Editor’s note: I came across Bobby’s work in our Flickr group and it immediately caught my eye. As I dug a little deeper, I found Bobby was from Kentucky – and having been a former resident myself, I knew this was no urban scene he was shooting. I was intrigued and asked Bobby a few questions about his background and work. Here’s his story:
I work as a professional photojournalist covering news and sports, so street photography is my hobby. A way to relax. What pushed me into it was meeting and talking to Scott Strazzante, who is an amazing photographer that’s now based out of California. Scott was a Pulitzer prize winning photojournalist who did street photography as a way to capture feature shots for his job.
I definitely think my childhood affected my course. It was my interactions as a child with my family that made me decide on photography as a career. My grandmother and uncle were always taking pictures and I loved playing with their cameras. It helped me develop an eye early and I’ve never really looked back.
Small Town, USA
I live in Kentucky now, but as a child I grew up in a very rural part of Indiana and the idea of doing street photography in that setting seems very strange to me, as everyone knew me. As a street photographer, you want to try to blend in and simply observe what the people around you are doing, but in a very rural setting that’s really hard to do. It doesn’t matter how small your camera is, people notice it.
Honestly, I’ve found that for more rural street shooting the bigger the camera, the more comfortable people are with me as they simply assume a person with a big camera must be a professional.
I think that the best way to do street photography in a small town is to find events of some kind. A fair, an arts or music festival, or even just a local farmer’s market. It puts more people in front of your lens and it gives you the excuse of having a “reason” to be out taking pictures that you can offer up to anyone who might ask why you need a camera.
Small towns are just different. They’re more guarded and more prone to worrying about what “internet might think of them.”
And I honestly don’t know if you can do street photography in a small town anonymously without interacting with people. I know some purists may scoff, but in rural towns I think that most of the time, you’re going to have to talk to people and tell them straight up “I’m out doing street photography, do you mind if I photograph you and your kid as you mow the lawn?”
Otherwise, things could turn hostile.
It’s certainly why I relish going and doing street work in places like Chicago or even Louisville.
Scenes with a Story
This is one of those pictures where I have to give credit to luck.
I was covering a USA Swimming event for Getty Images in Indianapolis, Indiana and had spent two days trying to find an interesting angle and make an image that was interesting and different. I eventually asked the organizers to take me down to a maintenance tunnel below the pool where there were windows placed to look up into the water.
That photo was the result of me prefocusing on a lane and waiting for about 45 minutes for someone to come through and not be blocked by another swimmer, or by bubbles and to just work. As I said, I got lucky.
The picture of the little girl and her lasso is honestly one of my favorites. As a freelancer, I’m always looking for different ways to make money on the side and as such I found a junior rodeo competition going on about 30 minutes down the road from me and decided to go take some photos to try to sell to the parents later.
I’m not sure why, but I knew as soon as I saw this determined little girl practicing her roping that I had to get a picture of her framed up with the rope somehow.
I got on my knees and just sat there shooting her practicing and throwing the rope over my head for about 5 minutes. It was a really muddy day, but I’m happy with that shot. It’s been featured by National Geographic Your Shot and is in my portfolio.
Learning from Street Photography in Any Setting
One thing I love about street photography is that it isn’t built around the idea that an image has to have the best color, or be tack sharp and have the most megapixels. Doing street photography, you’re just out there trying to tell a story, be that of a person or street or even a whole community.
It’s challenging but it’s really rewarding.
You don’t have to travel to some far away, exotic land to do it, though it’s a nice perk I suppose, you just have to step outside your door and make art.
I also think that it’s a humbling experience. It forces you to look at everyday things that you might see as mundane and trivial and asks you to experience them in a different way.
To me, photography is about telling stories and showing the world through my eyes. Street photography allows me to do that, and hopefully, if I’m lucky, my photographs get people interested in a part of the world that they may not have experienced before.