Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1998/12/04

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Subject: Re: [Leica] Photographing people in public
From: "Robert G. Stevens" <>
Date: Fri, 04 Dec 1998 15:06:38 -0400

>        Being accepted as a part of the street scene is the best way to be
>unobtrusive. When I work the streets, be it Sarajevo, Kigali, Port au
>Prince, New York or my own small city, I am upfront about who I am and what
>I am doing.  A part of that is meeting and talking with the "street life". 
>When you talk to people you are giving them something about yourself and
>they feel more comfortable about having you around...and you get better
>        This personal interaction is also what will lower your odds of being
>attacked or robbed on the "mean streets".
>        If you are honest you will get honest pictures...and like Ted says,
>sometimes that requires a little human interaction and "sweet talkin'"
>This works with ladies at the Church garden party or teenage thugs with AK's.
>...of course, if you personality doesn't allow you to be a little humble,
>open and cheerful, you may have a problem. :^)
>Greg Locke <>                               
>St. John's, Newfoundland.        


While in New York city last month, I went out to the Times Square area.  I
was using a mini tripod propped against a street light pole and noticed a
homeless person digging some cardboard out of some garbage set out for
collection.  He was building himself a home out of the carboard so that he
would have shelter for the night.  After he took a couple of trips to the
boxes set out beside me, I decided to say to him " Hi how are you tonight".
 He replied back rather shyly and surpised that I talked to him "I am doing
pretty good". This was an opportunity where I probably could have struck up
a conversation with him and gotten some good photos.  Where we were at the
time was very dark and I figured there would be no point in taking pictures
at F1 and 1/4 second.  I did not have a flash with me and it would have
ruined the look anyways.  I find flash picture at night have the Deer in
the headlights look, or in your case the Moose in the headlights look.

A few minutes later, I saw a homeless man setting up near a subway exit.
He was in resonable light and I asked if I could take his picture.  He too
was polite and friendly and did not ask for anything in return.  The
picture came out pretty good but slightly underexposed.  I should have
taken three or four of this guy.  I noticed that he was rolling a cigarette
made from the tobacco of butts he found on the ground. Before leaving the
area, I got a pack of cigaretts at a diner and gave them to him.

I guess what this all means is not to be afraid to talk to some of these
homeless people like they were normal people.  It gives them some of their
dignity back, as most people don't make the effort.

Times Square is a good place for a Noctilux.  Using 100 asa slide film, I
was able to shoot at 1/60 in the bright sidewalk areas.  I also used a 35mm
Summilux ASPH but liked the Noctilux better.  The Summilux has since been
sold and replaced  with the 35mm Summicron ASPH.  I figured I did not need
two fast lenses.




Robert Stevens