Week 3: Blast from the past: Perseverance creates magic! (or New York! New York!)
I hope all is well!:)
This week I would like to take you a couple of years back - back to July 2016 when I wrote this blog post. This was posted on a previous blog of mine but I like the story and I wanted it to exist on this space as well.
The city orbits around eight million centers of the universe and turns around the golden clock at the still point of this place.
Lift up your eyes from the moving hive and you will see time circling under a vault of stars and know just when and where you are.
Grand Central, Billy Collins
I am at a Starbucks cafe, writing this two days after the truck attack in Nice, one week after Dallas shooting, three weeks after Brexit and four weeks after the attack in Orlando. And the list seems to keep growing and growing in a scary – cannot breathe – we have to make it stop – way.
And, I am here, feeling a sort of guilt that on a day like this, I feel the need to talk to you about my first ever attempt for a photo project during my first ever visit to New York City. That same guilt that you sometimes feel when you take pictures of strangers in the name of street photography, in your attempt to capture the candid moment, that precise moment, the one that you only saw and that for some reason you need to document and share. And by you I mean me as well.
I know it doesn’t make me an expert, but spending a week in the Grand Central terminal taking pictures of people working there, I came to the conclusion that as long as what you do is coming from a place of empathy, as long as the pictures you take come from a good place and as long as you have a story to tell, you should go for it. Of course, having said that you have to know your boundaries and don’t do anything that it doesn’t feel safe.
The project was part of a photo workshop I attended in New York last month. The idea was to limit the streets of New York to the building of the Grand Central train station and try to take pictures of the people who basically are there every day, the workers. The challenge was to face the guilt of taking pictures of strangers and to get closer, literally, to be at a close distance to the person and take their picture even if they noticed me.
Considering that I just only recently found out that you can actually talk to people and that you don’t need to shy away every time you take a picture of someone, like you are the biggest criminal on the planet, I found the whole project very intriguing and interesting, but above all, the whole thing started to feel like a game, a challenge to put aside any personal (in my head!) constraints, be open and go for it. Connect.
And that is how the Grand Central terminal became my playground for a week. I was there during the day, at night, I have probably walked every inch of it, from the main concourse to the shops and the platforms. A city within a City. I loved the place, the building was amazing, it felt like being in a different era, the people were quite open and tolerant with me. I was lucky I guess, because with so many tourists with cameras in that place, my camera and I did not look odd or strange or out of place at all. It was funny that after the first couple of days people would recognise me and either ignore me (you know me being part of the family!) or talk to me and start a conversation.
You are maybe thinking why the Grand Central. The idea came after the first day of the workshop where through conversation I realised that New York was way too big for my level of photography and that the discipline of going back to the same place every day and looking for different things, it would probably benefit me more. So, initially, I had made a list of a few places I could do that but going to the Grand Central the first day, that was it, we kind of clicked!
But was it all nice and easy? Not really. The first day I went there mainly to observe the place, I asked a few people for pictures, but that weird feeling of guilt was still there, I took one picture and then I was gone, I didn’t have the discipline to take a second or a third picture. And then, street photography is also about capturing the moment, right? The moment that lasts for like a second, which means, instant decisions, angle, composition, light and all of these in that one second.
The remedy to the craziness? Perseverance. Practice. Mistakes. Repeat. Go back again and again. By the end of the week, the whole process was becoming a bit more natural, slightly easier, even when I was frustrated and thought that there was nothing else for me to photograph, every time I would go back and I would find more pictures, more moments. Every day I was learning something else, everything was adding something different to the list of the things I should conquer. Perseverance creates magic!
Did I take the best pictures I could? I don’t know. Probably not. But, what I know, is that day by day the pictures were getting a bit better than the day before and I was feeling a bit more comfortable in all of this process. Rewarding!
Last but not least, your tribe, your people. The most important part of the day was going back to the class and discuss our pictures, to see other people’s work and to listen to everyone’s comments. It could be just a single word someone would say and as of magic a sense of clarity. And, that’s how I realised how important is to surround yourself with people that do what you want to do and how much you can gain just by watching or listening to them.
For me, this project/workshop ended up to be a lesson of perseverance and patience and it showed me how important is to listen, discuss and share your work and your thoughts with other people.
And, that is what happened in 2016. I hope it inspired or helped you, even a little. It would mean a lot. Let me know!
And before you go, remember to share and like, if you liked!
Thank You for Being Here!
P.S.: I will be here once a week!
Remember to enjoy what you do.
Find your tribe.
Bonus: Link to some of the photos of the ‘Getting Closer: Grand Central’ project - click PWNY 2016.