couple of weeks by Tim Gander (Curb your enthusiasm) made me think about Street photography and if I do that kind of photography myself.  The situation reminded me of the photo above.

When I was in Seoul, I wanted to take a photo of the photos shown in a photo studio. Then a man on a motorbike came into the frame and stopped, waiting for the lights to change. I didn’t to want him in the picture but the shutter was already triggered and since the composition somehow worked to me, I decided to keep the photo.

I don’t like to take photographs of people. There’s a part of me, the Indigenous one, which still believes that by taking a photo of someone you steal part of their soul. Think about it. The man that drove past me won’t be the same ever again after the photo was taken, but in the photo he’ll be permanently wearing a helmet, driving a motorbike. The old man in the photo on the background might have already passes away and his photo will still be hanging there. We will all die and leave only pieces of our soul hanging off photos until they also fade away slowly. If we’re lucky, those photos will show us in our best light, if we’re unlucky, they’ll show us in our lowest. In that sense, there’s something really disturbing about people so affect to photographing homeless people (e.g. see Street Photography: Exploitative vs Respect)

Why so many people like to do “street photography”? I don’t know. I know that for me is not much of a choice: I don’t have enough resources to do much other styles of photography. I don’t have access to a studio; I have a couple of tripods but no external flash, no reflectors, no special equipment, a hide, access to wilderness spot to do wildlife photo… In fact, taking all into account, I don’t do more than the original Kodak Brownie owners did: take snapshots of the vistas during my travels. Because you want to prolong the feeling and emotions of being in a foreign place, because you want to share with loved ones and, now, the whole world, what you discovered in the other side of the world. We are all discoverers of places and people that have existed long before we met them and long before we’ll leave them.

While taking photos in Seoul, I put myself in a funny situation. All of a sudden I felt like all those Asian tourists (Japanese, Korean, Chinese, take your pick) we mock for carrying a camera and snapping photos all the time of all they see. And then, it was my turn: I was the naive tourist taking photos of store windows, cars, food stalls. And the locals were looking right back at me, both an exotic view myself, taking photos of, let’s say, some very ordinary photo studio window shop.

 

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