The act of grabbing a camera, walking around somewhere and documenting life as it happens (a.k.a. street photography) has generated, just like every other aspect of human activity, lots of theories as well as many do’s and don’ts. One of the most discussed topics is whether we should use color in our images or just shades of gray. Countless words have been written about it, dogmas have been established, but personally I prefer to take a different approach.
For me, color, hues, intensities, or the absence of them all have a purpose. They are a way to portray the mood in a photo. For me, this is the most important variable when it comes to judging the success of a good street image.
I may happen to be in a colorful, joyful environment like, let’s say, a carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro or Venice. Chances are I’ll use color, because it brings information and mood to the images. I’ve been shooting Paris at night, and B&W was definitely the way to go, because that’s how I feel in that city, especially at night. Sometimes though, I take a hybrid approach, as I did in Istanbul.
I’m from a Latin country with a predominantly Catholic culture and my visit to Turkey was my first, and so far only, contact with a society that behaves in a very different manner, sometimes because of different religious traditions, sometimes because of different social rules and arrangements between its members. And it’s old. Very old. Founded as Byzantium in the 6th century, later named Constantinople and then Istanbul, it has been the capital of both Christian and Islamic societies and has seen many periods of war and peace. To this day, it’s a magnificent city. I spent about 10 days wandering through its narrow streets and enormous squares, carrying a small bag with two small cameras: one with a fixed 35mm lens and the other with a wide angle and a short telephoto lens.
While in my home country and in many places I’ve been, people don’t care about a stranger taking pictures around and even of them, but that’s definitely not the case in Istanbul. Let’s call it a cultural characteristic for the sake of simplicity, but Turkish people seem to be very concerned about their privacy and do not seem to be very fond of foreigners in general. I’m not passing any judgment here, it’s just a fact. And sometimes these facts can present in quite a scary way. Shooting from the hip was the only way I could register some moments I felt like shooting, and it really helped a lot, except for one occasion when a shop owner in the Great Bazaar (can’t think of a more touristic place in Istambul, so I was even more surprised) demanded that I erase the pictures I had casually taken from his shop, like I did with so many others, in a very pushy way, along with recommendations that I never come back to that place…but I digress.
The point is that the feelings I got from this place could be summarized as a beautiful, alive, but somehow worn out metropolis, living in the past, resisting to what I consider to be “the proper way.” That may sound stupid and even offensive to some people, but I’m writing about how I felt, not about how I think, the latter being of course much more in line with the “their society, their rules” way of thinking. But photography for me is a way to express feelings, not thoughts. I shoot, edit and process my photos with my heart, not my brain, if you know what I mean…
So when I came back home and culled the first images, I knew I had to find a way to express those feelings. And to me, it came in the form of desaturated, not exactly vintage but still colorful images, which to me expressed both sides of that city. When I look at them, I see a place like it could have been centuries ago. Magic, but faded away in time. People taking their time to live, just sitting around, drinking some tea and chatting, joyfully hand picking flavors of ice cream or fulfilling religious obligations. A place somewhat detached from my own world, a place I could visit but never belong to. Could I have done it in B&W? Sure, but then they would mean something else to me. I would miss what the colors they have represent. As well as if I had used full color, which I guess would just turn them into the average tourist shots.
I wonder if looking at these pictures will convey the same feelings to you. Let me know if they do!