The Story behind: Giving street La raison d’être

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Photography for many encompasses different ideals, different purposes for shooting on the weekend or on holiday.  I’ve heard people say they shoot for the fun of it, and shoot for the love of it and they say it’s relaxing. Meeting up with a group of friends. The hearty laughs and ales chasing down a hearty meal.

To really master street you have to become like the coyote. Follow the scent,  pick up the tracks and imagine they are the pray.

Many people go to India to specifically shoot street photography. In India there is a lot of colorful that is meaningless for my taste, because color often distracts from the truer story within the picture.   Unless color clarifies the story content I refrain from allowing color to derail the the truer purpose of the image.

I’m not a big fan of photography without direction.  Many photographers repeat the same mistakes without realizing that the picture before looks like the image currently fresh in there camera.  Photography should be something where you strive to grow by pushing yourself. You should be able to see and improvement in time from the weight of your image content.

When you shoot street there are a million stories around you. You are like a worm on a hook in the water.  It’s up to you to decide which stories you want to hook onto with your camera, and see where it takes you.  It is important you feel comfortable and believe in your heart that you can relate to the people you photograph as well as the viewer you will post to .

I’ve selected this picture to give additional background into the story that I saw and  felt emotionally connected to.  When you shooting documentary, which for me is a progression of shooting street, you really have to process even faster than setting up a project with a reproduced, and approved storyboard which allows all shots to be premeditative and agreed on in advance. There is on wing and a  prayer or run and gun philosophy.  Shooting street-documentary on the spot is not an easy task. Should you fail you crash and burn big time.

When Street phases into documentary photography, you lose the single narrator and you’re no longer in control of the image but rather you watch everything play out.
The subject matter,  you can call characters, develop from flat to real people within your camera frame. Seeing  the development is very exciting in comparison to shooting street portraits, because you never know who the real person is until they make that sentence clear to you.

I selected the school of the blind in India for a documentary project.  I wanted to see and understand something about the division of man an his struggle and his belief in  his journey to reach his goals in life. These struggles comes from encounters that highlight the many humanistic moments which lack empathy.  In this school of the blind, I believe these are the strong and the privileged  in relation to the thousands that never
have the opportunity to attempt a dream.

The school entry requirements are steep. Someone must be your sponsor in minor necessities . Your health record must be perfect, and you must already be able to comprehend on some educational level.  Government aid is limited. If they could open their doors freely to everyone, the school itself would be as packed as a train in Mumbai during rush hour.

eyetest1_DSC8190The phrase “abandon all hope”, is the reality you see and feel as you walk amongst the population  with your camera, cautiously shooting.  The next shot could be your last with your new theo-mracel  camera, in a population, that in order to stay above the poverty line they half a euro a day.  When you do the math you get an astounding idea of how well someone can live from becoming the new fortunate owner of your camera.

When you’re in the street you are a single camera narrative interpreting what you see and how you want to present it to a viewer.  When you’re in the street abroad and you make yourself bait you’re no longer the single camera. The one person narrative becomes the living property of the subject and ongoing introduction of subjects who interact and develop from your flat character perspective to a full, round real person, or people with real questions that are important to them.

Together, as you follow your storyline, one dimension becomes two and finally, near the end, you get your three dimensions.  That’s about when you are emotionally touched and not just emotionally in awe of what has transpired in front of your camera for the day.

gc1440edgeoflight_DSC7890This is the story behind the school of the blind as I moved around freely and for the early part unobserved.  The privilege of being a fly on the wall and capable of silently moving about slowly so that my motion would go unnoticeable, as I moved in as if intimate without breathing to witness, people tuned into their environment.

This time in India was to be an adventure into low light photography with my new OMD, E-M5 a camera that is fearless in low light with its new M. Zuiko Digital lenses.  In this case only my nikon 1 V 1 has  an electronic  mode where the shutter is completely silent. You can put the camera to your ear, and know you pressed the shutter and wonder if you had made an image because there is absolutely no sound.  This feature was perfect for the task in sight. beside the Nikon1 fits so well in my hand It was both an extension of my soul, and eye and thoughts which amazed me every second while I shot. A big full frame camera would have been a disaster.

gc-044I slowly moved out of the way of people as if I was invisible.  I performed ninja like moves between people in class rooms and in dormitories while I observed with my camera. After hours shooting, I wanted to become more of a curiosity as in the moving shadow.  I became the shadow of the ninja  passing a little more sudden in and out of their light which a few could detect. Switching the shooting mode to just above silent mode as I hovered around so their ears could pick up a faint mechanical sound as if it was like a passing fly  buzzing off into the abyss. The camera shot from less than a meter away. At times I set the nikon 1 V1 to operate at intervals. Just enough for them to think that what’s ever around them is not the wings of a fly but something mechanical. In time I broke my silence and continued to shoot and observe. I was just a shadow, but also a human being.

At this point I was as curious as they had become curious of  who I was.
“Who are you”, they asked. I replied, “I’m from America “. At that moment there expression was like seeing the first astronauts land, and walk on the moon. For me, and with all my experience I felt like I had just navigated my apollo space craft to the moon, and had begun communicating with moon men.

