Over the weekend I participated in a Peter Turnley Street Photography Workshop sponsored by Leica and the new San Francisco Leica Store. First let me say, Shawn the owner of the new Leica Store is terrific. The store is a must stop location in SF, beautiful with a gallery where Peter's "French Kiss" prints are hanging. I found Shawn very easy to work with and always ready to try and accomodate your budget and needs. He owns a couple of other photography stores so he has access to lots of equipment, brands, both new and used.
I don't do very much "street photography", was really never interested, that is until "Humans of New York". I'm sure anyone reading this knows of this young man and his famous Facebook postings. The interesting thing, he has taken street photography to a new level. In today's world, billions of photographs are taken every day all over the world, it's not the age of the 1930's through 2000. Everyone has a photograph, but............now comes along "Humans of New York" and the story becomes the center piece. His images are fine, but it is his stories that captivate the reader and bring the photograph to life. This is not snapping a photograph of someone on the street, it's finding a great story of someone on the street. And amazingly this story telling is accomplished with one question which reveals something very interesting.
Fast forward to the workshop. Peter is an award winning photojournalist who along with his twin brother were at the top of the food chain for a long time. Here is the story.
Since Peter was sponsored by Leica, part of the workshop was about technique with the manual focus camera. Quick shooting, preparation and approach were also covered. The workshop was one evening of lecture, a day of shooting at several locations around the city, and a final day of looking at photos from the shooting exercise. So here's Peter talking the group through the stories of some of the images in "French Kiss".
Some of my images from Union Square, in SF.
I didn't get to know any of these folks, didn't make contact, just photographed them on the Square.
We did take some breaks, here we stop for a late snack, Peter sitting with the workshop attendees.
On the right, yes that's Professor Montana!
Peter shot right along with us, so I jumped on the opportunity to capture him in action just getting off the train.
One of the locations we photographed was Dolores Park in the City. It's a beautiful place with a great view. People stretched out on the grass, smoking a little, drinking beer, listening to music, just chilling on Sunday.
The purpose of the day/workshop was to walk around snapping photographs of people. Peter emphasized taking the photograph, then engaging the person, if you wanted to. He recommended a 35mm lens, setting the camera before "the moment" occurred and just putting the camera to your eye and snap. I have to admit I have misgivings about going around just snapping pictures of people without at least talking with them. I watched Peter and he was quick and it was over. I have some conflict with the notion of paparazzi which seems to me a bit like just snapping except you are not getting paid and the subjects aren't celebrities. Maybe it's just me? On the other hand I did engage several people and end up with photographs. The first one was Alexandra and I took her picture without talking with or asking her, she looked at me and asked "how did it turn out?". Well I got her email address and took another to send her. The fact that she liked the photograph helped.
I did see a character when I first arrived at the Park who was very interesting. The first thing I noticed was the face mask I immediately wondered who is this guy and what's he up to. I watched him for a short period and then went up and asked him if he was into graffiti. Graffiti artists often wear masks both for identity and health reasons with spray paint. We talked, he was very stand offish at first but I kept at it and he came around. He had a bag full of brushes, paints, and clothing. His name was James and he said he was an artist, producer, film maker. He was interesting. Here's the first photograph of James with all the content of his pack.
A final photograph of James with an example of his art.
It was a fun day, I came away thinking I would be much more interested in selecting people to talk with, taking some notes, photographing them than just walking around photographing people I don't know or know anything about. Peter encouraged the group to get out and become comfortable with simply photographing people. He encouraged talking with them, which he did often after the photograph, even sending them a copy of the image. I enjoyed the experience, it's a good workshop. Peter teaches longer workshops in New York, Paris, Cuba, Sicily and Venice, here's the link to his website which also allows you to purchase his new book "French Kiss". I have two copies! It's a great gift full of wonderful romantic photographs. Peter is a legendary photojournalists and with a myriad of workshops out there, it is uncommon to get a chance to work with someone so talented and experienced at their craft.