People think that photography captures reality, but believe me, it captures the photographer.  This sequence of shots is fascinating, at least for me, because it shows that many idea of shooting were actually picked up in my movie making days.

The first shot is what is called the Establishment shot; or the master shot.  Everybody doing their thing; later we’ll probably go in for closeups.

The second shot is similar but from a low angle.  I know at the time that there’s nothing all here; but what the hell.  I’m here, and I like the music.   I’ll have a documentary shot so I can remember the name of the band.  I’ve also shot enough street musicians to realize that music doesn’t translate into the 2-dimensional image; unless you’re really lucky or magical.

I’m also moving in closer to the character in this little play that I’m drawn to.

If I were to turn around 180 degrees, you’d see a crowd in a semicircle about 25 feet away taking flash pictures.  Generally, you need to get closer and make some sort of contact with the musician so they get used to your presence.  TIP: Put some money in their box before you begin shooting.  You know you’re not going to make a dime off any of these shots, but you are using their image for some purpose, and they’re not here for the fun of it.

When the set finishes, something surprising happens.  The fellow that I had singled out has a strange aggressive way of selling the band’s CDs and – there is the keeper.  Better in black and white.  The only thing that matters is the hypnotising look in his eye.  I do wish the woman was also turned a bit more towards the camera.

But even this weird  hypno look doesn’t do the trick, and you can hear the cash register ring up NO SALE.

I stuck around a while to see if he would use this aggressive-looking stance again, but no luck.  And you have to remember, I did my own time selling prints on the street, and remember trying all sorts of things to make a sale.  One day, I was so frustrated, I bought a “magical” necklace for a dollar from a fellow nearby, and began doing some weird dancing on 5th Avenue outside the Met.  I just wanted some attention.

That didn’t work either.  But it explains why I still have a deep empathy for street performers.


Published by dave

I've been photographing New York, mostly in black and white, for the last 35 years. In other words, I began in the age of Tri-x and D-76 and eventually moved into the world of pigment ink. Enjoy your stay - Dave

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