Part 3 of Jean-Baptiste Meriem’s photographic journey
In part 3 of this ongoing series, Jean-Baptiste talks to us about his experiences in developing his photographic technique and the lessons he has learned along the way. A very enjoyable read, I hope you think so too.
Third part of my (long) road to street photography.
As usual, I’ll start by thanking you guys for viewing, commenting and debating on my “work”. Your feedback and opinion mean a lot to me.
Big thanks as well to my friend Bellamy for giving me the opportunities to write for his website. He is putting great efforts on making it friendly and professional for the whole analog community.
I did speak quite a lot about technics in my part 2. Since that, I didn’t change that much my setting. I just now don’t hesitate to push my old M8 to iso like 1250, as I did find it kind of acceptable in BW. Sharp and noise free is no guarantee of great pic.
Weeks after my part 2, I found myself quite comfortable with shooting closer, especially stranger portraits. I eventually try the smile-and-thanks method that Eric Kim uses so well (Had the occasion to meet him in Paris last week, apart from the great photographer, he is a very nice guy). I would say you can go with it 90% of the time. Now, the 10% left are the one you need to be prepared to. Didn’t receive any punch in the face but I had to deal with some quite angry reactions. Most of it are “why do you photograph me?”, leading me to justify that I was no pervert or salesman but an honest street photographer. I have no business card, being a total amateur, and sometimes it’s hard to explain that your hobby is to take pictures of strangers in the street.
Shooting people’s face is one step. Including them into a scene and a moment is another one I’m still learning. Technics is mandatory, focusing too much on it is a time you may want to spend on being creative. As long as you feel comfortable with your settings and gears, the difficulty is for me to catch the moment. Everything and everyone is moving fast in the streets. Paris is no exception, it’s a big city, where opportunities to take great pictures are important but the decision time is short. I sometimes have a great compo in mind but the “photo” reaction is often too slow. Most of my pictures at the moment are more answers than questions. That’s bad status that, as a beginner, I try to solve, examples below. First pic ask question but is fun but with no emotion, second could have been great if she did turn her head
Which brings me to another point, stress. Usually when I go out shooting, I’m kind in a half-stress mood. I have to handle the streets, the shooting and the eventual bad reactions. When it does happen, I’m sometimes not enough calm or relax, and I don’t put myself in the best condition to deal with problematic reactions. Another reason is around what I would call “the mission”. When you take an hour or two to go out and shoot, ultimately you may want to go back home with one or two good pictures. When you shoot 200/300 hundred pics a day, it’s difficult to look at them and not being emotional about it. Examples are semi-blurry pictures. Usually I shoot one or two pics a day which could have been great keepers but are just a bit too much blurry. I had to learn to forget about them, all the tools/software on earth won’t turn initial bad pics into great one. The below pic ask question but is unfortunately way too blurry…
In the sentence “go out and shoot”, I have tendency to forget the “go out” part. For sure you want to shoot, but don’t forget that the pleasure to breath fresh air, talk to people, re-discover your city and relax. If you put yourself into this mindset, your shooting experience will improve and it will be easier afterwards to forget about “wana-be” pictures. As an example, I’ve done a couple of “ask permission” street portraits those days, and I have to say that even if you don’t feel that adrenaline, it’s a very nice way to talk to strangers, share couple of sentence and be more a person than a ghost in the maze of the streets…
Three main points are still to be work on:
1) Be creative, think and shoot a subject in a compo : Multiplying the experience is for me a source of learning. I’ve decided that my M8 will stay with me until its death and that I’ll spend my photographic budgets on books, trips and expositions instead of spending hours on forum or rumors website (fingers crossed). I’ve lots of books still not open, that needs no longer to be nice objects collecting dusts…
2) Start a project : I have couple of ideas, but one in particular may start quite soon, stay tuned ☺
3) Try a roll or two : Friend of mine severely fall severely into GAS has nicely accepted to borrow me is M6 for a day, can’t wait !!!
A story I may tell you about in a next episode….
Cheers, Jean-Baptiste (call me JB, every does)
As usual, I’m more than happy to share this journey with you. Don’t hesitate to add me on Flickr, comments, question etc etc
Thanks for sharing your personal experiences with us Jean-Baptiste. It is very inspiring to read about someone who is so passionate about pushing themselves to be better. Please make sure you comment and check out JB’s flickr page.