Being around people who are passionately celebrating something is contagious. In this case, the candor in their screams, the hard sway of the tricolor flag, the array of native outfits, it’s alluring people and the overall readiness of the Colombian community in welcoming anyone to join their celebration was remarkable. Underneath the harsh 85 degree temperature on Sunday July 31st, I found myself amidst the streets of Northern Blvd celebrating the culture and the traditions of the annual Colombian day parade. I’m not Colombian but being a photographer and an admirer of culture was a good enough reason for attending.
In comparison to the Puerto Rican day parade which takes place along the overcrowded streets of 5th Ave, the Colombian one shined at a smaller scale which I liked a lot more. Unlike the slew of other photographers armed with 70-200mm lenses and 2 camera bodies strapped around their shoulders, I shot entirely with an 85mm and no press badge to guarantee that I would snag the type of up close shots I wanted. Constant movement was crucial because of the inability of my lens to zoom. Tasteful shots were all in the footwork.
With nothing to lose other than being escorted off the main streets and asked to stay behind the barricades like everyone else, I kept my dSLR as visible as possible so as to secure my stay in the middle of everything. I simply looked like I was supposed to be there and I guess you could say I behaved as if I knew what I was doing. During the 2+ hours that I walked the parade route alongside the participants, no one ever questioned my presence. I was asked twice who I was shooting for and at no time did I feel self-conscious stating I was working for myself. I solidified the statement as I handed them a Moo card.
The great thing about parades is that everything goes as far as street photography is concerned. When that amount of people are in a public place, particularly when they’re having fun and being entertained, they’re normally unaware of anything other than ensuring their view is not being obstructed from the spot they’ve secured for themselves hours before the event.
With the exception of a few onlookers, everyone’s is relatively upbeat if they notice you photographing them. You can’t expect not to be a potential subject if you’ve chosen to be part of such festivities. Asking permission to photography complete strangers is not something I’ve master as of yet so I took advantage of doing it all day. The likelihood that they would have declined was small in view of the setting we were in but uttering the words was a push towards boosting that confidence.
The reason I shot with a 85mm was because I don’t own a fast mid-range zoom lens yet. I’m looking to eventually purchase the 17-55mm f/2.8 but leaving the technical aspect aside, my objective as a photographer was not to be one of the many skulking at a distance. I didn’t want to be a voyeur to everything around me but rather an active participant. I love interacting with people too much to give up the opportunity of being close to the action.
I enjoy casual shots as much as anyone else but I appreciate it even more when people furnish me with the opportunity to photograph them because of my approach. The sun was shinning and in spite of that, I refused to wear my shades because I wanted the people to see who was photographing them. Street photography involves getting close to people and so much was the case during the parade that I’m eagerly added Colombia to the wishlist of countries I hope to one day visit.
Feel free to view the rest of the photographs from the Colombian Day Parade.