(Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post and photographs are by Switzerland based street photographer Hakim Boulouiz. Enjoy!)
Hakim: One of the first lessons in photography has to do with the famous quote from photographer and ecologist, Ansel Adams, “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”This magic formula applies to all facets of photography without exception. As soon as we start talking about the “photographic intervention”, we have to question the composition, choice, selection; whether to accentuate certain elements or to do away with distractions as we seek to create an impact for the eye and for the heart. The whole process is a very precise surgical procedure with a little help from Mr. Chance.
However, in street photography, “making” a photograph is out of the question. So how to be a street photographer (or how to go about becoming one)? For starters, here are two steps:
First, we consider what it means to be “in” as in “inside the street:” to shoot photos is to be a guerilla on the street. Being a street photographer calls us to accept this role and to fully assume it in order to be capable of explaining our process to people we don’t know and fulfilling our pedagogical duties in the discipline. We have to do all of this in the bustling street with everything around us rocking between shadow and light. Being a street photographer requires waiting and being able to accept the defeat and the dryness of the city. According to Cartier-Bresson, the “decisive moment”, will not happen every time!
Next, we consider what it means to be “out” as in “outside the street”. That is to say– everything that makes up the meaning of photography without the act of taking photos. In other words, the scouting of fertile places, stylistic choices, the photographer’s state of mind and especially his references. All artists need references. For everything else, the wise will tell us to invest more in books than in state-of-the-art equipment. I consider “references” to be all personalities, living or dead, who are recognized by a particular community as inspirational, believable and original. To designate someone as a reference doesn’t mean that you condemn or agree with him 100 percent. On the contrary, the more you progress, the more you will dare to distance yourself from that person, because you will have drawn your own path, your own trademark, your own life.
Honestly, the feat is to build your own pyramid with many different stones taken from different horizons, all the while seeking a singular form that is rich in nuance, brilliance, and pure harmony. You should know that all references represent their own pyramid, bringing together a style, reasoning, technique, process and sometimes an unwavering ethic.
All street photographers, at least those who are serious and focused, are concerned with their own pyramid and willing to focus on it completely. They are obliged to look for small fragments outside of themselves, without blindly falling into the imitation of other pyramids. Beware of those who proclaim that they do not need a reference. Aren’t they just kings or naivety with their ignorance and their rightful sources? They ridiculously present their work as new and revolutionary before finding themselves face-to-face with the fact that it has already been done elsewhere. Relying on multiple references and pyramids is to bounce from a single, all-powerful source to a wider range of sources, like the passage from one mono-expressive photographic image that seems to be enough by itself, to a rich series of images that is ultimately able to tell a much stronger story.
Anyway, what I can tell you today, my dear street photographers is to let go, explore everywhere, go look for stones wherever you think the strongest and most beautiful ones lie. Devote yourselves to building another pyramid for this art. There will always been enough room for yours here or there, today or tomorrow. Because, believe me, there is nothing more beautiful than a landscape of pyramids.
[Switzerland, December 2014]