Social/Street Photography in So Cal

Taking photos of people on the streets (social/street photography) is a different style of photography from landscape, animals, even portraiture, but it’s one that some people thrive in. I listen to KPCC, Southern California’s public radio station (NPR). Earlier this year I heard about a workshop planned at their studios in Pasadena, called the 24 Hour Project. Attending and presenting would be the big names in Instagram photographers (“Instagrammers”, “Igers”). Not having an iPhone yet at the time, I had limited knowledge of what an Instagram or hashtag were, but the event description sounded fascinating. Social/street photography would be discussed, and the several sub-specialties of it.

Street Photography in So Cal

Some social/street photographers specialize in documenting the homeless. They take pictures, after asking permission, and basically interview the subject, recording their plight. It’s a heartwrenching, although sometimes heartwarming, and oftentimes very difficult, undertaking. A few of those photographers have published books. Other “Igers” take pics of street people on the fly – pretty much incognito. Click and run so to speak, and hope you don’t get caught.

I’ve taken lots of photos of the streets, not necessarily people, previously. I happen to love old, run-down, graffiti-scrawled buildings. The more dilapidated, rusty, crumbly the better. I like to feel the history, the story of the place. I’ve also managed to capture pics of people during my photo tours, but that was generally not my main intent, more of great shots popping up that I couldn’t forego! One of my previous articles, tells of me “chasing” the Bicycling Balloon Girl through Hollywood because I was so intrigued by the picture she created! After attending the 24 Hour Project workshop, though, I was set on testing the waters of the current definition of social/street photography.

_DSC0253 2

Compared to the pros, I consider myself a coward. I prefer using the zoom lens on my Nikon D5100, rather than attempting the close-up an iPhone requires. My kids insisted I don’t get myself into dangerous situations when they gifted me with an iPhone for my birthday this past July. They reminded me about a young woman who was stabbed and killed in Hollywood this past June while taking pictures of three panhandlers and then refusing to give them money. So, I’m listening to the good advice of my kids! Some people really don’t want to be photographed, and I can’t say I blame them. I then started questioning my intent. Would I be exploiting my subjects? What am I trying to say by taking the picture of a homeless person? Everyone knows the sad tale of the homeless. Am I helping those people by taking their picture? So many ethical questions. So, until I can resolve my questions, I’ve decided not to focus on just homeless, but rather on interesting scenes that include people, any sort of people. I mean, check out National Geographic magazine and all the people pics included within. Would my attempt at people pics be any different? I’m merely documenting a scene, a person, a point in time. The musicians crossing the street-of-dreams in Hollywood, for example.

Eclectic Hollywood (13)

The two pics below of the homeless man lying on the Pasadena sidewalk were taken just after I left the 24 Hour Project workshop, using the zoom lens. To me, they’re very emotional shots. Street Photography in So Cal (20)

Street Photography in So Cal (19)

The picture, below, of the young guy carrying a bag has its own story. I was at the Fullerton Train Station, taking pics of people coming and going, and had my camera pointed to the stairs leading over the tracks when this guy came into focus, top of the stairs. He was clearly homeless, his pants ragged, unzipped, disheveled, his shirt half on, he was clearly unwashed. He was carrying a bag, and staring at whatever is on his wrist. When I got home, uploaded my pictures and viewed on the computer, I saw the orange cat in his bag! Omg, I had no idea he had a cat in that bag! For me, that’s my most memorable photo catch. Hope the cat’s ok!

Street Photography in So Cal (18)

The gallery below contains some of my social/street photography shots, taken around the L.A. and Orange County areas. I converted some of the pics to black and white, others seemed better left in color. I’d love to hear your thoughts on social/street photography as it’s currently defined, particularly shots of the homeless. Are you an #Iger ?! ~SueBee (photos by SueBee)

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Categories: In the City, Out 'n About, Photography


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4 Comments on “Social/Street Photography in So Cal”

  1. Jul 28, 2014 at 3:01 pm #

    I blog often and I truly appreciate your information. This article
    has truly peaked my interest. I will book mark your blog and keep checking for
    new details about once a week. I opted in for your RSS feed too.

  2. mk
    Nov 19, 2013 at 8:18 pm #

    Hi Homies — I’m a former KPCC’er (and former NPR’er). Now I’m a KPFK’er.


  1. LACMA in Black and White | SueBee and Kat - Dec 09, 2013

    […] how other photographers convert to BW, but it’s what I did. I used that method on a few of my street photography shots, thereby creating more drama in the scene. Any thoughts, comments or better techniques you […]

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