My daughter asked me after hearing of the sad events caused by terrorism in Beirut and Paris the last 2 days: “why do humans terrorize other humans?” Questions like this always get us into a journey of search for the truth, for reason, for sanity and for an explanation that can offer settlement, even if it was short-lived.
We are given a choice, the moment we were born to be as good or as bad as we want to be. We battle with our own morality throughout our lives here on this planet. We seek out desperately that bit of cool blue logic to give us strength to choose wisely.
I posted several ‘pray for Paris’ tributes on social media today and I was caught by one comment from someone saying that “if prayer helped, then the world would already be a better place”. But do we just give up hope in the face of an uncertain future? What kind of world are our children inheriting?
Candid street photography is perhaps my very favorite style when I am out in the streets. Anywhere I travel, I find myself drawn to the human element in the streets and I search for a human connection to create my photograph and my story.
I am often asked about the process of candid portraits and if I were to offer 7 tips it would be these:
- Take your time. Often and if the time allows, I try not to do any photography on my first day in a new place. Instead I try to feel the place, walk around, look, listen, observe, admire and investigate.
- Slow down. When I walk, I try not to feel any anxiety about having to capture anything. I wait for the inspiration to come to me because I have discovered that it cannot be forced, like all good things in life.
- Be polite. I always try to reverse the roles and see how I would feel if someone came at me with a camera aggressively and tried to photograph me without my permission. I am most certainly going to be closed to that intrusion. Instead I smile, I make eye contact and I show genuine interest in my subjects. I back off if unwelcome.
- Be prepared. The last thing you want to be doing when seeing a moving moment is to be fiddling with your camera settings and getting flustered. I check my camera before going out, I make sure I am ready for the light conditions and the style of photography I am aiming for.
- Be open. Sometimes I might have an expectation as to what I want to photograph on a certain walk, but I am always open to whatever else my inspire me. Patterns, movement, architecture… but being open is much easier said than done and takes a lot of practice.
- Take more than one shot. In the digital age, we have the luxury of having room for experimentation. I remember back in the 90s when I was using film, how careful I was with each single frame knowing that I had a limited number of shots before I had to change film. Nowadays, you can take your shot at different angles and make multiple compositions to get the shot that you really want.
- Have fun. It is such an incredible joy to me being in the streets, around people, doing what I love doing the most. If you are not enjoying it, you might as well find something else to do :)
These are some of my favorite street portraits that I am currently featuring on my instagram feed.
More soon on the street photography process.
She makes jewelry as part of the rehabilitation and education programs that ‘Beyond’, a local Lebanese NGO does with the children in the Syrian refugee camps.
There are now over 1.2 million Syrian refugees living in Lebanon in camps waiting for a better home under the care of humanitarian organizations and NGOs. The children carry the hope and strength of their whole nation.
It has been a while after a very eventful summer, and slowly things are settling back into a routine here in Shanghai.
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Life is slow in Yunnan. People walk with no rush; the fields can wait. The clouds change form in slow motion; the lush mountains are great company. Even the birds chirp melodically and without strain; it’s just the way it is. In a place like that, a bicycle fits so well for exploring at the speed of the land. I came upon a child and his grandfather walking with their shadows along the rice fields and enjoying the caressing rays of the gentle sun. I got off my bicycle and began photographing them after getting their clear unspoken agreement. Then I saw alarm in their eyes as they gestured towards me; I turned around and watched my bicycle tumble with my second camera and my bag into the rice field. This man with grace, ease and a smile, put his grandson down, helped me lift my now damaged mode of transportation, with its dislocated wheel. He gestured to me and we communicated with my limited Mandarin as he helped carry my bicycle back the other way towards his home, his little grandson following us shyly. The man asked me to wait as he brought out his toolbox and slowly and methodically fixed the wheel and tested it. He smiled and his granddaughter joined them as they posed for a last photograph before I took off feeling lighter, happier, and grateful for the good people who give without counting the cost, who help because it is human to do so.
Every new journey gives me a renewed set of reasons to do what I love to do. I love the art of photography. Time stops when I am in the streets of a new place, meeting people, looking through their eyes, watching them from a distance as they do what they do, and feeling a rising sense of excitement at being part of it all. In my recent trip to the region of Yunnan around Dali, I had a lot of time to reflect and to ponder what it is about photography that keeps me traveling, venturing and adventuring in search of human connection. It came to me one early morning just before sunrise, it is the soul of the place, that is what meets me at those special moments and gives me permission to capture its magic. You may give it any other name you wish, for me, it’s the soul.
Our children have this magical way of growing up without us even noticing. The greatest miracle of expansion from a little fetus to a wonderful human taking their place in the world, cannot be taken for granted. It is an amazing thing, growth. It’s a golden truth, magical in every way. It fascinates us, we gush over it and it catches us by surprise when our little baby turns 11.
Happy birthday little big girl~