Alec’s Journey (Part 1/8)

HOW STREET PHOTOGRAPHY CHANGED MY LIFE:

“THE JOURNEY”

 BLOG SERIES BY ALEC RILL – Part 1

I have been a “street photographer” all my life. Since I took to photography as a kid, I liked taking pictures of people.  

I moved a lot around the world and I traveled a lot and was fascinated by the differences in cultures and the way people looked. Eventually I started to see not the differences among people but their similarities. Similarities in the way they talk, the way they interact with each other, the way they laugh, the way they are sad…  I loved the idea of showing different people being similar in so many ways.

I thought I was a street photographer!

Until my teacher asked me, “What did you talk about with this person?” 

I was puzzled, perplexed and didn’t know what to say. I never spoke with my subjects!  

I looked at my photographs and what I saw didn’t please me: It was as if a remote observer was looking in at a foreign tribe. I was out, my subjects were in.

Then I saw photographs by famous street photographers, and my feeling was quite different: It was as if a member of the tribe took a photo of other members of their tribe. The human connection was immediately apparent!

Here is a photo I took from very far away using a 200mm lens:

Ghana, 2019

Then I started reading about street photography and studying the work of the masters. It was the beginning of my awakening:

“How you see photos and what you see in them is a reflection of how you see the world.” –Bryce Evans

I saw the world as an observer, an outsider, detached! No wonder my photographs lacked the human connection. 

“If your photos aren’t good enough, then you’re not close enough.” -Robert Capa

I was far, I used technology, I didn’t connect.

“It is more important to click with people than to click the shutter.” –Alfred Eisenstaedt

I realized that something was missing, not in my technique but in myself. I was fearful of the interaction, reluctant to approach people, I had a feeling of entitlement, I got angry at the rejection, I took pictures quickly so I could run away.

I had to learn to interact with people, to approach people with confidence, to accept rejection, to place myself in my subject’s shoes, and most importantly to respect my subject and create the sense of intimacy between us that would allow me to take photos of my subjects’ soul, not only their face.

These skills helped me be a better photographer but inadvertently, they help me become a better person, to know myself and approach life from a very different perspective.

Here is an example of my photography after I learned those skills. The human connection is apparent.

This blog will take you through my transformation.

Ghana, 2019

I will show you in periodic installments how I learned 

  • To “read” the other person (body language, facial expressions, hidden language)
  • To identify emotions in the other person
  • To listen and pay attention to the other person’s story
  • To not interrupt and let the other person feel free to express their opinion
  • To not judge, to accept other people’s imperfections
  • To empathize with the other person
  • To respect the other person
  • To create trust
  • To guide a deeper conversation and create intimacy

Join me in my journey.  It may help you see yourself in a different light.

With Gratitude,

Alec Rill

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