Of all of the things that photography has taught me, it is how to cope and connect to my surroundings in my life abroad. Through street photography, I have been better able to understand and grow into my life in Poland and connect to it in ways that I had not really considered I could, allowing me to be surprised by how it has unfolded.
I was able to really grasp this idea on my recent trip to Seattle and how shooting the streets was a little more difficult there due to my familiarity and personal history with everything around me. Of course, what I learned on the streets in Poland helped me to cope with some of the resistance I had, but I found myself unsure of the story I was telling or how to envision it completely. Eventually, as I described in some recent posts, I found my stride behind the camera and an ease to shooting settled in.
“Street photography”, for me, has become the single most important way I like to shoot and it tends to follow me in how I shoot everything else, from portraits to weddings to lifestyle and travel, becoming a key part in my style and the execution of it. When I first moved to Poland, photography helped me to cope with everything that I was seeing and sometimes what I was not seeing, enabling me to find my own story among the chaos of discovery and newness. Photography allowed me access to thoughts and feelings that I was having and what I shot taught me how to embrace it.
The streets offered me a neutral place to discover and observe freely a narrative without too much interference. And since everything was new to me, I wasn’t so apt to edit myself much and just shot what caught my eye, learning as I went and the subjects that appealed to me most. Today, as I look back on the images that I shot in my earlier years, I can see how my eyes wandered with curiosity from subject to subject giving intuition a chance to guide me. I have a slightly different vision now than I did then, and looking back on these early images gives me some new sense of how impacted I was by all that I was seeing. Someday, I will gather these up and give a proper showing.
My first few months here to Poland, I had very little contact with anyone in a meaningful way, no pool of close friends yet in the city to interact with and my only “family” here was that of my girlfriend Agnieszka, so connecting became very important to me. Shooting became my way of coping with this and walking through the city was my mechanism of connecting. Street photography became a by-product of these first months while exploring photographically and the language with how I conveyed my experiences as I started to explore my daily life.
Street signs, cobblestones, long shadows, trams and the backdrop of old buildings inspired me in my exploration. At first, I was not very keen to include people, often waiting for long minutes while someone crossed into and out of my frame so that I could get the image I wanted. This waiting grew tiring and some months later I began to shoot what I was seeing with or without people in it. When I reviewed these images, it was the people in them that brought me the most joy, adding life that I was already experiencing outside of the lens, but had been missing in my frames.
Over the years of shooting, I find myself increasingly drawn to the obscure, relying on moods and atmosphere to shape how and what I shoot while letting the why of it all take a backseat. Connecting myself to Poland has been an ongoing endeavor and the need to find and understand this connection is something that drives me to pursue it visually. Today, I am drawn more than ever to the subtle things that may go unnoticed; shadows, blurry windows, strange light, a silhouette of a person, imperfection and of course reflections that showcase an unusual ghostly mirror world all around us.
“Street” photography has been the platform and backdrop that I needed in order to have a deeper, more meaningful connection to life around me. I use it to better understand myself and how well I adapt to where I am and gives me the opportunity to be a participant in the observations that become my story to tell. This form of photography has become the way that I see when I travel to new locations and remains how I identify my story that centers on this path. Connecting to my surroundings has never seemed more important than now and as I understand my need to fit into it, photography gives me that connection and ability to pursue it.
Today, as more and more image making turns to “street photography” and it begins to blur into many creative styles and forms, becoming a term that embodies anything found in, on or around the “street”, I am even more grateful to have used it to find my way inside of my own personal vision and discover a story there. I have never really considered myself a “street” photographer and to be honest, there are far more talented photographers who I consider to be worthy of the title. The pursuit of a story inside of the frames that intertwine with one another and compel me to look again are the factors that remain true today. I love the idea of a continuous story that has no foreseeable ending but is constantly growing, maturing, changing and satisfying to observe. My time in Poland has given me this gift to cherish.
The story continues…
Here are a small collection of moments I have taken along this journey. Some you may have seen, others probably not, but they all make up a large body of my life here and tell a story that completes it. I hope that you enjoy them.
Hey Erik 🙂 Thanks for your post. Enjoyable as always!!!
Hi Jean-Mi! I am very happy that you enjoyed it! Many thanks for that! I may even have to thank you in person soon. 😉
I enjoyed reading your narrative…a bit of reflection of myself and your images are creative and beautifully inspiring
That makes me very happy to hear. Your work is very beautiful and thoughtful vignettes. Thank you so very much for your appreciation! 🙂