Letter from a Flaneur to a Street Photographer
Dear Street Photographer,
I hope this letter finds you well and that you are enjoying your wanderings in the city. I am writing to you as a fellow Flaneur, a lover of the urban spectacle and the hidden stories that lurk behind every corner.
I admire your work and your ability to capture the fleeting moments of life in the city. You have a keen eye for the beauty, the humor, and the drama that unfolds in the streets. You are not just a passive observer but an active participant in the urban scene. You interact with your subjects, you provoke reactions, and you create connections.
I share your passion for the city and its inhabitants, but I have a different approach. I prefer to remain anonymous and invisible, to blend in with the crowd, and to observe from a distance. I do not carry a camera, but a notebook and a pen. I write down my impressions, my thoughts, and my feelings as I stroll through the streets. I do not seek to capture reality but to interpret it.
You see, I do not aim to capture or create reality but to reveal it. To reveal its beauty, its mystery, its poetry. To reveal the stories that are hidden in plain sight, the stories that are waiting to be told.
I think that is what makes me more poetic and more romantic than you. I do not limit myself to the visible reality, but I explore the invisible one. I do not impose my vision, but I discover new ones. I do not expose myself to the world, but I let the world speak to me.
I think we have a lot in common, but also a lot to learn from each other. I would love to meet you someday and exchange our experiences and perspectives on the city. Maybe we could even collaborate on a project that combines your images and my words. I think it would be a fascinating experiment.
If you are interested, please let me know. I hope to see you soon.
– – – –
Thank you for your letter. I was pleasantly surprised to receive it and to learn that you are a fan of my work. I appreciate your kind words and your interest in my approach to the city.
I am intrigued by your proposal of meeting and collaborating on a project. I think it could be an interesting challenge and an opportunity to explore the city in a new way. However, I have some reservations about your style and your attitude.
You say that you are a lover of the urban spectacle and the hidden stories, but how can you truly appreciate them if you remain anonymous and invisible? How can you interpret reality if you do not engage with it? How can you write down your impressions, your thoughts, and your feelings if you do not express them?
You say that you challenge the ugliness, the boredom, and the monotony of the city, that you create the impossible reality, that you surprise yourself. You say that you are more adventurous and more fun than me because you make the world listen to you.
You see, I believe that the city is not just a stage but a playground. It is not enough to observe; one must participate. It is not enough to write; one has to create. That is why I use my camera as a tool, as a weapon, as a friend. I do not just capture moments; I create them. I do not just document reality, I transform it.
I think that is what makes me more creative than you. I do not limit myself to the existing reality, but I invent new ones. I do not follow the rules, but I make my own. I do not hide behind a notebook and a pen, but I expose myself to the world.
I hope you do not take this as an offense but as a challenge. I respect your choice to be a Flaneur, but I invite you to try something different. Step out of your comfort zone and join me in the adventure of being a Street Photographer.
If you are still interested, please let me know. I will be wearing a fedora, my camera, and a smile. I hope to see you soon.
A Street Photographer
Motivation vs. Inspiration or, “A Kick in the Ass”
People often read photography books or take classes or workshops to “get inspiration,” as they say. When asked why they are not shooting, ”I need inspiration” is often the answer. They would rather sit on the couch, watch TV or do anything but head out.
From experience, firsthand, and based on fellow photographers’ responses when questioned, it is often not inspiration they need but rather “motivation” they need. Or what I like to call “A Kick in the Ass.”
I have seen this many times. If I call someone up and ask them to head out and shoot, it’s not the inspiration I give them that makes them come out; it’s the motivation, the little nudge or push. I have even had photographers not want to attend a weekend workshop they have already paid for. After a little coercing, they relent. Usually, after I remind them about the money they spent, is money, or the potential wasted money, inspiration, or motivation?
I have often thought about why that is. Why do they use “I need Inspiration” as an excuse? The answer is L O V E. Ok, not hot wild passionate love of another person, but passion for the photography you do. I have found that those wannabe street photographers usually only head out in groups or with friends. They never head out on their own. On the other side, passionate street shooters tend to want to head out all the time. When in town in Vancouver or any other city, I always want to head out and shoot. I have even found myself heading out without a camera just to “observe” people, the streets, the city, and the hustle.
Even in the non-street genres, many “photographers” only head out with others. It’s not photography but rather the social aspect of shooting with someone else or with a group or club that many people love. And frankly, that’s OK.
But, as an active instructor, teacher, judge, and photographer, I have noticed firsthand that photographers who often head out on their own create the majority of the best images I see, whether at a club, in competition, or within artists’ circles. By heading out, I mean shooting on their own, even just in a studio or darkroom.
These photographers are not loners, well, not all of them, but rather they are fixated on their task of shooting or creating. It’s the photography and not the social aspect that drives them. It’s the love of the craft and the art that both motivates and inspires them. It is easy heading out when you love to do something or be in a situation or location that allows you to photograph what you love, whether in the wilderness photographing bears, on the coast shooting seascapes, or in the city shooting the streets.
Whether these photographers love the situation or location more than doing the photography itself, I do not know the answer. Still, I will get some answers from fellow photographers in the weeks and months ahead.
Where do you fit in? Is it about photography, travel, location, friends, or social interaction? Do you find yourself heading out on your own or just with others? Is it Inspiration or Motivation you need? Do you even know what the difference is? Let us know.