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The street photographer – a schizophrenic, scientific serial killer?

Two things made me think of this connection – a documentary which covered the various types of killers: those who kill from afar (by bombs or by shooting with a hunting rifle) the closer kill, such as a pistol shot, and the close up killer who enjoy watching the victims face as he thrusts the knife in.

The best street shooters are the latter, they want to smell the perfume and see the facial expression before they shoot.

One of the many symptoms of schizophrenia is being captivated by details. Some drugs mimic this, hence the stereotype of the spaced out hippy contemplating a flower.

This is also a characteristic of the street photographer. We can be confronted by a mass of hundreds of people on a city street but we notice the small, unusual things – those two are about to kiss, that homeless person is wearing an expensive watch, that tattoo mimics the dress pattern.

But being able to see these things and then capture them is another thing.

An understanding of geometry, perspective, the rules of composition (and when to break them) is needed.

Then the often hugely complex operation of a modern camera, it seems you need a degree to work them! I've had my Nikon DSLR for over a year and am only coming to grips with all the functions, and it's not a 'top of the line' model. Life was simpler with my old Nikon F2 film camera!

A certain degree of fearless is also needed. If I had a dollar for every shot I missed due to not being able to put the camera up to my eye and shoot I would be rich. But the memory of these missed shots (the one that got away is always the best and biggest, same as fishing!) drives me to just shoot regardless of my fears. Also I've learned to not think too much. If there is the possibility of a good shot then just shoot!! The scene will evaporate in a fraction of a second, never to return.

But all that is still not enough.

Something, indefinable to me, needs to be present in the best. The "eye" is how best I could describe it or the "smell" of the streets.

An example, which doesn't include a photo but describes the concept: I was walking down a street in Asia many years ago. I saw an old woman beggar sitting on a piece of cardboard with a rusty can in her hand. I looked at her, she looked directly at me and I saw my mother's eyes! In that moment time froze and I had a deep appreciation of her situation and the realisation that it could easily be me there.

Of course, as well as the bleak scenes, there are the many joyful ones that celebrate our life on this crazy planet we call home. I prefer those nowadays.

Street photography is like a kind of meditation on life. Our senses are so finely concentrated on seeking out "the shot" that we forget about our mortgages, disappointments and the unfairness of the world.

I feel the same when I'm fishing, the two activities have similarities.

So why do we shoot street? We would all have different reasons - for some it's for ego, acceptance, to show their view of the world, a drive to create, to communicate.  For me it's like a meditation, as above, for fun and also when I pass I want my children and my children's children to be able to look at my photos and know that I was more than just a father or grandfather, that they can see my world through my eyes.

Why do you shoot street?

When you're in the right place at the right time and all the planets align you get a photo like this, still my favourite from dA:

Name of Image

What's your favourite?
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:iconcanankk:
Canankk Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2012
Should I quit taking all my drugs Doug? :lol:
Wonderful article, I love it a lot! Thanks for sharing :hug:
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:icondougnz:
DougNZ Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2012
Judging from your recent manipulations you must have a pretty good stash of drugs! :lol:
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:iconcanankk:
Canankk Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2012
Too late for drugs :whisper: but it is the right time for dementia :lol:
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:icondougnz:
DougNZ Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2012
pfff...you're only a baby ;-)
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:iconcanankk:
Canankk Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2012
:rofl: Now I can go and sleep well :sleepy:
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:iconmarius1956:
marius1956 Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
So true!..and inspiring.Thanks,Doug.
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:icondougnz:
DougNZ Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2012
:D thanks Marius
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:iconsplendidofsun:
splendidofsun Featured By Owner May 6, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
"Street photography is like a kind of meditation on life. Our senses are so finely concentrated on seeking out "the shot" that we forget about our mortgages, disappointments and the unfairness of the world." <-- This!!

I didn't know that whenever I go out on the street and take photos that I forgot my problems, my stressful condition, or anything. i just concentrate on the street, and after few minutes of walk, the smile comes back to my face, my mood becomes good again, etc.

Street photography for me as a beginner is the therapy. To my agoraphobia, I was very uncomfortable being out in public area, in a very crowded area. I was uncomfortable walking alone on the street, feels like everyone's staring at me (well, I still feel that way, but that might be because of my arabic-hindi face :doh). Street photography cured me.

