The Unrepentant Flâneur’s Guide to Street Photography Part 5

Times Square from West 42nd St & 7th Ave

Park the Car

For much of my adult life I have received questions and comments from many like, “Why don’t you have a car? You should get a driver’s license. Once you start driving, you’ll never walk anywhere again!” People, who don’t really know me but assume they do, have said these things to me because they’ve only seen me walk or take public transit from place-to-place.

You see, I live in North America, a part of the world where most are obsessed with automobiles; the necessity of them, the ownership of them, the collection of them, the modifying of them, the driving of them, the social status of them, the flaunting of them, the worshipping of them, even the having sex in them. We complain endlessly about price gouging at the pumps but we never do what is truly necessary to boycott the oil companies. It is expected by many that the lives of every adult in Canada and the US will revolve around automobiles.

Truth be told; I’ve maintained a valid driver’s license since I was eighteen. I own a car (my second) and I’ve driven for many years. I’ve just never let myself be as much of a slave to my wheels as everyone else is to theirs. So, I walk and use public transit often and let my wife use the only car we have most days so that she can accomplish her daily tasks.

The Getaway Car

How does this affect street photography? Well, you most certainly can do street photography while cruising down the street; I’ve made some good images from the passenger seat while my wife drives and even while riding on city busses, but most of your best work will certainly be achieved without any personal use of some form of motorized transportation.

Walk, use a walker, hobble along on crutches, and move about in a wheelchair or something along these modes of travel. When engaging in street photography, your best means of locomotion will put you on the most intimate terms with whatever or whomever you will photograph. Cars, motorbikes and things like that are seldom as reliable.

Crossing Lanes

People-watching is important to street photographers, illustrators, actors, society writers, sociologists and psychologists. If you want to know the health, mind or culture of a city, just stroll around its streets and alleys, and loiter at some of its corners for awhile. So much can happen, so much can be revealed and it’s incredible.

As for all those “seeing is believing” people who assume that I never drive because they don’t see me doing it? Here’s something that they’ve notice about me that actually is accurate. I carry a camera with me just about everywhere I go. If only they knew why.

24 thoughts on “The Unrepentant Flâneur’s Guide to Street Photography Part 5

  1. interesting post! i really love street photography.. and although its taking time for it to show results in my own work, im fully willing to put in what is necessary, coz the few results that work..wel, those are truly satisfying. nothing else quite like it. great post, cheers! 🙂

  2. I’m not a photographer, but I absolutely agree with you about your views on driving. What’s nice about walking to destinations are the things that you will see or a street you will find to take pictures of for example.

  3. Who said if you have a car, you’ll never walk again!? That’s outrageous, completely and ridiculously outrageous. Plenty of reasons to walk or use other form of transportation other than car. Like you covered here. If you are walking, or riding a bike, it’s much easier to stop or pull over and take a pictures you see on your way. 😀

    I love people-watching. I love how California is typical of interesting and amusing people agenda, spontaneous or not

    • It’s a concert, you should hear some of them! They think I either have a screw loose or that I’m not a real man because they don’t see me behind a wheel.

  4. My oldest son lives in the city of Richmond and tends to walk as much, if not more than, drive. I think the only reason he carries the expense of owning a car is to have it available for his trips to Chester (12 miles) and or other locales that exceed walking distance, which are not many, since most of the places he shops are within a few blocks of his house and he works from home. Me on the other hand…. I would be lost without my car. It is one of the few material possessions that I have, that I feel I actually ‘need’. Of course, I live in the suburbs, so the closest grocery store is about 3 miles away.

    • One evening, my wife and I were cruising southbound on Catherine Street in Hamilton’s Beasley neighbourhood. We were about to turn east onto King William Street when she told me she spotted a classic car in the rearview mirror. I cranked my head around and saw this beautiful, broad and shiny vehicle just racing up from behind us. My immediate thought was how the moment reminded me of scenes in old 60’s TV police shows where crooks and thugs would jump into a big old boat like this and take off after robbing a bank or ruffing someone up.

      My wife halted our car at the corner and I snapped away at this beauty speeding by.

  5. Reading your words about strolling the streets and alleys, loitering on corners reminds me of the incredible peace and quiet to be found in the streets where so much does, or doesn’t, happen. I have had great fun in Los Angeles of all places taking full advantage of buses, train and walking the streets.

    Love your photos with that fabulous getaway car flying through them!

    • It certainly has it’s place.

      Apart from being a photographer, I’m an illustrator of Sci-Fi and fantasy art and I absolutely love those genres. While they actually have important ways of giving insight to the human experience, SP is also an invaluable and true living art.

      Ipso artificium is an acceptable Western Art standard but I also think that SP still has yet to even see its true potential as a practicable contributor to social change. That’s because those who take time to observe the depictions do learn as much valuable information from them as the photographers who make the images, and sometimes they learn more; sometimes they’re struck with never before imagined ideas on how to improve things.

  6. Pingback: "The Unrepentant Flaneurs Guide to Street Photography" On Modes of Flight. | Street Photography Workshops

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