Have you ever felt that street photography in general has become repetitive? You know, that same old, same old feeling that creeps up as you view more lines and shadows, people mid-stride walking past massive buildings. You may wonder – as everyone hits the streets Leica Q in hand seeking out that one woman with the umbrella – are we really pushing street photography to become something better? Are we allowing room to grow or are we caught in an echo chamber? Or perhaps you’ve started to feel that your own, personal street photography has become repetitive? Recently, it was our pleasure to speak with Michael Ernest Sweet who, not too long ago, found himself asking those very questions. You probably remember Michael’s style, we featured it here in the magazine a couple of times – getting in close, cropping off bits of people, omitting faces. And while this style became quite popular among viewers, for that very reason Michael felt like he became a slave to a style that no longer inspired him to get out and shoot. It wasn’t long before he took a break from street photography.
But that wasn’t the end of the road. Michael spoke with us about some of the conclusions he’s drawn thanks to his experience and we discussed two key points photographers can keep in mind if they are interested in pushing the limits of street photography to create something truly unique.
First, Michael suggests that photographers should seek to have a more intimate relationship with their equipment. And on this point, that doesn’t mean learning the ins and outs of only the Leica Q because it’s “the camera” of street photograpy. No, instead of falling into the “get the best gear” trap, use what you have or the camera you personally enjoy using and get to know its nuances, then use them to your advantage while embracing your personal style.
Secondly, to break out of the echo chamber, it’s an excellent idea to broaden your understanding of art history and really examine the work of other photographers whose work your own work speaks to. This could be not just street photographers, but any genre photographer or painter even. These two ideas require quite a bit of time and hard work, but they can be key when it comes to discovering your unique vision. Something only you can create and something that at the same time is meaningful to you.
In Michael’s case, his journey took him back to street photography, but this time only with the purpose of enjoying himself and creating something uniquely his own that couldn’t be replicated. He now hits the streets with a 2 megapixel, plastic Harinezumi camera. His work has become more abstract and most certainly more original. Michael allowed himself to create something completely his own and to color outside of the boundaries (literally and figuratively) that hemmed him in to one specific kind of street shot in the past.
Click on the audio player below to hear Bob’s full conversation with Michael and get inspired to think outside of the street photography box you may be trapped in.
Michael’s Harinezumi Street Abstracts
Information About the Harinezumi Camera
- Digital Harinezumi Guru
- Harinezumi cameras on Amazon
- Digital Harinezumi brings Imperfection to Digital Photography – News Atlas