Photography in itself is a lonely craft. It’s generally just you, your camera and the desire to return with something compelling to share.
I was initially tempted to slam this post with some meaningful advice for photographing with groups of people but I realize that with the exception having participate in one photo walk, I don’t have much to offer on the topic. The majority of my local outings have materialized alone. The time I arrived or left a place was my prerogative without having to sacrifice an opportunity for the sake of compromise.
My wife accompanies me when we both happen to be off from work but for the most part, I get the usual “you went alone?” reaction from friends when I openly mention it. I’ve given up waiting around for people who were interested in coming along but wanted to compress the adventure into their time schedule rather than being open to the concept of wandering and exploring. Don’t get me wrong, photographing with a friend can be exciting but the adventure quotient is usually higher when you are alone.
The best part is that you don’t have to consult with anyone on the uncertainly of “what are we going to do next? since the only person that would be affected by any choice would be you. When you’re out photographing, not every single moment will be a noteworthy one but knowing that it’ll take time to find one is part of the process. As the sole creator of your schedule, you’ll be surprised how the best ideas, discoveries, illuminating moments or photographic opportunities come to you when you’re completely alone at a park bench, at a coffee shop counter or standing at a street corner.
Would friends be patient enough to wait around for you until you’ve felt that you got the right shot? Some will, some won’t. I know I annoy my wife at times but she loves me enough that she puts up with it.
Every decision you’ve made up to this point in photographing solo has been based off your own sense of self-belief. There’s no companion who’s guidance you can rely on and it’s precisely those challenges that make you stronger and open the opportunities for you to think more about what you shoot rather than focus what the other person wants to do.
When you’re companionless, you become much more aware of your surroundings and those who are in it. With a group, there’s a tendency to get absorbed in your own tight circle and you focus on what’s happening with you and your friends while neglecting everything else around. When it’s only you and your camera the internal experience of sightseeing is different.
I can’t recount the amount of times I’ve boarded the wrong train and have ended up near the Bronx as oppose to back home in Brooklyn. For me, the best part about the experience is also the most difficult. Being pulled in every direction, growing and knowing that I gave it my all photographically.
I don’t want you to think that I would never go out and photograph with people but I welcome anyone that would want to tag along. Friends assume that exploring your city alone means traveling solo but it’s far from that depending on much of an extrovert you are. My day job involves working in retail so being timid and self-conscious around people is completely unacceptable. Strangely enough you meet more people being on our own than I ever thought and the conversations get even better when they see you with a massive dSLR and eventually served them with a Moo Card.
These poll results over at DPS make me feel good knowing that I’m not the only one that relishes the option to photograph alone rather than in a group.
I even asked LA street photographer Eric Kim whether he prefers solo or group outings and coincidently enough, he was more in favor towards the former.