Eric’s Note: I am pleased to feature this article by Colin Corneau, a Brandon, Manitoba based photojournalist and street photographer. Check out his article below explaining the strengths of shooting solo!
Colin: First off, let me make clear that my column is in no way making a case against working in groups.I’ve had the pleasure of shooting street with another fellow photographer many times, I don’t think creativity is a zero-sum game — just by getting out there and making an effort to create something, we make the world just a little bit bigger.
I live and work in a smaller city, so often I work by myself out of necessity. Practicing street photography is a lot like going for a walk, and with the internet, video games, television, etc. going for a walk is a lot less common past-time now.
We are, as Eric noted in his earlier column, ‘social animals’ and involving others in our work is only natural. My column will merely suggest that the best time for that is after the work is created — when we show it to others. The time we have to ourselves – when we push the shutter button – is ours alone and there’s some good, solid reasons for that.
1. We’re who we really are when no one is looking
When we’re by ourselves, there’s no other filter or influence to sway us. It’s inevitable that even the strongest willed person will be affected, in some way, by having someone else around. That’s fine, especially if we surround ourselves with like-minded peers we respect. But the most direct path to our own creative vision is the one we choose – fully – by ourselves. Being alone with your thoughts and your decisions is the quickest way to carving out a style and an approach to photography that’s truly your own.
2. Less chance of altering your environment
When we’re with a group, especially ones wielding cameras, we’re just that much more noticeable. Scenes that may have unfolded beautifully on their own stand a bigger chance of abruptly ending when the subject (or subjects) notice 2, 3 or more people bearing down on them. Suddenly, it’s not a one-on-one but perhaps 3 or more on 1 and the dynamic totally changes. I don’t advocate being ‘sneaky’ in street photography, but I do like a certain subtlety and grace that is just easier to do in a smaller situation.
3. Time and a place
It’s foolish to think a completely solo approach is even possible. The whole point of making images is to share them with others, and have others see what you’ve created. That’s how you learn, and grow. I just suggest the time for that is afterwards — when photographers can see each others’ work, and grow themselves from the interaction. There’s some learning that can take place while out shooting, but a whole lot more afterwards when you see the array of photographs and all the different styles, thought processes and choices made by each photographer. It’s pretty hard to talk about what you’ve done and why when you’re not even done doing it yet. Plus you can have a bite to eat or a drink at the same time!
4. It’s inevitable
The moment of truth, when you press the shutter button, is always going to be a solitary moment no matter how many people you have with you. It’s you and you alone pressing that button and it’s only you deciding when and how to do it. So, when it really counts, you’re actually alone regardless of who you have around you.
So, there you go — these are the main reasons I have for preferring to ‘go it alone’ when I’m practicing street photography. As always, “your mileage may vary”.
More photos by Colin
Also follow Colin on Twitter at @ColinCorneau
What is your take on shooting with a few friends vs shooting solo? Share your thoughts and experiences by leaving a comment below!