On July 20 Street Photography Magazine sponsored its first-ever photowalk covering the activity on the streets during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
While I was confident our group would make several excellent photos for the magazine, I received an unexpected surprise.
While reviewing the photos submitted by the participants I was fascinated at how differently we all approached the same subject when we were there in the same place at the same time. You will see the results here. This is a long article so keep scrolling to see everyone’s images.
Almost 2 years ago the Republican National Committee decided to hold their nominating convention in my town, Cleveland Ohio. This made good sense for them because Ohio is a swing state which often determines the outcome of the presidential election. Although the Cleveland area typically votes Democratic in presidential elections we welcomed the Republican delegates with open arms. The event came on the heels of the Cleveland Cavaliers stunning NBA championship win so the entire city was still on a high.
I had been considering a local street photography photowalk in the Cleveland area for quite some time. As the convention drew near I knew this was the perfect opportunity. After a presidential convention in our town is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Because sponsoring a photowalk was new for us I thought it would be wise to keep the group small. Besides, most hotels within 75 miles were booked solid. This made it very difficult for shooters from out of town.
During the months leading up to the convention we continually heard dire warnings about potential riots and other disturbances. I was concerned for the safety of the group and frankly didn’t know what to expect.
I decided to visit the convention area two days before photowalk just a scout things out. The entire downtown looked like a completely different city. The main convention venues were surrounded by steel security fences as were portions of major streets that connected them.
Although the entire downtown was prepped for convention most of the foot traffic was confined to a few square blocks near the Quicken Loans Arena and Public Square (he geographical center of the city), a few blocks away. The rest of the city was a ghost town.
Due to security concerns over recent terrorist attacks in Nice, Orlando and Brussels most local residents avoided Downtown Cleveland during the convention. Many office workers were told to work from home during the week so there was actually very little traffic.
There was so much security that Cleveland had to be the safest city in the world that week. Local law enforcement with support from agencies across the country did a spectacular job keeping us safe while maintaining a sense of humor. Don’t get me wrong, they meant business.
There were a few sporadic demonstrations but for the most part everyone was well behaved. When there were protests involving opposing groups the police did an excellent job keeping keeping them apart, often using bicycles to form a highly mobile barrier.
Our group consisted of five people; four participants and yours truly. All but one are from the Cleveland. Randall Roberts, a magazine contributor, made the 5-hour trip from Southwestern Pennsylvania. Needless to say everyone has an interest in street photography. With the exception of Randall and myself the others were new to it. But everyone brought their own set of skills an unique perspective which made for a very special collection of photos for this article.
Most people new to street photography are concerned about shooting strangers in public. After only a few minutes in the streets everyone was very comfortable. In fact we couldn’t have been in a better place to help people face that fear.
First, there were hundreds of photographers on the streets that week. It seemed that they were more photographers than protesters. Everyone was either photographing and being photographed. In fact most people on the streets wanted their picture taken. If you have similar concerns then break the ice by shooting in and around big events, like street fairs or busy tourist spots.
Initially I planned to challenge the photowalkers to stick with one camera and lens throughout the entire day. But after spending several hours surrounded by photojournalists with multiple bodies and zoom lenses I realized many photographers would want more flexibility. I put that idea aside for another time.
While I typically work with one body and a prime lens, two of the participants shot with zoom lenses. As a result they came with a way with a completely different look and feel which added to the variety of the photos in the project.
While watching the others work in their own way with the gear they’re most comfortable with, I realized how important it is to to be yourself; to photograph from your own perspective and not to listen to anybody who tells you what street photography is and isn’t. It’s a very personal endeavor.
I learned that it’s okay to use the zoom on the street. I learned it’s important to pay attention to what you’re attracted to and what you avoid, then shoot from that perspective. I learned that it’s important to embrace all of our differences in style and perspective.
Randall is an avid street photographer from Southwestern Pennsylvania. He’s also a very accomplished portrait and nature photographer. See more of Randall’s work here.
Stan has a broad interest in photography, and has only recently become attracted to street photography. He’s been interested in photography for many years, going back to developing and printing his own B&W film. Besides street photography he has always enjoyed nature and macro as subjects. Follow Stan on Instagram.
Karri Wirth is a portrait, baby and wedding photographer from Elyria, Ohio. See more of Karri’s work here.
Melissa is a new photographer and decide to give street photography a try when she saw our Eventbrite post about the photowalk.