For my eyes and brain, I'm still in training though, I try to see everything at once, sort out which is exciting, which I want to capture, and I have to take decision in an instant to take that photo.

And street photography makes me get to know more people, and interact with them, and learn from them.

Great article, Doug :tighthug:
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:icondougnz:
DougNZ Featured By Owner May 6, 2012
Nice to hear Meutia :) Yes it can be therapeutic, the same as fishing - just relaxing and taking your mind off things.
Thanks for thr response :D
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:iconsplendidofsun:
splendidofsun Featured By Owner May 7, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
You're welcome :D

*:whisper: btw, I don't know if I like fishing or not, because it takes a lot of silent action, and since I am hyperactive, I might be fainting due to the boredom :giggle:*
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:icondougnz:
DougNZ Featured By Owner May 7, 2012
That's understandable, women don't like silence much ;-)
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:iconsplendidofsun:
splendidofsun Featured By Owner May 8, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
you got me there! :lmao:
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:iconikarisou:
Ikarisou Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2012
Finally came around to have some quite minutes to read this Journal.
Quite interesting comparison, I have to say, but I like the idea. I often compare street photography to Iaido and try to take the same approach either when training or going out to shoot - to approach it every time like the first time, and also not to worry if it's a missed shot or a kata gone totally wrong. Just use that one chance as well as you possibly can...
Thanks for sharing these thoughts!
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:icondougnz:
DougNZ Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2012
That a great way to look at it Anja :) It does have some similarities to sport, I find I need to "warm up" first and also the more you train (take photos) the better you get!
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:iconikarisou:
Ikarisou Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2012
:nod:
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:iconmarx77:
MARX77 Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2012   Photographer
"Also I've learned to not think too much. If there is the possibility of a good shot then just shoot!! The scene will evaporate in a fraction of a second, never to return."
And that's exactly why I intend to stick to my self imposed 'One Shot' rule. Your words are bang on! :thumbsup:


Well, I did say that I'm gonna keep coming back to this. :D
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:icondougnz:
DougNZ Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2012
It's a good discipline to get into! Did you ever use film? Mind you, rules are make to be broken, depends on the circumstances ;-)
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:iconmarx77:
MARX77 Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2012   Photographer
Understood. :nod:

It was on the 24th of Feb. 2011, when I picked up my trusty Canon Powershot camera for the first time. I was determined to shoot proper photographs and not just snapshots - like family birthday parties or an occasional quick 'for facebook' snaps of my folks and friends, using my old k800i 3.2 megapixel Sony Ericsson cellphone. I'm still using that phone. It just won't die! :lol:
A whole year later, and I still haven't looked at those 'How To' photography manuals, or bothered picking up tips and tricks from YouTube like any sane, aspiring photographer probably would do these days.
I wanted to learn how to see first, and then try to figure out how to put I've just seen on my camera's tiny LCD screen. :)

All that I've learned so far is by observing you guys. When I called you my teacher, I really meant it - I still do.
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:icondougnz:
DougNZ Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2012
ah, you're a visual learner. Well you've certsinly made a quantam leap since you've been here! I've learned a lot on dA too :)
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:iconmarx77:
MARX77 Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2012   Photographer
Well I see Street Photographer as a ninja! :ninja:
Superb journal as always, Doug. I'm definitely gonna keep coming back to this. :nod:
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:icondougnz:
DougNZ Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2012
Cool thanks, it's the result of a quiet day at work ;-)
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:iconkhaostheory455:
KhaosTheory455 Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
What happens if the people notice that you are taking pictures to them and start to ask questions?Or you need to ask permission to every people you take the pic?
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:icondougnz:
DougNZ Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2012
It's not a problem, they hardly ever notice. Only a couple of times someone asked why I took their photo and I explained about street photography and they understood. But if I'm doing a closeup strret portrait I often ask first [link] but not for the candid street photos.
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:icondougnz:
DougNZ Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2012
It's not a problem, they hardly ever notice. Only a couple of times someone asked why I took their photo and I explained about street photography and they understood. But if I'm doing a closeup strret portrait I often ask first [link] but not for the candid street photos.
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:iconearthhart:
EarthHart Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
A great piece of writing, Doug :nod: From a soul stealer to a serial killer, cheers :ahoy:
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:icondougnz:
DougNZ Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012
Cheers, thanks Will :D
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:iconbadnan:
badnan Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2012   Photographer
Nice journal serial killer :D
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:icondougnz:
DougNZ Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2012
thanks schizophrenic girl :D
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:iconbadnan:
badnan Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012   Photographer
How did you know? :P [link]
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:iconwaitingforlefty:
waitingforlefty Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Very well put. I agree that it is about love, and embracing humanity with your camera. But I also identify with the reluctance to shoot sometimes, when the subject is looking straight at me and I feel guilty about violating him or her for my own imagery -- because sometimes shooting (consider the word) seems like an aggressive act, even the intention is not. Because my photography often focuses on children, the ideas of "stalking" and "shooting" become even more uncomfortable, no matter how pure the intent.

