Iíve always lacked the courage to stick my camera in the face of a stranger Ė or so I used to believe Ė until I realised that itís nothing overridingly to do with courage (in my case) but an inhibition, a dislike of intrusion, brought about by my own personal dislike of being invaded.
Sometimes I see a shot in the local market, for example, which happens to have people in it, but itís not really about them as individuals, and thatís important; itís about the shape of the thing or because it reminds me of some allegoric else, of something not quite verbalised but nonetheless understood in that instant of recognition. Alas, Iím not a street shooter and I almost always fail to be ready. When I left India, a young Indian girl penned an entry in my autograph book (very popular with some kids in the 50s) that read: the secret of success is to be ready when your opportunity comes (old Indian proverb). In retrospect, perhaps she was telling me something quite else, was being specific and I never knew - was never that smart, as is obvious. But thatís hindsight, and not a lot to do with the streets of the city or even its markets! But it does apply to life and making the best of it.
Okay, I accept that one can make precise distinctions between street, reportage and even social documentation, but does it really matter? Isnít the proof of the pudding (listening, Walter?) in the eating? If the shot does something to you as you do it, work on it and then has the added bonus of pleasing an audience you respect, isnít that really as much as you should ask of it (and of the medium) if youíre doing it for fun?
In a way, I think photographers, as artists, could be somewhat narrow-minded (a huge assumption based on a core sample of one ;-)) when compared with musicians. Having got to know some of the local ones over the past couple of years, far from finding them devoted exclusively to, say, jazz, most of the more talented ones have a very broad range of musical likes that span the range from jazz (both Dixieland and modern) through rockíníroll and Latin American to classical music so alien to me I havenít the patience to listen. For them, music encompasses the whole gamut of spiritual emotions and whether they bring tears to your eyes with the blues or an idiot smile and stomping feet, one is as rewarding an experience as the other. I wish photography worked like that for me.
So, Seamus and Ivan, keep on doing what youíre doing as youíre doing it because it sure is working!