“You look at my face and what do you see? I’ll let you answer, because I’m ashamed to tell you. I live here you see, and by here, I mean HERE out on the streets, down by the beach with my sea view.
I saw you taking pictures of me earlier, and I tried to avoid the camera, but the camera never lies and like a magnet I can’t help but let you take my picture. I just want someone to listen. I wish I could tell my side of things, but there’s no use. Here’s where I am and where I’ll probably be the next time you come.
I watch the sea and I watch the people. It all looks the same to me. The seagulls are just like me, except they’re free. I thought I was too, but now I realise it was a lie. I told myself that lie so I could justify my actions, but nobody cared, like you don’t care. I know you don’t. You don’t know what hardship is, especially when you’ve only got yourself to blame.
You look at me and you judge me. I try to ignore you, but it still hurts. I’m human just like you, you know.”
I awoke this morning pondering this image, and wondering what story if any the subject would tell if he knew I’d taken this image of him. The above narrative is fictional based on my own sentiments that invariably dictated the way in which I edited the image.
The original was taken with the Fujifilm X100S, and was in colour. I worked with the RAW file to get the tonal qualities as I wanted them, and then used further editing software to achieve the look and feel I was going for. I wanted to achieve a sense of oppression, to make it feel as though the sky itself was bearing down on the man as he looked out over the beach and the sea.
My style of photography may seem voyeuristic to some, but street photography IS to a large degree. However, I only ever take pictures of people whose energy I like. It’s often an instinctive impulse and I feel compelled to shoot, although I always feel privileged to have been able to capture whom I capture. I edit my images with as much love and instinct as I do when I take them. For me at least the justification serves me well.
I will often remind myself that street photography, that is, candid photography is not illegal in public spaces throughout much of the western world, despite the odd protester from time to time who seems to think that public harassment IS acceptable. I wish it would occur to me to tell these individuals at the time, that only they are breaking the law. With the exception of France with its no-portrait law, no one has the right to tell you not to take pictures of them. That has to be a personal judgement. What’s more, when I’m in street-shooting mode I don’t have the time or inclination to ask for permission. Neither do I like posed shots. It is difficult to capture the essence of a person when they are forcing a pose, or if they are aware of a camera being pointed at them. Sometimes that can work in your favour, but more often than not it’s a hindrance. For the most part people are oblivious to the camera out on the street, with the exception of those individuals wishing to avoid detection, usually because they are engaged in illegal activity. Also, it is highly unlikely that those individuals will ever see my work, never mind the many other photographs they must be present in from general photographic tourism.
Brighton is an all too familiar place for me, with an already long and intense personal history associated with the place. Over the years it has lost its charm for me, partly because it has become more heavily populated and more grubby in the process, and with its acquisition of shared city status with neighbouring Hove some years back, the quirky, but pleasant sea-side town ceased to be. I try not to visit too often, as the place I was once enamoured with makes me feel quite claustrophobic now. It’s like poking at a hornet’s nest.
I’ve given myself free rein to edit my images of Brighton with as much artistic flair as I dare. It’s a way of distancing myself I suppose, although admittedly I enjoy unleashing my artistic creativity on my photographs.