I like capturing the immediacy of life on the street and preserving these fleeting human moments. Through this act, we learn about the interconnectedness of all life.
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:icondougnz:
DougNZ Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2012
Well said Pamela and nice observations. I think it's a bit harder for guys at times and I occasionally see scenes I won't photograph as I could be seen to be a peeper. But it's probably easier for us at night.
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:iconhonda-vfr:
honda-vfr Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2012
i think part of the successful street photographer is capturing the emotion of the moment. either the look in somebodies eyes or the emotion of the scene. i like your humor and prefer that to the really dark stuff, but you do well in both genres.

i haven't determined what gets captured, the photographer's emotion or the scene's emotion. i think it is both.

the stalker stuff, that's the rush you get when you get it right because as you said, the scene may evaporate.

nice journal, i enjoyed the read.
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:icondougnz:
DougNZ Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2012
Cheers Matt, cool comments! I must upload some pics of when I was passing thru New Mexico in the late 70s...
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:iconhonda-vfr:
honda-vfr Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2012
that would be nice. perhaps i have a shot or two of the same place taken recently for you to compare.
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:iconeyedance:
EyeDance Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2012
A very strong, many-faceted and controversial take on the nature of street photgraphy, Doug. :-) But I must say you know how to drive your point towards where it belongs - home!

First: this is a mighty journal, and I believe few have given the topic so much in-depth thought as you did here. Of course, the serial-killer comparison is hard to take, and makes one swallow rather hard, should one have dabbled his/herself in street photography in the past as well. A serial killers approach and joy when "going in for the kill" is rightfully seen as rather "sickish", to say the least. But after the first shockwave, I can see what you're trying to get across. And yes, it is true. When my eye falls on somebody in the street for whatever reason, I stalk and move in on this person, waiting for the exact "desired" moment, and should this moment occur, I will ruthlessly execute the very last step: kill by way of pressing the shutter release button. And should I feel that my shot has succeeded, then the imminent joy is enormous. In that sense, your humble street photographer is not just distantly related to the notoriety of a serial killer. :-)

I haven't read all the comments below, so as not to get influenced by their thoughts about your line of thinking, but I will. Because such controversial statements are a fertile ground for all sorts of opinions, usually some that are even more far-out than the original. :D

Second: for me, it was crucial to read about the encounter you had in Asia that long time ago, no matter that this is in writing only and not accompanied by a shot that would illustrate the scene. Your ability to see another fate for yourself by looking into the eyes of somebody which where your own mothers eyes in that instant, gives your journal here unlimited credibility. Anybody can bla-bla on about the virtues of a certain angle of art, but few will be able to underline their view by such a drastic experience, even if it may have lasted for a spilt second only. It's your ability to see these crossroads that impresses me a lot. And it should be a sure sign that you've kept a soft spot for your fellow human beings, undeserving bastards as they are! :D

And your kids and grandkids will see even more than the world through the eyes of a father and a grandfather: they will see history; no matter how fragmented these pictorial short stories may be, they will not cease to fascinate. Becaue it's life, and life only (this conclusion is not my own, it's taken from B. Dylans It's all right, Ma, famously used for the Easy Rider soundtrack by Roger McGuinn).

