Before I seriously started doing street photography, I worked on a series taken in diners and cafes for which the working title was “I See America Eating” in homage to Walt Whitman. These images were taken in stealth. I would casually focus on a table nearby that was about the same distance away as a possible subject and then put the camera on the table. I would fiddle around a bit with the aperture and maybe the shutter speed to convey to whomever that I was just making adjustments to the camera. I would remove the lens cover and put that under the lens to elevate the angle of the shot. Then I would wait. Although I thought I was invisible, I’m certain that people noticed what I was doing. I would push the shutter when something interesting happened.
These photos, taken on film, had the reflective surface of the table as the base upon which the image would rest. Because I was shooting Tri-X or T-Max 400 with a wide open aperture, the images were grainy and often not well composed but the process gave me access to people’s lives that I had not had before and taught me a good deal about how to capture light.
As it became easier to take these sorts of images with digital autofocus cameras with silent electric shutters or the ubiquitous smart phone which no- one pays much attention to any more, I found fewer and fewer occasions to try this sort of shot. I became for involved in shooting people where I had asked permission ahead of time which made me give up the illusion of stealth. Once in awhile something would rekindle this interest:
The process has changed over time but the interest in light, reflections, and the human condition has not.
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