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Tips & Tricks

Renowned Street Photographer Joe Wigfall on Shooting From The Hip To Maintain Connection

By Kishore Sawh on November 21st 2014

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Anytime you have people, and they’re alive, you’re going to have something goin’ on.

That’s the opening line for this interview with noted street photographer, Joe Wigfall, and what a perfect phrase to come from someone who spends their days in the midst of a bustling population.

A lot of what Joe has to say in this interview is really about his mindset, and explaining his view of street photography. He sees street photography as the arena of the everyday person; just regular people you wouldn’t see in a magazine, but may identify with on a personal level. It’s something that requires the development, and trusting of instinct, according to Joe. It’s about seeing yourself in your subjects, and it could be a look they give, or an encounter with a child or a loved one, and it speaks to part of you.

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Joe feels he is most able to do this, however, by shooting form the hip. That’s both in terms of the typical idiom, and literally, as he sees value in removing the camera from your face when you’re shooting. With a camera to your eyes, he says, you are blinded to things around you,

When you put the camera to your face, and put it to your eyes, you’re blinded to a whole lot of other situations. You don’t see what’s going on around you, you don’t see what’s coming up behind you, you don’t see anybody. I had to learn to see with my hands, be able to frame it up, position myself, and know when I’m getting a shot.

Joe goes on to further inspire by speaking of the artist’s struggle. He realized that this was a part of him that would corrode if he didn’t nurture it, and he didn’t want that to happen. That largely too, though he could not make a living at it (at that point), it’s worth doing.

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Thoughts

There’s something that really rings so close to home about this interview. Joe is not pretentious at all, and his words on the struggle of doing what you want versus earning should hit a chord for many of us. I love that he saw the value in continuing doing this even though he couldn’t make ends meet doing it, and had to have other work, and that value extended to those around him.

His message was so clear, and honest, that you don’t have to kill a part of you even if you can’t make a living from it. “What are you to do?” he asks, “get so frustrated and annoyed that you do nothing?

No, and he says how that won’t encourage anyone. How true is that? (rhetorical)

[REWIND: Your Work Can’t Speak For Itself | Do You Know What Else You Need To Be Hired?]

Briefly, I’ll mention too that I like to shoot without having the camera to my face. In some scenarios it’s easier than others, but I am totally in agreement that you lose a bit of connection with your subject, even if it’s a model in the studio. I always like to keep eye contact, and is about the only reason I like the fact modern, higher end DSLRs like the D750 have articulating screens, and fast live views, because it allows you to do just that.

Check out Joe’s work on his beautiful Flickr page. 

Source: The Phoblographer, images are screen captures from featured video.

About

A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Basit Zargar

    Nice !!

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  2. Ralph Hightower

    Okay, now that I have a DSLR, i’ll try shooting without framing. Having spent all my life in South Carolina, when I took a temporary job in Iowa, I was like in a Heinlein novel, Stranger in a Strange Land; actually, Iowa wasn’t that strange.
    But I developed a “drive-by shooting” technique when touring Iowa in 1994. First I started out using disposable film cameras. Once I got comfortable doing that, I moved to using my Canon A-1; I’d set the focus to infinity, the camera generally on [P], briefly frame through the viewfinder and fire. Moving back home, I took a photo prior to exiting a tunnel.
    Shooting film without framing costs a little bit. With digital, it’s just ones and zeros.

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  3. Lex Arias

    Excellent

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  4. Eric Sharpe

    That was sort of inspirational. I like it.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      exactly how I felt Eric. The more I think about it, the more i watch and listen, i find there’s a lot of good to be found from this. Glad you like it. Cheers

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