“Today everyone is a photographer. Photography is not brain surgery. It’s not that complicated, it is easier than before… it’s not the ease, it’s what you do and how you do it and how you construct your life and your vision… noticing possible pictures with or without carrying a camera is fundamental to every working photographer. The photograph, if it communicates, is a very good picture..it is magic..it is something you can’t describe. IT’S MAGIC THAT SOMETIMES HAPPENS” Elliott Erwitt
I can't purport to have an ounce of Erwitt’s talent but I totally concur about noticing pictures through or outside a camera’s viewfinder. I just wish I could devote the time required to capture all those little vignettes forever. I found myself doing this before I commenced this project, mentally cropping, composing the shot and adjusting the depth of field on little scenes that flash by. Now I’ve committed to a photo-a-day I find this behaviour is even more pronounced.
On the commute into the city this morning, the train was a sardine can of passengers, all layered up against the biting cold and pressed up together so we could let just one more person on. There's that musty fug of scratchy winter coats and padded ski jackets and there's always one person strapped to the largest rucksack imaginable like some lost mutant ninja turtle and we’re having to contort ourselves to avoid being the one pressed up against the Velcro and zippered lumpy pockets. I have a view through the dusty window at the world whizzing by, just. And if I could have taken a picture, when there’s no room to reach in my bag for my camera and even if I was wearing it there’s not even wiggle room to raise it to my eye, also we’re just about going too fast to focus and the windows are not the tiniest bit clean and transparently window-like, what would I have taken? The row of large roller shutters and one painted bright yellow - click! Battersea Power Station looming high with little nests if scaffoldings in the chimneys - click! Two men on the platform bent over and scrambling in their bags with exactly the same stance a few feet apart - click!
As it is I wait for the evening journey home. This time it is on the Underground rather than the train, so the focus is on the passengers not the nothingness beyond the windows. Almost as soon as I was settled down I just trying out an unfamiliar setting on my camera and was focusing up and down the carriage, not taking shots, merely fiddling. A woman sat a few seats away indignantly demanded to know what I was taking pictures of. I told her I wasn't, but was just experimenting with settings but clearly disbelieving me she viewed me with suspicion for the next 45 minutes or so. As it is, I fired off a sneaky shot of the passengers opposite at one point after her admonishment but as my camera is oh so quiet in its stealth mode I think I got away with it. Dare I sat that there's a tiny whisper of Erwitt here, he would have somehow included a dog and the poses have had more synergy but I did my best with the “unsolicited photograph police” monitoring. It's not “magic” but at least I'm noticing!