Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Almost got it...at the Mermaid Parade
"Mermaid Parade 2007," Tim Connor, All rights reserved
Along with about 10,000 other photographers, I was at Coney Island on Saturday blazing away at the willing exhibitionists in this year's Mermaid Parade. For those of you who don't know, the parade is a Brooklyn seaside event, created in 1983 by local artists as a jokey carnival of sun, sea & summer. This year I heard a lot of complaints about how big & commercial the parade has gotten, but the separation between participants & spectators is still pretty porous & -- it seemed to me -- wacky (& raunchy) amateurism remains the rule.
I got a lot of good shots (above is an almost random example) but no winners. I'm not too disappointed. I think you just don't get many with this kind of on-the-move, small camera street shooting. With big restless crowds, multiple scenes & stories happening all at once it's like shooting inside a kaleidoscope -- instinctive, unplanned, gestural, reactive. You need some luck. If you're technically competent, open to possibilities & you work hard, you definitely raise the chances of getting lucky. But, like any gambler, sometimes you have to wait.
On his 2point8 blog Michael David Murphy recently did a great interview with veteran street shooter Richard Kalvar that touches on this point. Here's an excerpt:
2point8: When you’re out shooting, you know when you’ve got a particular shot.
Kalvar: You know when you might have something.
Kalvar: What counts is the result. It works or it doesn’t work. You may think after you’ve taken a picture that you may have something. And then you find out that you don’t have anything, that you almost had something – but that in fact, you pressed the button at the wrong time. That you took a lot of pictures, but you were on auto-pilot - that instead of waiting, you shot buckshot at it, so you missed the one that might really work.
But every once in a while, I look at my contact sheets and I discover something I hadn’t even seen. That’s possible, too.
2point8: True surprise.
Kalvar: Yeah, I take a lot of lousy pictures, and sometimes it turns out that one of the ones that I didn’t even think about was in fact pretty good.
A couple of years ago I got what I think are a couple of keepers at the Mermaid Parade. Here's one. I'm still fascinated by this kind of shooting. I'm going to keep doing it.