Louis Pasteur once said, “In the fields of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind”. This applies for photography as well, especially street photography, as it driven by the ability of a photographer to observe his/her surroundings, and find ways to transform the ordinary and the mundane into something extraordinary. Photographer Elliot Erwitt summed it up beautifully when he said, “To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”
Maybe that is why I find that, sometimes, photos taken on my phone are as good as photos taken with my SLR camera. Often I wonder where I used to take better pictures with my old point-and-shoot as compared to the ones I take with my SLR. I have lost count of the number of times I missed a frame simply because the knob on my SLR was in a different mode than the one that I wanted, and by the time I fiddled with it and turned it to the right setting, the moment had gone by and was firmly filed in the past for all eternity. There is no going back is there?
This just reinforces the idea that, gadgets aside, photography is driven by the mind and its willingness to observe details — something that is so often not possible when the mind is cluttered with lists of chores to be completed, distractions from social media feeds, and other day-to-day concerns. I instead do my best work on moments free of mental clutter, during times when I feel distanced from everything around me and where I am a mere spectator watching the world go by. In some ways, it is like surrendering control and seeing what happens when I allow the world to wash over me. It is about opening the door for chance encounters. About finding those moments where I just got out of my own way.
So, here are some photographs that I clicked while floating on a ship down the Yangtze river in China, far away from the duties of home, standing in a crowd with unfamiliar faces, physically separated from my ‘subject’ by deep waters, and in some poetic way, separated by time as well, as the subjects varied depending on the speed of the tide carrying me downstream — prominent one moment, and out of sight the next.
That does look like a cozy place for a private conversation, doesn’t it?
Have you ever let go and ended up creating something wonderful simply because you got out of your own way? Let me know in the comments below!