Thursday, June 17, 2010

Leon Levenstein On the Vicarious Outsider Experience of Taking Pictures

This is a quote From an Article in American Suburb X: See link in Photography section for full article interview. 

Leon Levinstein: Well, it’s sort of a vicarious experience when you photograph. Because you’re always on the outside. They’re having a good time there, maybe a family, or a couple families, having a picnic, eating this fried chicken and potato salad and all that junk. And you’re on the outside, you know, trying to sneak a picture. You walk around them and around them and look and look and see if for a moment something might happen, and they don’t invite you to sit down and have fried chicken. You’re always on the outside. And then you go somewhere else, but again you’re on the outside. And if you have somebody with you it’s no good, they detract you from what you’re doing. So you got to be alone and work alone. And it’s a lonely—a very lonely occupation, if you want to call it that.

I could really relate to the necessity of working alone. It's not something you can take people to do with you. I do ask if I can take pictures though and many of my pictures are posed. When I go back a second time though, I feel more free to take them spontaneously and the permission becomes implied as the relationship builds as with this one of Mr R I took this week after I gave him some strawberries from my garden.

In this case I was really only semi-alone. The kids were in the car when I pulled over to talk to him.  Although I suggest that at times I do not ask, in this case I did, out of habit.  The kids stayed in the car for the five minutes we talked and I snapped the shots and told him he had to eat the strawberries today. They were soft and would mold fast in the summer heat and humidity. By the time I got back to the car and waved, he'd taken my advise and was fast at work. 

I have a hard time judging the photograps themselves, but I've no doubt the relationships growing out of this practice are interesting.  

Mr. R didn't like one of the pictures I took last time. He felt self conscious of how old he felt he looked. 

When this time I told him he had a nice face, he smiled.  I meant it and I hope he could tell.

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