Street Photography in Crowds
So last night in Melbourne it was the White Night Melbourne festival. I have never been to the city on New Years, but a lot of people were saying that the number of people in the city last night was on par with a New Years Eve night. In short, it was insane. You couldnt get into any of the venues, and walking the streets was a challenge due to the number of people wanted to go to different parts of the festival. For something that I didnt even know about until the day before, I was seriously amazed by the sheer number of people that turned out.
Of course, I had my camera, and of course so did every other person there, either in the form of a DSLR the size of a house, or a camera phone at the very least. The standard pose from all was that of holding the phone above the crowd and snapping photos to give some idea of the size of the crowd.
I went out last night excited about the photographic opportunities that would present themselves. Night time is such an interesting time to shoot, and its not a time that I have played with since getting back into this caper... There were some challenges that were related to equipment, as in I only use manual glass and the fact that I was outside of my usual f8-11 and be there zone focus lighting, and into needing to shoot wide open at f0.95 on the lovely Voigtlander 17.5mm, meant that my depth of field was very shallow and left little room for error.
This however was something that I predicted before leaving the house, and I did take my only auto lens, but it never left the bag... Anyway, I digress...
The point of this post was the volume of people that were there, and how this impacted my ability to compose strong images. I found that the strongest shots for the night were the ones where there were only 1 or 2 people in them.
So, this got me thinking... Is this something that I need to work on, or is this simply one of the things about street photography... Or, is this just my own personal preferences for viewing photography that I assume is the same as everyone else?
When I look at a photo of a large crowd its too haphazard and really doesnt work for me. The thing that has spiked my interest so much is this...
As street photographers we levitate towards cities. They are gritty, they are dirty, they have vibrant and eclectic populations that we are able to exploit for our subjects. However, they are busy... So, do we want the best of the city, but with people ordered and regimented into single areas where we can separate them from the herd? Or do we want the challenge of separating them ourselves, kind of like a sheep dog separating a sheep from the rest of the flock...is this what makes the above image the strongest for me? Is it the fact that I only know the sheer number of people that were above this special moment between a father and his distressed little girl? Is it the fact that only I know that a split second earlier or later and this moment was swamped by the very same crowd and their haphazard street photo ruining ways?
Or does it still stand out from the crowd as a strong image to the viewer who is not in the know?