After a hiatus from the street photography, I was glad to find sometime to hit the streets of Nashville with my trusty Olympus OM1 and a roll of TRI-X. This post is the first of 5 that will showcase the images from my outing that stretched over a Saturday and Sunday a few weekends ago. I did not have any particular theme in mind, but I did want to interact more with my subjects. This meant either asking for permission to take a photo or starting a conversation afterwards or both. Technically, in my opinion, asking for permission does not fit the mold of traditional street photography. However, it was still something I wanted to try.
After reviewing all the images on the roll and thinking back on my past adventures, I decided to start 3 recurring themes that fit my style of shooting on the streets. “Face to Face” will be the recurring theme that involves street shots where I have some interaction with my subjects. This interaction usually results in a “Street Portrait”. Sometimes the interaction is getting caught in the act. Getting caught can also make some interesting face to face photos. Most of the time, I get a smile and a wave, but I do get concerned looks or even people blocking their faces from time to time. I even had one lady to tell me to delete the photo. My second theme is going to be “Abstract Street”. This will involve capturing some part of the human element without showing it in its entirety. This could also mean not showing a human at all, but the subject strongly suggests a human is nearby. Finally, the catch all theme will be “Random Street”. This theme will be more about candid captures. Each recurring post will be distinguished by it’s volume number. Of course, specific themed street photography blog posts will carry their appropriate titles.
Before I get to my images, I would like to share a picture of my street kit. I love the freedom of one camera and one lens. With my light meter in my back pocket, I am ready for just about anything. Here’s a funny tidbit about this shot. To get the shot below, I had to stand next to my car in an awkward position. My car was parked in a large parking lot with only 2 or 3 cars in the entire lot including mine. As I was taking the shot, a tour bus was passing by on the bridge behind me. I could hear someone say, “Look! Someone is breaking into that car”. I got my shot and got out of there before I got arrested for breaking into my own ride.
Since I am breaking this roll of film into 5 different posts, these shots are not in any particular order. While some of these might be back to back, most are not. With that said, let’s get started. I noticed a woman sitting on the sidewalk with her back against a building wall. I found her interesting because she looked out of place sitting there with a bag and other belongings including what looked liked a notebook. I first started to see if I could get a candid shot, but it would be too obvious so I asked for her portrait. She was more than happy to let me take her picture. I told her just to continue what she was doing, but then I changed my mind and asked her to look at the camera.
I believe looking into the camera was the best shot. I obviously don’t know her, but her smile really gives you hints about her personality. She told me her name was Penney like J.C. Penney. Penney said she likes taking pictures also, and when she does, she uses film. It turns out she was waiting on a bus. It was not a regular city bus, but a smaller chartered type bus. I gave her my business card just before she left. I looked into her Facebook and discovered that Penney is involved in the music industry. Imagine that, meeting someone in Nashville involved in music.
This next gentleman’s hat caught my attention. I soon realized that he was helping the horse-drawn carriage operator behind him solicit business. He introduced himself as Calvin and allowed me to take is portrait. Calving was busy so I did not hold him up much longer.
As I trekked through downtown, I came across a construction crew. They had the entire street blocked with the exception of a sidewalk. People were passing by the sidewalk right next to a large crane lifting heavy objects. I saw two workers setting on the back of a pickup truck. Without asking I approached them and grabbed the shot below.
These guys were extremely nice. The guy on the left asked me where could he see the picture. I explained to him that I was shooting film and that I would not have the images for a few weeks. I then gave him my business card and told them to check my website for the pictures. He introduce himself as Brad. He was the main man over the job. His partner, Robert, was the yard foreman. I explained to them that I thought it was a bit risky to have so many pedestrians so close to a construction job of this magnitude. Brad told me that he was not allowed to shutdown a sidewalk. I gathered from our conversation that shutting down a sidewalk required an act of congress and special barricades. Don’t get me wrong, the construction crew had all the proper guarding and signage surrounding their work area. I can vouch for this because in my line of work I have to follow OSHA and TOSHA regulations in my place of work. I’m just not used to seeing pedestrians so close to a construction zone. I guess this is just the way things are in a large and busy city. I continued talking to Brad and Robert for about 20 minutes or so. Brad’s crew was adding several floors to an existing hotel. I can’t remember if it was already a 5 star hotel or if it will be after his work is done. Brad’s company, IDC Construction, specializes in hotel renovations.
