Dean O'Brien's Blog

Street Photography: A thing of the past? We need to do something…..

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I’m not sure about you but when I was growing up there was always somebody in the park or at any public attraction with a camera around their neck.  Probably not the coolest thing to be seen with which around that time had about as much credibility as train-spotting.  Often carried by people called Derek or Leonard.  However it was an acquired taste and a personal choice for many people.  They chose to record moments so that we can enjoy them today.  Not only enjoy, but learn.  Many subjects ranging from sports, history, geography etc.. have all benefitted by referring to images for reference.  We learn from other peoples images every day which we see in newspapers and magazines, yet take this for granted.

My first camera was a Halina 110 followed by a Nikon RF.  I loved taking photos wherever I went.  I remember going to raves back in the early nineties and taking pictures there.  Nobody else was doing it then, only me.  I did it so that in years to come I could look back at these times and remember them.  Almost twenty years later I am glad I did.  I now share these images with people all over the world who want to know more about those raves many years ago.  This visual record takes us back to a trapped moment in time.  Something which nobody can ever take from us.  Its almost like us saying ‘Look, this did happen’ (see the Duane Michals image further down on the blog).  Some of those people in my images are no longer alive.  They took the obsession with ecstasy a bit too far and this lead to other things.  However, those images show us all looking young, healthy and on a level playing field.  I trapped them in my images looking full of life.

Now I am a few years older and have children of my own.  I plan to capture their life in images.  My daughter is four.  I sit and look at her for hours sometimes.  She is changing so quickly on a daily basis and I intend to record her growing up.  Wether this be in the park or in any public place I see it as my right to do this.  The memories of my own childhood are contained within a ear torn Kodak photo envelope.  There are about ten pictures at most, and that is it.  Thats my childhood in a wrap.  The present generation of children will be spoilt with Hi Definition videos and RAW images which will be a record of their upbringing.  Their whole life recorded forever.  They will be able to access this with the click of button.

I knew when 9/11 happened nothing would ever be the same.  Our airports are now a nightmare with the extra security measures that have been imposed upon us in the name of national security.  The war on terror brought with it many restrictions to our daily lives.  This crept in slowly.  I remember being warned by Security guards at the Bull Ring Shopping Centre in Birmingham for taking pictures of the outside of the building.  I was then hearing reports that train and bus stations were banning photography.  I recall seeing the ‘No Photography’ signs at the swimming baths.  I then remember when I was due to attend my daughters nativity platy that there was to be no photography as one parent objected out of the whole school.  Thank god this year the school found its backbone and stated that if parents did not want their children to be photographed then they could not take part in the play.  It has just steam rolled from there.  Now there is a serious threat of street photography being banned altogether. There was recently a demonstration in Trafalgar Square to highlight this problem and I never attended. I never attended because to be honest I could not be bothered.  This was a a mistake on my account and on many others.  The next event that takes place to highlight this needs to be different.  We should all be there to stand up and be counted.  If not, then we should stop complaining.

Many people admit to the favourite past time of ‘people watching’. Sitting outside a cafe just watching and wondering about the people who go by. Im’ doing the same thing only taking a visual record of what I find interesting. I then share this with others. Whenever I go shooting candid shots in the street I love it.   A long lens does give you a certain invisibility and obviously then none of the images are staged. Real people going about there everyday duties……just like me as a photographer.


Written by Dean O'Brien

March 23, 2010 at 1:22 am

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