The conversation continued as people gathered around me touching my arms and face and realizing how tall I was to them.  It was a moment out of  Jonathan Swift’s travels  amongst the Lilliputians.

gentlemen_DSC8161

They continued asking me questions about the world. I had become there eyes from their outside.  At first you think news caster, but then you feel like the audio part of the national geographical library on the world outside of their tiny island, amongst the billion people of India.

“Are there other schools like ours in the world?”, they asked.  “Yes” I said, “And where are they they”? they questioned.  I paused,  I didn’t want to appear too knowledgable. “In different countries “I said. “France, America, Germany, Spain, Canada, and South America”.  I rattled off as I was beginning the see the number of blind students gather. “Which school for the blind is best?” they asked me. I quickly said their school is best.  “Why is our school better?”,they asked. Speaking with their professors  earlier I learned they study brail in English, Hindu and learn to read Sanskrit and learn music. I repeated what I learned from the professor and from exploring  in and out of classes and dorms. The  young men, and boys didn’t stop. They were thirsty for information.  It was clear that what we see is a lot  of how we intake information. They are still learning the skills needed for communication.

They continued to get to what I believed was the core question.
Are there women in the blind schools?”  I recall covering a story for a blind school in Arizona. There was men and women attending.  “Yes” ,I said, thinking that was the end. They all  got silent wanting to make sure they are all hearing this  breaking news from me. ” And are they pretty women?”, said the young man in the middle of my camera frame. “Yes”, I said.  “Would they like us?” They continued.

I paused for a moment , a long moment with their heads all focused down to see with their  ears. “Yes” I said with a heartfelt passion. What woman would not like you once they come to know as a real person?”

The clincher, and true purpose of their self esteem sprung out with the next question.  They said, “But are we gentlemen, Glenn?” And I said ‘”Of course you all are gentlemen of the highest  degree that can be found in man of the highest quality from any place on this earth”.

They all smiled and cheered, to know that their fears and realities of missing the gift of sight did not diminish their hopes to pair, have a family, be respected, and to continue with more than hope in a world where empathy is not found in the masses, the work force, and in the streets of India in the day to day fight to stay ahead.

Glenn Capers

Thank you very much, Glenn, for your excellent work and your outstanding commitment to fotocommunity.

Matthias Moritz

team fotocommunity.com

12 thoughts on “The Story behind: Giving street La raison d’être

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  1. Friv -

    Photography is great way to express yourself.You can find lot of interesting moments and make some great photos.
    http://friv.lc

  2. This is one inspirational work of words and photography!1!

    kind regards Pete.

  3. Great to hear the ‘behind the scenes’ commentary Glenn … it answered a lot of the questions that rattled around my head as I watched your images appear over the recent days. Just goes to show that once we start to talk to people we find that we are all pretty much the same. The other thing that occurred to me was the question of can a photographers presence influence what takes place … once your cover was blown the faces changed.
    best regards,
    Andy

  4. An impressive series of photos and interesting story.
    Sanja

  5. You’ve done a great job Glenn! You showed us the other side of life, which is not all of us knew so far …
    The most important thing you do that you not only showed that, but told us how these children and teens are perceive a real life.
    The life of blind people is one of the pages of life that we try not to think about … but for someone that page is a real life.
    Yes, this is the bitter truth of life…

  6. Very impressive!…wonderful series, I think these are great pictures!
    Well done.
    Claudio

  7. what a great surprise this morning to find your essay here, glenn! enjoyed every sentence of your thoughts on street photography in general and the “the story behind ‘the school of the blind'” in particular – as much as i enjoyed the terrific photo series! thank you so much for sharing your insight and expertise with us!
    sabine

  8. Wonderful series capturing the the challenges of the blind as the move through the day . They bump into each other as shown in your one image “Greeting at the Edge-24” but they don’t let that stop them, they adjust course and keep moving forward.
    Sharing the story above gives us a good look into the 2nd story, the story behind the lens, the thoughts, compassion and challenges of bringing their story, their life to the eyes of the world.
    Well done !

  9. Great story and a very good insight in the daily live of these people !!
    Love it !!!

  10. nadiaES -

    You are very special, and your kind of photographing and writing is extraordinary good … the most important thing – leaves traces …
    You inspire me.
    Thank you that you exist !
    Thanks for opening new doors,
    and building new bridges.
    Thanks for making us more close to each other …
    Nadia

  11. Thank you for sharing this story with us Glenn! The pictures are very touching and I loved reading about your experiences with the students of the blind school.
    You surely gave them smiles and a little sight into the world outside :).
    Rebecca

  12. When I was working at the hotel…as front desk person…one day I checked out a blind gentleman…he asked me where the concierge stand was…I told him the opposite from reception…he looked confused…I asked him if I was allowed to touch him…he said yes…I reached over the desk touched his shoulders and turned him….very gently I pushed him into the direction he needed to go…he was so friendly.
    I was hesitant at first.. ..but he seemed to be relieved and thankful for being asked and to be shown in a way that he knew. Only then it occured to me…how blind people arent afraid of physical contact…it is one way for them to see.
    Your story my dear Glenn is amazing and inspiring.
    All the best to you.
    – Nina