Saturday, November 26, 2011

Henry and friends - A day in the streets

Last post I wrote about finding the small things where you least expect it. Today I am going to share about finding the big things where you least expect it.

Things being slow as they are for me at work, I decided to take the opportunity of a day off to do some shooting. As usual, the inner dialog begins with, "what should I shoot today?" As usual, I run down a whole litany of choices and after some hawing and humming, I opted to do some street shooting.

I headed up to Waterbury as I had a few locations I wanted to scout out for future photo shoots. I found a parking spot next to the town green and was happy to find the place hoping with activity. Being such a beautiful day I was more than pleased with what I saw.

If you've never done street photography it can be a little awkward feeling pulling out a camera and having people watch every move you make. To 'break the ice', sort of speak, I started by pointing my lens upwards at various buildings, monuments and such. Before long the lens started focusing on the people around me. In no time I was capturing the scenes around me and no one seemed to really pay much attention to me. Those that did I simply ignored and pointed the camera inconspicuously in another direction.

But here is where it gets interesting. As I started observing the people through my lens I began noticing there was a strange sort of connection between everyone. It appeared that everyone seemed to know everyone else. I suddenly felt like I had stumbled upon some kind of reunion. But this is a public green. This is where strangers come to walk their pets, hop onto a bus or walk hand in hand with a loved one. How could all these people know each other?

I pondered this as I paid closer attention to the people. They seemed like your typical inner city types. But some of them looked like they're quite comfortable on the street. then it clicked. Most of the people in the park were homeless. There must have been a shelter somewhere near by and they were merely doing their mandatory outdoor time. The camaraderie was tangible and the guardedness was obvious. I was allowed to be there but I was also being kept an eye on.

Every once in a while someone would come up and ask me if I worked for a newspaper or something. I simply responded that I was there practicing my photography and this seemed to satisfy most. After some time I could tell who was comfortable with me being there and who was not. I even had a few people come up to me to have their picture taken. Complete strangers stood there, grinned at the lens as I clicked off a frame or two.

Before long I was invited to join this small group of people milling around a bench. Tito, Enrique, Charlie, Lucile and Roy. The majority of them were from a residence home across the street from the green. For the most part they were individuals many people would walk by and not even offer a glance towards. Of course they were curious about what I was doing and why I would even want to take any of their pictures. Once I showed them some of the frames I got, they realized they actually looked good in the preview frame. Soon they were aping for the camera and telling me about who is who amongst the locals. "Watch out for him, he's a trouble maker", Tito warned me, "and see that one there", Lucile warned, "that's actually a guy!" as my lens pointed to a heavily made up woman.

Soon I was in the midst of a very warm and very inviting group of people who were simply celebrating life in their own way while enjoying the warm weather. Tito, a rather animated Puerto Rican, commandeered the conversation but after he left Henry took up the slack. Soon I was being offered all kinds of tips as to where to shoot. Fulton Park, Rainbow Falls, and a few other local spots were mentioned.

So in all, I met some wonderful people, got some nice tips and chatted for several hours with people I would otherwise never have met.

So next time you head out into the streets to do some shooting, don't just use your eyes. You have to use your ears and listen with your heart. Otherwise you'll miss all the wonderful things that makes this hobby so much fun.

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