Why do I do street shots? I dunno. I've never given it any serious thought. For all I know, it's that I get fascninated by certain faces, movements, moods and coincidental situations in a way that I can't resist to go after it like a hunter, intent to stalk and shoot. No matter any collateral damage that may occur. :-)

Thanks, Doug, for a fascinating read, and for so nakedly present your obsession with street photography. Coupled with your reasoning and insights, it's a smashing piece indeed. :-)
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:icondougnz:
DougNZ Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2012
Thanks Bruno, as you quite rightly noticed I was trying to be provocative with my opening remarks to wake people up ;-) I always remember a good opening, I picked up a biography in the library years ago and the first sentence read "I was born an aristocrat. My parents, being peasants, were naturally a disappointment to me" :lol:
And as a few commenters noted, a love of humanity is at the basis of most good street photography, though not all. When I sometimes drift into teasing my subjects, as in Mont Blanc, well the devil made me do it ;-)
Wonderful comment as usual and another chapter for my book of your wisdom :D
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:iconeyedance:
EyeDance Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2012
I'm glad I wasn't completely off the mark. :-) The opening sentence of this biography you mentioned is very intriguing indeed, so I tried to chase it down by way of Google; using the whole sentences or parts of it, but no luck. On the plus side: it's calming to know that Google is still not like God, who's supposed to know everything. On the downside: I still don't know whose biography it is you recited here. Enlightenment would be gratefully welcomed. :-) Because well-written, well-researched biographies are always a better read than any fiction, no matter how gifted the author. Real life just can't be beaten.

And about that devil: you'll have to accept his interferences. He may have you look bad, but he's lifting these unintentional collaborations way beyond the average . :D "I sold my soul to the devil" is still better than agreeing to a mortgage deal with your local banker. :evillaugh:
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:icondougnz:
DougNZ Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2012
ha...I tried to google that quote too with no luck. I didn't take the book out of the library as the opening sentence was the best part. All I remember was it was a European guy, gay, extroverted and full of himself.
And bankers ARE the devil! ;-)
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:iconmyraincheck:
myraincheck Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2012
I sure am officially crazy so I can't argue with you on that :lol:
(street) photography is my journal and my track in this world, in this life, my way to fight back time and mortality and the nonsense.
I can't say what is my 'all time' favorite, it sounds a bit too much definitive, but I can say which photo opened the world of street photography to my eyes: [link]
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:icondougnz:
DougNZ Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2012
We're all crazy Mary :) [link]
That is a great shot, you feel like you're right there in the middle of the scene.
You've had quite an influence on a lot of people, myself included :)
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:iconnunocanha:
NunoCanha Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Interesting.
We share many things.
And yes, itīs more cheaper than medication :D
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:icondougnz:
DougNZ Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2012
haha...so true, thanks Nuno :)
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:iconnunocanha:
NunoCanha Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
:thumbsup:
Always.
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:iconcheekymonkeyali:
cheekymonkeyali Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2012
My absolute favourite:
[link]
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:icondougnz:
DougNZ Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2012
Interesting choice, what is it about that one that you love?
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:iconcheekymonkeyali:
cheekymonkeyali Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2012
Beautiful tones, nice rythmic repetition of forms, an idea that something interesting is happening, but you don't know what, the distillation of a scene to the critical elements, and overall there's just something warm about it. Even the cloud plays its part perfectly.
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:iconidoux:
iDoux Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2012  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Great article Doug, and loved the tittle... well i think i was shooting street photograhpy even when i didnt knew what it was, i just love to capture some moments in my diary life, things that to some people, well almost all people dont mean anything, and maybe they say is a bad shot, well for me it means something, it makes me remember of a moment in my early life, when i was a kid, an ex-girlfriend, a dead friend, an important event, lots of things trigger this feeling and makes me takes a shot, sometimes as you said is just for fun, or for capturing something funny, is a mistery sometimes, i just like an angle or a person and i want to take a "shot", is great the feeling after the days end and you are downloading the images in your computer, and looking at your new shots. Besides im still young and i know that when im old i wont have the need to look at other people photos to remember how was this time now.
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:icondougnz:
DougNZ Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2012
That's the best reason to shoot photos Doug, for yourself. If someone else likes them then that's just a bonus
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:iconidoux:
iDoux Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2012  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
You hit the nail ;)
:iconahoyplz:
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:iconstamatisgr:
StamatisGR Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2012   Photographer
Well said dear! One more reason to marry you!
Here is my whys: [link]
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