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Essays Photography

Book review: How I Make Photographs by Joel MEYEROWITZ

Book review: How I Make Photographs by Joel MEYEROWITZ
by Allan LEONARD
18 October 2020

Joel Meyerowitz is a renowned street photographer, long before the term became a familiar recognised genre (or subgenre of documentary photography). Once working as an art director, after an encounter with photographer Robert Frank, he quit his job and set out with a Pentax camera. Meyerowitz is known for his recording of street life in his native New York City, covering a span of several decades.

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@MrUlster @NorthernSlant Essays Photography

Decisive moments at Belfast City Hospital

Decisive moments at Belfast City Hospital: A street photography exhibition by Tuck GOH
by Allan LEONARD
17 January 2019

At the Tower Gallery in City Hospital, I arrived with some time to spare in advance of the official start of an exhibition of street photography by Tuck Goh. I took a seat and watched passers-by — staff, patients, and visitors. There was a flow of activity not unlike that portrayed in some of the framed images hanging in front of me. Such images are captured with a camera eye trained to capture “the decisive moment”. I’m interrupted by a young woman pushing a young girl — seven or eight years old — in a specialist wheelchair, between me and an image of another younger girl outdoors with her parents. Snapshots of life wherever you look for it.

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@MrUlster Essays Photography

Wheelchair Mum

I had a couple of hours to pass while waiting for my new spectacles to be fitted. Walking about Belfast city centre, I captured a few moments of street photography.

But I missed the image of the day.

Approaching Donegall Place from Castle Lane, suddenly a woman in a wheelchair, aged in her 30s, turned the corner while pushing a pram with her left hand. She was moving with speed.

This startled me; I never saw this feat before.

She whizzed past me before I could react by pulling out my phone to take a photo. I turned my head and continued to watch her, now switching hands to maintain momentum.

I let myself be inspired by this mother’s determination.

I also took my phone out of my pocket and continued my journey, now better prepared for the next unexpected decisive moment.

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Essays Photography

Mr Ulster learns street photography

Recently I took a one-day course on street photography, held at Belfast Exposed. My motivation was that while I learned how to use a camera 30 years ago (printing from black and white film shot in a Canon AE1 Program), I have been wanting to go beyond taking competent publicity shots and colourful tourist scenes.

I was intrigued by street photography, particularly about approaching strangers.

One of the first things we learnt was that you don’t have to ask for their permission! Okay, but then how do you go about this?

Chris Barr was our tutor and was very friendly and approachable. In a concise yet comprehensive overview of street photography, he gave good practice examples of others’ work. At one end there are the carefully prepared scenes where the photographer has a planned vision to convey. At the other end are the totally candid situations where often the image is grabbed immediately.

We focused on the this latter approach.

Bruce Gilden is a well know street photographer, and he does not hesistate when he’s at work:

Meanwhile, the following video we watched examined the legal dimension of public street photography. In the United Kingdom, essentially if you are on public property, you are entitled to take photos of pretty much anything you want. I would generally cooperate with a police officer’s advice, but I’ve always known that they can’t compel you to delete any image or hand over any equipment (unless they are actually arresting you). It’s the private security sector that isn’t as well informed:

So, armed with all this knowledge and excitement, Chris led us out on a particularly wet day to several venues: St George’s Market, Belfast City Hall, Castlecourt Mall, Smithfield Market, the Tavern Bar (Union Street), and finally a tour through the University of Ulster Belfast campus, where we reviewed some current students’ work.

I very much enjoyed the experience. I was so anxious at the start. Chris gave encouragement, and I was able to keep calm and soon found my stride. This was definitely not something I would have ventured on, on my own. I highly recommend this course and Chris’ tutelage!

I look forward to meeting up with some new street photographers, those from the course and others in Belfast and further afield.

Here are a few of my images from my journey. All taken with an iPhone 4S. The phone’s discreetness provides a noticeable advantage. Shortcoming is autofocus lag.

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My first street photography shot of the day. I noticed this man stopping a young female shopper. Right after this shot she opened her purse and gave him some money. Victoria Square Mall, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

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This image a little more daring for me. I noticed this woman with her umbrella on the other side of the street while waiting for the light to change. I didn’t want her to notice me, but she did. The clever aspect of taking these shots at pedestrian crossings is that people are less likely to challenge you on the spot. Victoria and Chichester Streets, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

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The Three Dames. I am happy with the composition and timing of this shot. St George’s Market, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Course classmate Thomas in the background!

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I got chatting with this seller. Loved the blue denim hat. Didn’t convert to black and white because the colourful yarns and jumper are part of the story. St George’s Market, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

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I saw this woman in outrageously large fur hat and was thankful the iPhone autofocus worked on this quickly grabbed shot; I did not want her to notice me. This is one of my favourites of the day. St George’s Market, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

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I was planning an unposed shot but then they noticed me and invited me to take one. I failed to ask them the significance of their sign. But I subsequently learned that they went through an ordeal from security authorities in Turkey during a holiday there. Belfast City Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

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“Have you just taken a photo of me?” said this bus inspector. We then had a discussion, when he asked me several times to delete the image. I replied that I may or may not. I was grateful for the tutorial and legal briefing I had just received a few hours earlier. People may not like their photo being taken in public, but the fact is that it already happens all the time. This was my first street photography confrontation, I survived intact and am now a little more confident. But yes, a little scary. Belfast City Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

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This is the elderly mother of the owner of a bric-a-brac shop. She sits in front of this electric heater and small tv most of the day. Another one of my favourite images of the day. Smithfield Market, Belfast, Northern Ireland.