Update: JPG magazine is going out of business. I never got enough votes for my story to be published. I have posted the story bellow.
I decided to submit a story to JPG Magazine. You can go directly to the story here:
It’s basically the story of how this photography came about. There are a few of my best photos there too.
Members of the website will vote on whether it should be included in the actual published magazine or not.
Found by Photography
It was about 11 o’clock I was bored, lonely, and did not feel like sleeping. I had two options, stay home and wrap myself in melancholy, or go out, which couldn’t be worse than staying home and feeling sorry for myself, even if it did suck. I had bought a digital camera a few months ago and tried some long exposure night shots with some success. I grabbed my borrowed tripod and headed into town to try it again. I got some photos of some sleeping ducks, and some flowers in a planter box under a street light. None of this was particularly satisfying; I was still bored.
It occurred to me, people are interesting. I should take pictures of people.
I’m not cut out for bold street photography. So with nothing to lose, I tried half-ass street photography. I set up my tripod on a street corner opposite some local nightclubs and waited for someone to ask me to take their photo. It was was midnight. I watched people go by. This was not as boring as staying home. After about 15 minutes a group of rowdy young people asked me to take their photo. Over the next hour I took 36 photos, all of people who asked me to. It was a lot of fun.
A Dutch girl I had photographed was really keen to get copies of the photos, she gave me her email address and sent her copies of the pictures the next day. This got me thinking…I have fun taking pictures of people. They want copies of the pictures. More people will want me to take their picture if they will actually get a copy.
I decided to go in again the next night. This time I was armed with a notebook to write down email addresses. That was one year ago. I have done it nearly every weekend since and I have nearly 5000 photos. If I had a dollar for every photo I would be rich! But that is not the point. I don’t charge people for their photo. I do it to have fun, not as a job. There is no end goal. It is all about being in the moment.
I don’t advertise, there are no signs saying ‘free photos’, it’s just me and the tripod. People have to make their mind up about what I am doing. I have been accused of being the Police, the Press, and a paedophile. Of course, there are no children wandering the streets at midnight, so clearly I am not a paedophile. Some people try to convince me to charge people for the photos. And some get very suspicious when I say the photos are free. I used to get upset with accusations, but it occurred to me that it is saying more about them than about me.
There aren’t that many disagreeable people, mostly people have really enjoyed getting a photo. I have had people chanting my name over and over, because I made them wait. Beautiful young women run up to me and hug me, athletic young men shake my hand and tell the mates “This guy is a legend”. The email responses I have got are overwhelmingly positive. A father wrote to me to say how happy he was with the photo of him and his son, and that he was having it framed. I have taken photos for a lot of special moments that wouldn’t ordinarily have no photographic memento: Hen’s nights, victory celebrations, farewells, and probably others I don’t even know about.
Only once have I felt in danger. A big drunk guy was upset with me for some reason. I couldn’t make sense of what he was saying, something about me being an asshole and Stephen Hawking. His girlfriend came along and sorted him out.
It all happens very fast, there is no time to compose a shot, just make sure everyone is in the frame. The time from being asked for a photo, to getting the email address and saying ‘have a good night’ can be less than 1 minute. A lot of that time seems to be waiting for the auto focus to work. It’s hard to focus on black people, wearing black, at night.What amazes me from time to time, is how good the photos are. In the midst of the quick-and -dirty hustle-and-bustle some remarkable pictures come out. Sometimes I have no idea how. I just press the button when the people stand in front of my camera.
I have had long discussion about many aspects of what I do, and what it is. I love the fact that it is not quite definable. Yes, it’s photography, but it’s also a kind of street theatre, and people project themselves into the camera rather than the camera pulling them in. It’s rebellious (” You can’t take photos for free!”), and at the same time it’s completely positive. It’s self documenting. It rewards the brave people who ask me for a photo.
When I started I had know idea how it was going to work, or even if it was going to work. And I not sure exactly what it is, but it found me and it’s taking me somewhere. And I assure you that I will not end up in my bedroom feeling sorry for myself.