The above photographs were taken by Douglas Fry in Soho over one afternoon.
If You Frame It They Will Come
In the documentary ‘In No Great Hurry’ – photographer Saul Leiter discusses the importance of being slow. He talks about how the chances of a great photograph are rarely thrust upon you. Instead, he believes they come by waiting, by being patient, but most of all by being ready to take the picture at the right time.
Leiter’s pictures were regularly in demand for the pages of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar but he was far from a fame seeker. He enjoyed most his quiet photography, which of course went on to become his most sought after body of work.
These images today are displayed in galleries the world over and command many tens of thousands of pounds.
Leiter lived on the Lower East Side of New York in the same flat for more than 50 years and walked the streets unobtrusively, seeking out tranquility in the busy hustle and bustle of the city and opportunities to capture these moments on film.
I had Leiter’s dictums very much in mind while on a one day course organized by The Photographers Gallery in London. We spent the morning discussing his methodology, style and trigger points. He looked for something that caught his eye, such as umbrellas, bad weather, glass etc). Theory over, we set off into the wilds of Soho to see what we could find, followed by a pleasurable afternoon reviewing pictures and critiquing each other’s work.
Leiter shot nearly everything in the vertical or portrait format, which was new for me as most commissioned photography is in landscape. This technical requirement forced me to slow down while framing images and also waiting for various other elements to fall into place before finally pressing the shutter.
For example in my image above, I mirrored the rungs of the ladder with the slatted barrier in the foreground, and the barrier itself with the orange bucket carried by the window cleaner.
With the barber shop image I ensured the customers car was reflected in the frame at the same time as he had his hipster trim.
I found it a very healthy exercise and gained a lot from the day. It showed that good street photography takes considerable amounts of time, but the benefits are a much-enhanced perception and observation of colour and composition. I have included some of my favourites from the day. And if I am lucky, they too will be available in the not-too-distant future to buy from galleries both here and abroad.