Sunday, December 8, 2013

9 street photography lessons from The Odyssey

Odysseus in the Cave of Polyphemus, Jacob Jordaens, c. 1635


1. Don't be lazy
Odysseus could've shacked up with Calypso eating grapes on the beach forever. She was built like a goddess. Literally. Everything was right there for him. But no, lounging ain't for pros. Wanna know how many lotus eaters are in MoMA? That's right, none. Get too relaxed and your cohorts might just release your top-secret bag of winds, blowing you back to square one. And let's not even talk about Penelope's lazy suitors. The lesson is clear. Get focused, get active, and stay that way.

2. Blend In

Whether escaping the cave of Poyphemus tied under sheep or returning to Ithaca disguised as a wandering beggar, Odysseus employed a variety of costumes and subterfuge evading his enemies. Street photographers should do the same. Dress like the rabble. Blend in. Then go forth and conquer.

4. Empathy gets you nowhere
Do you think Odysseus sat around feeling sorry for his enemies? Poor old giant with only one eye? Not even. More like, in your face dick. Handmaidens with shaky allegiance? Men who happened to linger at the estate upon his return to Ithaca? Same deal. Friggin bloodbath. No prisoners, no regrets. I'm not saying you need to hack up pedestrians. Just don't get too hung up on their feelings. Do what you need to do, then move on.

3. Ignore hot chicks
I'm not saying you need to shove wax in your ears or walk the city streets tied to a mast. But for undisciplined shooters, the siren call of hot chicks can be a dangerous distraction. Or hot dudes if that's your thing. Take a cue from Odysseus and just ignore them. For emergency vehicle sirens it's just the opposite. They can lead to good photo ops.

5. Don't name your kid Telemachus
I mean seriously. What the fuck kind of name is that? He'll probably complain about it as a teen, and you'll wind up in this huge family argument and once the lawyers get involved you can kiss your shooting time goodbye. So just name him Jim or something. Trust me.

6. There's no subsitute for experience
Odysseus spent a decade sailing, adventuring, swashbuckling, consorting with various gods and goddesses, teaching, leading a fleet, surviving shipwreck, and finally reclaiming his throne in a violent ambush. Oh yeah, and there's this little thing called the Trojan Horse you may have heard of. Invented it. The dude lived. It's no mystery why he was king. So take your cue from him. Go wander the globe for 10 years, then pick up a camera. 

7. Travel in packs
The beauty of crowds is that problems can be deflected. For example, if you're trying to thread the needle between Syclla and Charybdis, it pays to carry expendable crew. Same thing in a cave with a man-eating cyclops. And same thing on the streets. In a group of photographers making street candids, it's not always the shooter who winds up in hot water. It's the slowest sprinter. 

8. Pros get the shot
Odysseus strung an impossible bow and shot an arrow through 12 axe heads. One shot, first try, no warm up. So I don't want to hear about your problems with autofocus, camera shake and white balance. He nailed it, and he lived before electricity and cars and shit. So what's your excuse again?

9. Created works of lasting value
When Odysseus needed something to sleep on, he didn't shop at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. No, he built the foundation from a living tree. Try to move that. Try to accidentally toss that out in recycling. Hey, I'm not saying it was comfortable to lay on. But it was there when he needed it. When you shoot photos, plan on them being around a while. Make them last. Who knows, maybe someone will write about them 3,000 years from now.

5 comments:

acordes said...

So many Lessons to be learned are out there - This one is really refreshing and also put a smile on my face (Nr.3)

Thanx & Cheers Axel

V. Roma said...

Thanks for the laugh :)

Christophe Guillaud said...

Very funny with real truth inside!

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