“The best camera is the one that’s with you.” – Chase Jarvis.


Chase Jarvis was right. Walking around Geneva last Friday night, I didn’t have a camera with me. – No Canon 5D, Fujifilm x100s, no Canon 450d and no mobile phone. Sometimes it’s just nice to leave everything behind. However, the odd occasion comes up that you really need it, we find ourselves without it. Luckily for me, that this time I lived close by.

On my evening stroll I came across an evening event that was going on in Charmilles. Feeling interested with the vibrancy and contrast of the colours and the ambience of the night; I walked back home and came back out to take a picture or two. Recently it’s rare that I shoot social documentary or AKA, street.

I was dressed very classy (Thai pants, flip flops and a t-shirt) and that being over dressed the way I was, I knew there was no way in hell I’d be allowed to get too close to the party. Besides I didn’t really want or need to. Whilst walking past, I had the shot I wanted to take in mind (below) and I was little tired to make make this longer than needed. The night seemed to be a work party so I just hungout around the outside of the building, on the sideline with the teenage kids that were unsuccessfully asking attendees for drinks.

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After about about 20 mins of hanging around in my hippy yoga clothes with the teens (and 50 pictures or so in) these are two images that came out that I was happy with the most.

Originally I had set out to take the picture/frame above. The reflections on the water is what caught my eye and all it took was to sit and wait, taking pictures as moments came and went. In some way I am drawn to the two side story effect of the above picture. A lonesome man smoking by himself is contrasted by the cold crowd on the right. Their worlds, sliced by a silhouette of a man walking past. Intriguing and yet something makes me dislike the image because it feels like two entirely separate images. Or maybe this is because it reminds me of some similar awkward situation and experience of solitude, needing that moment of silence away from everyone.

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After 10 minutes of shooting, I turned around and noticed the side of the building (about 15 metres away) where people where entering and leaving the venue. Ironically in the top picture two people exit the building together in synchronisation. – Strangely I find it the opposite and yet similar to that of the other image, all our worlds being filled by some form of social exclusion. Their worlds (like mine) are sliced and divided in two, but this time by the building itself.

I think that it’s important that when you do street, you need to work the location and stick around and play with it. See what options and better view points there are, as something always is better than what you originally saw. After 5 minutes of shooting this night, 2 of the event photographers came out and started shooting from where I was but they didn’t wait to capture a moment. Why do photographers copy each other’s view points? I find this strange and it happens a lot in street photography workshops where everyone shoots the same subject (a dog, a cat, a baby, a building) from the same angle. In my workshops, I do not allow this as it doesn’t help with your learning curve as a photographer.

To briefly mention why I use my rangefinder for street, rather than my DSLR. A lot of my work now is based on setting up a scenarios (in a studio or outside) where I mainly shoot with my Canon 5D and whatever prime lens that is needed for the job. The x100s is just a small, light rangefinder camera that I don’t get annoyed carrying about, even when I don’t shoot anything with it. I understand why many photographers don’t have multiple cameras, but I just don’t enjoy taking out my 5D for street much or for shooting things like this. I find Fujifilm does an amazing rendition of colours and though the raw files are not as large as the Canon 5D, this camera has made my social documentary shooting a lot more fun and a lot less heavy. Additionally, I would never do large prints of street, so smaller and less detailed files are fine. My x100s also is a completely different experience when photographing with it. Big and colourful things come in small packages it seems.

If you are mainly into social documentary/street I don’t suggest you buy something heavy and bulky to do small agile job. You wouldn’t drive a Hummer around Florence; you’d get something like a convertible Fiat 124 Spider and do it in style. You wouldn’t swat a fly with your TV, you’d roll up a magazine instead. In my view the same concept applies here to photography and its usage.

With rangefinder type cameras, people (and especially security guards) tend to think you are an amateur or at best enthusiast when shooting with them. They are not threatened by what you are shooting, who you are shooting or if it’s going to be printed somewhere. Small camera’s are perfect for this as you don’t over shadow the situation with your large camera.