Urban Shoots

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” – Elliott Erwitt

Elliott Erwitt is the master of street photography and for any aspiring street photographer I think his wisdom sums up the the way of thinking required for successful images.

Street photography is tough and requires a huge amount of dedication and even more perseverance to walk the streets for many hours in ‘the zone’. Digital Photographer magazine gave me a challenge unusually putting me up against New York photographer James Maher to shoot a set of images based on several themes. A street photography shoot out with nothing but my reputation hanging by a few thousands of second! I don’t consider myself as a specialist street photographer so I was up for the challenge. For the assignment I decided to work in colour and not my preferred choice which is black and white. Also, the fact that New York is a far sexier place to photograph than Sussex by the sea was a worry!

I must say it was one of the toughest assignments Ive done but only because I was shooting in my home town. This assignment taught me a valuable lesson.. I assumed it was going to be easier than the reality. It’s surprisingly easy when shooting abroad or even in another British city but I’m so familiar with every nook and cranny of Brighton that a kind of photographers block fell onto me and instead of taking a day or two to shoot it took a week. Maybe it was paralysis by analysis or maybe it was panic as the days went by but my creative dead calm of nothingness was in hindsight a great lesson.

I wasn’t ‘seeing’ and more to the point not feeling ‘it’. Now when I say ‘it’ I’m referring to the meditation of shooting. It’s the sixth sense trust of your intuition and the connection felt with what your observing as you untangle life between your brain, eye, the camera and life.

The more I couldn’t feel ‘it’ the more stressed I felt. Perseverance forced me to walk a lot of miles and certainly more miles than was necessary. After three days of nothing I started to ‘see’ again. With 2 days before the deadline I had only one image out of five I was happy with. The last two days were spent out from early morning until the sun went down. I got the images I wanted in the end. To me each of the five images represents a battle with myself where no battle was necessary!

Does pressure enhance creativity or is it like being slapped around the face with a cold Haddock at four o’clock in the morning? There is only one pressure and it’s what you put on yourself. My arrogance and assuming it was going to be easy was my downfall but it’s a great lesson and I must say the shoot was one of my most enjoyable for some time but only because I worked through my first ever creative dead calm and delivered a set of images I was happy with on time. Not delivering the shoot to the picture editor on time is potential career suicide. Voting begins on the Digital Photographer website Thursday 29th December.

Image Themes .. City Pride, Life On The Streets, People and Signs, Reflections.

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2 thoughts on “Urban Shoots

  1. Well done Stewart. You got a great set of photos in the end. 🙂 I’ve been there too. For a while last year, I was doing a weekly assignment for a local blog. It was called “This week, Liverpool looked like this…” All I had to do was submit a street photo each week. Sounds easy, but I echo your response on how difficult it is to shoot somewhere that’s so familiar to you.


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