Streets Unplugged



"I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."  - Maya Angelou


A fellow photographer recently remarked that “as a woman” it was probably easier for me to do street photography.

My initial instinct was to pounce because I just spent the last 3 decades breaking the military glass ceiling, so to speak, and attributing gender to success was definitely a no-no.

But I swallowed my urge to fire off some feministic flames his way and I listened (intently) as he explained what he meant. 

Essentially he said approaching people to ask them if he could take a picture seems harder as a male.  He thought people would automatically assume he had ulterior motives.

Since I only know life from the female perspective he may have a point, but what I would like to think is, it’s about embodying dignity and respect while confidently  building a rapport with your subject.

Before I ask for a picture (assuming I haven’t already taken it), I spend a few moments acknowledging that individual as a person, regardless of who they are.

Meet Johnny, presumably homeless based on his shopping cart companion.  He was walking towards me (singing) as I was taking some street photography in the Bahamas over the holidays.  

Johnny and his cart

As we passed by each other, I made eye contact and said "hello, how are you?"  He greeted me back with a  smile, asked me my name and then asked if I exercised, " you look fit."  I responded with my name and that I do exercise.  Then I asked him the same questions, to which he laughed and said pushing his cart around was his exercise.  What happened next is why I love street photography.

"May I take your picture, Johnny?"  Not only did Johnny want his picture taken, he stood up straight with great pride, took off his hat and declared "yes, but you have to get me hair" as he gave me a huge smile.  Johnny was prepared to pose for me for a bit longer if I wanted but I politely thanked him, wished him Merry Christmas and moved on. 

Johnny showing off his hair

Showing dignity and respect are key in any situation but  I find it even more important when I'm interacting with strangers that cross my camera.

"We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."  - Martin Luther King Jr.

Meet Tamal, I met him while he was standing guard outside the Bahamas Historical Government Building.  Tamal has been an "Able Seaman" in the Royal Bahamas Defense Force for over 10 years. I'm convinced he was expecting yet another unassuming tourist to ask if they could peek into the grounds behind him.  Eventually I was that tourist but not before chatting with Tamal to learn about him and his service to his country.

We compared notes on each other's naval careers and talked about how different they were.  I was happy to learn that Tamal had recently passed his advancement examination and he was patiently waiting to hear about a promotion.  Like Johnny, Tamal exuded pride when he posed for his picture.

Tamal

In this era of living online, it's nice to actually unplug and truly connect with others, especially in different cultures, that's how we continue to learn about the world around us.  I don't know if my gender has anything to do with it, but I do know that a smile and a simple greeting go a long way to acknowledging that we aren't on this journey alone.

If you are interested in seeing what I captured on the streets of Nassau, Bahamas, check out the Bahamas Street Photography Gallery  (This link takes you to the Laura Hatcher Photography website.)

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