As I mentioned previously, these guys were really generous. They even offered to take me up to the top floor to get some pictures of Nashville from a higher perspective. Brad gave me his phone number and told me to give him a call when I was ready. If I can find the time before the job is finished, I will definitely take him up on his offer. To conform to regulations, Brad said he would outfit me with a hard hat and vest. They even offered me lunch before I had to leave. Meeting people like Brad and Robert was a good reminder that regardless of what you hear on the daily news, there are still more good people than bad on this earth.
Just about every time I walk the streets of downtown Nashville, I always seem to walk by the Downtown Presbyterian Church and there always seems to be at least one person sitting on the steps. The people that I see appear to be homeless or transients. On this day, I decided to interact with 3 people I saw sitting there. There were two men and one woman.
I stepped up to the trio and asked for their portrait. The lady said that I should take their picture, meaning the two men setting next to her. The two men said they did not mind. I got my picture and talked to the men for a few minutes. I had an interesting conversation with the two before they left. I will share this interaction in a later post. After the men left, I asked again if I could have the woman’s portrait. She seem to warm up to the idea. She told me not to make her look bad. I assured her hat her portrait would look great.
Mary Beth likes to be called Mab. She’s from Clarksville, Tennessee. While she’s homeless at the moment, she is a writer and an artist. She loves to do charcoal drawings. We talked about art for a while. I then wished her luck and I continued on my way.
After my conversation with Mab, I headed toward the bus terminal. As I was walking down the sidewalk, I heard someone say, “Nice camera”. I turned to a line of cabs parked next to the sidewalk where a gentleman was setting in the driver seat of one of the cabs. I made this an opportunity to get another street portrait. Sam agreed to me taking his picture. I learned that Sam was from Iraq. He came to the US in 1996 and he has been in the taxi business for 40 years. After our conversation, I gave him a card and told him to check my website for his picture over the next few weeks.
After leaving Sam, I took a few more pictures in the area. I was then approached by a young man selling some type of literature. I apologized and told him I did not have any cash. Instead of continuing on my way, I asked about the papers in his hand. He explained to me that he was selling literature with inspirational messages. He used to sell the Contributor Newspaper, but felt he was getting robbed. He said he does better hustling on the streets on his own. After a few minutes, he begin to open up a bit more. He introduced himself as Carl. He talked about his homelessness and he introduced me to his little brother who was standing next to him. His brother actually had a job and was in and out of the Nashville Rescue Mission. He mentioned hat I was the first person of the day he had held a conversation with other than his brother. He said most people cross over to the other sidewalk when they see him coming. Some even hold their hands up over their ears while they pass him. He says on average he gets called the “N-word” 3 times a week. I talked to Carl for over 30 minutes. I mainly listened to what he had to say. While I understood and agreed with a lot of what Carl was saying, I did not try to pretend I understood all of his opinions and feelings. After all, I have never slept under a bridge or wondered from where my next meal was coming. I could tell that Carl and his brother needed to get some things off their chest. I was more than happy to let them vent. I finally asked for his portrait. I know Carl could use some money, but I hope I gave him something that day that was a little more valuable, the dignity of a conversation and a handshake.
Later I ran across a man and a woman who looked to be taking a break just inside a garage door within the building of the Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery. I was drawn to the contrast between them and the dark background. Along with their friendly disposition, I thought it would make a nice black and white image. They agreed to let me have their photograph. After the shot, I learned their names were Faith and Jesse. I gave them both a card and told them to lookout for their photograph over the next few weeks.
I noticed this next gent also taking a break. I asked for his photograph. He looked puzzled, but he smiled. I took this as a yes, so I grabbed his portrait. I asked for his name afterwards, but his accent was so heavy that I could not understand him. After a couple of failed attempts, I thanked him for his picture and headed down the road.
It’s always fun taking pictures of other photographers doing their thing. I saw the next two ladies across the crosswalk. They were looking around snapping pictures like a couple of tourist. Once I crossed over, I approached them and asked for their photograph. As I was taking their picture, they raised their cameras and grabbed a shot of me. Shirley and Melissa told me that they also like to do street photography. They really look like they were having a great time on the streets. I gave them my business card and explain to them I was shooting film and that they should check the website for their picture.
I have to admit. I had a blast interacting with my subjects. I will definitely incorporate this style of street photography in my future endeavors. I hope you enjoyed the pictures and the story. My next post will be a volume 2 of “Face to Face” from the same roll of film. It will have a few shots of me getting caught in the act. Thanks for reading!
Images Best Viewed in Lightbox Below!