During my street photography workshop in SF this weekend, I experienced something that touched my heart. Peter Zhang, one of my students, was having a lovely chat with this woman in the Tenderloin of San Francisco. When I approached them, I saw him already deeply engaged with her in conversation, and he even gave her a kiss on the cheek!
What he did next amazed me; he took a portrait of her on an Fujifilm Instax Wide camera, and gave her a print as a present. The woman was blown away, and I recorded all the footage on my phone to share the love.
Peter told me afterwards that the woman discovered recently she had cancer, and the print that Peter gave her brought her infinite joy.
I think it is a good idea to do something like this; to not just “take” photos but to “give” photos, especially to our subjects. This works best for people who don’t have emails we can simply send the photos to.
Zack Arias has talked about this before, in a post titled: “A 75 Center Door Opener.”
Also if you shoot with a Fujifilm x100T or an XT-1, you can use the Wi-Fi and hook it up with a Fujifilm Instax Share Printer (also works with smartphones).
Personally, I prefer the Instax Mini camera, as it is nimble, small, and easy-to-carry with you everywhere you go. Also the prints are small and convenient which fit inside a wallet. I personally have shot around 300 photos (mostly of snapshots of Cindy and my family), but it is a nice camera that “keeps on giving.”
I don’t want to give you guys any more “GAS” (gear acquisition syndrome) so remember you can always make small 4×6 prints at a local photo lab and just go back to the neighborhood you photographed a subject, and give it to them directly. Or next time, ask them for their address and send it directly to them (I recommend using mpix.com for online print ordering).
At the end of the day, know that photography can be a gift. Don’t feel like you always need to shoot candid photos, or without permission. Engage your subjects, show them love, open up your heart to them, and they will open up their heart to you too.
For me at the end of the day, the connections I’ve made through photography have always been much more meaningful than the photos I’ve made.
If you’ve had a similar experience in street photography before, or have some other ideas about giving back prints or to the community, share some of your ideas in the comments section!