Ever find yourself feeling like you are hitting your head against brick wall with your street work? Feeling deflated, leading to something that is meant to be a source of enjoyment, becoming a monotonous burden on your mind. Coming home with with an SD card full of images that look exactly like your previous session. The same brick walls, the same angles and sometimes, even the same people. Your relationship with street photography can start to feel like a job - tagging in and tagging out, without really being present during the process in between. You do the same walk, pit stop at the same coffee shops and get the same bus home. This isn’t what street photography is meant to be and the reason it is happening is because you are staying too close to home.
I get it. Constantly going to a place you know there is action and footfall is an easy trap to fall into. You may ask yourself “what if I go somewhere new and nothing happens”. There is a good chance that may be the case, but it is no different to nothing happening in your own backyard. If you constantly see the same scene, your eye will stop seeing new things within it. Your brain will generate a pattern of thought and sight and that is why you become unmotivated and to a certain extent - bored.
I was stuck in that rut myself. Doing all the above as if it was some kind of security blanket. I remember just walking the streets, and letting out a deep sigh of frustration - “same old s*it, different day”. In an attempt to turn things around I put a shout out to my followers on Instagram asking them to recommend a tube stop in London. I then selected one I had not visited before, got my camera and off I went.
Street Photography and Travel
Immediately I had a feeling within me that screamed “Adventure”. I had that bubbling desire to make some new and exciting images. I honestly think, if we search deep within ourselves, street photographers are natural explorers - its just that we fall victim of habit and this in turn puts limitations on our thirst to go further afield.
When I first got off the train, I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere. I said to myself “Okay, maybe I am going to have to do some architectural street photography today”. So I did. Personally, as a preference, I would want street photographs to include people, however I don’t think it should be an engraved rule of street photography. I think documenting the style of the streets we roam at a certain time and period in history is certainly well within its rights to fall under the overall umbrella.
In this new environment I had a renewed amount of energy. I was just walking and walking, and had no sign of cramp or fatigue (you can be sure it kicked in once the adrenaline wore off). On my travels I found a lovely little riverbank that overlooked the The Shard. I was fortunate enough to have found a group of 3 walking across it. I wanted an image with The Shard and the people, however I wanted to do it from a different perspective. With my newfound enthusiasm, I noticed my eye was sharp and my creative energy was following in abundance. Here is what I came out with (rather pleased with myself)
Speaking from my own experience and the dialogue I have had with others, one of the biggest barriers to people branching out, is cost. The further you go the more you have to spend. Travel cost goes up, you eat out more and sometimes even need accommodation. Of course, this will put a view extra coins onto your expenses, but you don’t have to break the bank. In an article I wrote for fLIP magazine, I explored how I was able to visit 5 different countries with a budget of less than £600. You can easily get a return flight to a different country for less than £30 in today’s market. Airbnb has made it cheaper and more convenient than ever to source accommodation. If you do your research and plan effectively there really is no reason why you can’t get out of the prison that is your closest environment.
Just one day away from the norm completely restored my love for street photography. “This is why I do this” I found myself saying. I love the adventure, the new experiences and in its own way - the risk factor of not knowing if I will come home with any images worth talking about. If you are reading this and relating to what I am saying, I encourage you to get out and do the same. Even if you want to start small and visit the town next to yours, it will help inspire you. At the very worst, you will come away with seeing somewhere new, which is never a bad thing. Another great thing to do is to get a group of you together, and go on a street photography day trip. Set yourselves group challenges and objectives, then regroup afterwards and have a conversation about your experience. These are the kind of things that keep your work fresh and your mind healthy. You have to push yourself and not allow what initially looks like a comfort zone to become a place of displeasure.
I am sure you all have your own ways of keeping energised and fresh. I would love to explore them with you. Please message me your suggestions and we can discuss them in a future article. You can get in touch here - Contact Dan. I would love to hear from you.
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