Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Getting Close

Hare Hare, 2005

There’s an old saying that goes something like this: if as a photographer you’re not close enough to hear the bullets zing past your ears, you’re not close enough to the war. I don’t intend to cover a war. But there are times I do want to have a close up view of something, particularly if it’s colorful and moving.

There are a couple of parades here in Virginia Beach I try to cover each year. The thing about shooting parades here, though, is that they’re held in the morning and march on a slightly northwesterly axis. This means that while there’s a lot of light on a sunny day, the direct sunlight is on marcher’s backs (or the dragon's ass, as below). Their faces are in shadow.

Rear View, 2007

I’ve learned to deal with the light situation. But it took me a long time to learn how to deal with getting up close.

Parades are pretty boring if you shoot them from the sidelines. You can get some good pictures. But generally speaking they look like pictures you’ve seen from a hundred other parades.

I wrote here earlier about my encounter with Puerto Rico Day in New York. Instead of standing by the sidelines, I found myself impulsively jumping right into the middle of fray. Unfortunately, the parade was ending and my pictures from the inside of the parade scrum reflected my lack of experience covering parades.

I had a little better luck a couple of years later. We were again in New York. My wife and daughter had gone off to do a little retail therapy, leaving me to wander the streets alone. It was one of those beautiful June weekends when there were a hundred different events taking place all over the city.

I’d made a quick run through the MOMA and was heading over to Madison Avenue to meet the girls for lunch when I stumbled upon a parade of Hare Krishnas. There were thousands of people strolling, marching and dancing down Fifth Avenue in brightly colored robes and saris. I took a few pictures as I crossed the street in front of the parade. But I quickly understood that to get pictures with any impact to them I had to dive into the parade. I figured, Hare Krishnas weren’t likely to get violent with me, were they?

Acting like I knew what I was doing—the key to a lot of things in life, I’ve learned—I walked out into the street and into the flood of Hare Krishnas. I didn’t want to disrespect their procession by impeding them in any way. So I ended up walking backwards down Fifth Avenue, ducking and weaving among the marchers for about four blocks, shooting pictures without thinking too much about what I was shooting.

All around me they chanted:

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna

Krishna Krishna Hare Hare

Hare Rama Hare Rama

Rama Rama Hare Hare

A lot of the pictures were lousy. Some were wonderfully colorful, but otherwise mindless. I was too caught up in trying to stay out of the way of marchers to pay proper attention to composition. (Needless to say, I haven’t been called out to cover a war.) But in doing so I learned a lot about what I needed to be thinking about were I to shoot pictures at a parade again.

Hari Krishnas, 2005

Ironically, I chose to present the photo at the top of this post in b&w because the color of the men’s robes, even though they were swathed in white and saffron, was distracting.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, these are great--I remember some of these shots--the colors and movement are stunning. I love these! The black and white is great, too--and you look pretty close to me!