Takin’ photos in a bus can become problematic if you are not confident enough or you don’t have the right spirit to get involved in a closed environment, in close contact with the subjects without the possibility of escape. It’s a normal behaviour …it happens…there are good days and bad days and you feel it even more when you have to raise the bar and go in close contact with strangers. Even today, i always experience fear of the bad days, when raising the camera becomes almost impossible and you’re always two feet too far.
Moving closer to your subjects, especially in an environment like this, becomes a personal challenge that can turn into a street-photography gym…ah, i’m not talking about laws and regulations…i do not know and i do not even care…perhaps it is also illegal to take pictures in a bus or a train full of people. I’m speaking about of the consequences of taking photos in such a context…which usually are two:
1 – You have to interact with the subject
2 – The subject ignores us, or didn’t notice \ realized that we took a picture of him.
Personally, when i take a photo, i always hope for the second…i’m quite reserved and in Italy there is a general phobia for the photographer, a tendency to demonize like a “paparazzi” anyone shooting in public places and i have been stopped several times by both normal\angry people and policemen and therefore, going unnoticed is what i always hope…take a photo, wait a few moments and go away.
But it doesn’t always go this smooth.
Suppose we are takin’ a picture of a man next to our sit…he notices and then he starts arguing…what we have to do? There are different schools of thought…admitting to be a street photographer? Inventing an excuses like “no no…i was takin’ a photo at the the neon-sign light on the glass on your left that’s reflecting on the ticket-machine on your right”?
The truth is that you don’t know what kind of person or character you will face and we cannot predict reactions and, at least personally , i never asked permission to take a picture because it must be ” candid “, not posed and natural, as if I’m just an observer of the scene and without any intervention so , my personal advice is to look as natural as possible and not feed fire with hard attitudes that in the past i used too but that in the end, are very counterproductive. Even if you pull out laws and the “book of the photographer rights”, forget about it … rather admit that you were stealing a portrait of the subject, flattering him like “You know…you have a very interesting face … and in this light I must take this photo” or explaining that is an ” artistic ” photography, making clear that you’re not a detective in disguise and you don’t want to invade their privacy…you only found something beautiful in their faces or in their actions…or simply, your subjects have found themselves immersed in a story or in a ” scene ” too interesting to let it disappear into thin air. Be creative.
And if you’re wondering … well , it works … really … I have talked to many interesting people when I was discussing after a stolen photo…some photography enthusiasts , a former rally driver , a Leica employee of the seventies, immigrants who wanted to become lawyers and many others.
Of course … It’s not always so easy but the important thing, is that the few cases where an heated discussion borns, do not take you away from your subject . It happened to me, just verbal attacks fortunately but for several months, i couldn’t get close as before, taking a photo became difficult, i couldn’t search for the eye contact anymore and i limited myself to distant compositions and less intimate pictures, losing a lot of good photos.
It’s normal to feel constrained by certain events and often it takes time to regain confidence and courage and i admit that buses have helped me to regain confidence…and if you want to try to take photos on public transports (by the way…is it street or not? it is not doesn’t matter…just take some nice photographs ) and in general , because it applies also to the road , if you can stay inside the story…close to your subject… you will find a lot of stories and characters and the close distance will make your photography more intimate.
It will be hard in the beginning … because although it’s true that you can always get off at the next stop , there will be minutes before it when you will be so close together with your subject that takin’ a picture will mean to become part of the scene , entering into the personal sphere .. the mini- world of the person standing in front of you.