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  • Mark Wylie

Rangefinder diaries #2

One of my aims for this year is to write more blog posts. What I intend to do is create regular posts discussing different aspects of street / documentary photography, whether it be about the approaches, techniques, processes, or the works of others.

I took this image in Bournemouth in early June 2022 one Saturday afternoon on a Leica M10-P with a 35mm lens. For a Saturday, it wasn't as busy as I was expecting, but there was few interesting things happening that day on the two piers in the area where small groups had gathered.

I had just finished shooting around Bournemouth pier and was slowly moving on towards Boscombe pier (about 25 minutes down the coast) when I spotted this father and his son outside Harry Ramsden's Cafe. What caught my eye initially was how their colours complemented the backdrop and that the boy was climbing on the railing. I waited until he looked up before snapping the image and moving on. What I only realised later was the fact that his father was sorting out his shoes. To me, it's that little detail that adds an extra layer of interest to the image, beyond boy looking towards the camera.

One of the things I like about photography, particularly street photography, is that things can happen very quickly (although, not in this case). Often, you have to see the image - and get it - before the moment has gone. As anyone who shoots street photography knows, once it's gone, it's gone.

The subconscious parts of our minds process the scene much quicker than the conscious parts. In practice, this can mean that you might intuitively 'feel that something is going on' without fully knowing what it actually is. Often, once you've reviewed the image later, the reason for that feeling comes to light. Whether you captured that moment well or not is another matter.

Henry Wessel, Jr. was a photographer whose work focused on being aware of the situation he was in and taking images based upon that awareness - before the point at which recognition took over. In his view, once recognition had taken place, it affected your work, with the consequence that in the end it could just look the same as what you or others had done before. It's a fascinating approach, which had clearly paid dividends for him given the brilliance of his work. The video below shows him describing this approach in more detail.

What I have learnt from the work of Henry Wessel, as well as my own experiences in shooting street photography, is to trust your instincts. If you feel that there is an image in that moment - or that one will soon emerge - then just shoot.


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