Monday, December 20, 2010

Total Lunar Eclipse of the Heart

“Every now and then, I get a little bit lonely,” sings Bonnie Tyler. She wrestles with being tired, nervous, terrified, restless, and just when she’s about to fall apart, she sees a look in the eyes. That sounds like the life of a street photographer. You push on, waiting, ready to pounce, nervous that you’ll intrude or miss the moment. You're terrified sometimes of what you’ve seen or what might happen. Just when you’re ready to fall apart from exhaustion, you see a look in the eyes and you press the button.

Once I was taking pictures during a Seattle festival called Northwest Folklife when I heard a distinct pop sound, one that I had only heard in the movies. I knew at once that it was gunfire. Hundreds of people started running toward me while a dozen cops ran fearlessly into the unknown. Armed only with a camera, I ran to take photos. Two cops tackled a man who had blood splattered on his face, while a woman on the ground bled from the thigh. People were pushing and yelling, acting like a frightened herd of horses. It was just before dark and I had film with ISO 100 loaded with no time to change it. I needed a pretty fast shutter speed and my hands were shaking so much that the usual 1/focal length rule no longer applied. I had enough time to take about six shots before the cops rushed the suspect away from the scene. I got lucky and had some photos published in the local newspaper but they were far from my best work. While I was deeply impacted from the event, my photos lacked the impact I desired.

Lunar events are associated with heightened emotions and the total lunar eclipse is supposed to have a deep emotional impact. As a street photographer, it’s not so much how you feel, but how you are able to create a deep emotional impact in your viewer. If you’re nervous, tired, and lonely, you must clear your mind, let it go and get back to the reason why you’re on the street. No one sees the sweat and tears that went into a photo. No one knows that you were shaking so much you could barely hold the camera still. All they see is picture. They don’t hear the yelling or feel the pushing. They don't feel the weakness in your legs.

The total lunar eclipse is about change and letting go. If you can let go of your emotions while taking photos, you are well on your way to changing how you take photographs. It’s important to listen to your emotions and know how you feel about a subject, but it’s best not to let your emotions overtake you, especially while you’re vulnerable on the street. This detached state of mind will also help you tell the story from a more objective standpoint. Remain detached but please don’t end up with a total eclipse of your heart. Photos without heart have little impact.

1 comment:

  1. Wow John.. what a great read, and a great moment of your mind..