Two Years ago when we decided to pack up and move to Europe, I had no idea of what type of photography I would pursue but I knew I would have to be change, compromise and adapt. I wasn’t taking lighting equipment (It would not work anyway due to voltage difference), no umbrellas, reflectors. None of the small photography creature comforts. Those things you purchase and only used once before they become dust magnets. I had down-sized external hard drives to smaller units with larger capacity and I gave up my beloved 26in iMac, dual monitor system for a 15in MacBook. I gave up my Canon Pro-1 wide printer to storage (which was only a few months old, purchased because my Epson 3880’s insides literally came apart). I upgraded my camera bodies from 5DMKII to 5Ds.
There would be no more galleries or art shows and no more selling framed prints, priced for United States markets.
What to do? I started to subscribe to everything photography. I read articles on technique, equipment, and processing. I explored new editing software. Then I found as much as I could on travel and photography. Allot of reading I never seemed to have had time for. I stopped notifications from B&H, Adorama, and other photographic suppliers. I canceled all photography supply catalogs from framing, matting, and printing paper companies.
Without my lighthouses, lobster boats, landscape and seascapes of Downeast Maine, I had to just shoot what appeared in front of me. No tripod or strobe. Just a man with a camera. Cityscapes, architecture, travel scenes and people. Travel, documentary and street photography would be the re-invention of the new me.
People, i.e, street photography was an interest. I had seen the works of Gordon Parks, Dorothea Lange, and Vivian Maier. It was a form I admired but had never considered because I didn’t think I would have the nerve. In researching, I found there was some disagreement as what the medium actually was, documentary photography or photojournalism or was it just capturing the odd and unusual? Was it an invasion of privacy? A mixture of all of these? I guess I would find out.
In this post, I show just a little of how I adjusted to photograph what was available. Not seeking things out and with no specific agenda while removing myself from my comfort zone.
One of my favorite images is the gentleman we found while crossing a footbridge in Gdansk, Poland. He was just leaning on the railing, fishing pole in hand. I wanted to find out something about him so my wife did the translations between him and myself. Once we got him talking, he was more interested in finding out about us than talking about himself. This was a person who had seen and experienced much.
It was winter in Warsaw, Poland and it was very cold. But this gentleman was prepared with a blanket, down jacket, hat, and hood. He played the most beautiful music (wearing gloves) on his colorfully decorated accordion.
I have learned that older European women, especially in Slavic countries, appreciate old world gestures of respect that are not normally used in today’s societies. When out and about I try to always remember to wear my cap. In Lviv, Ukraine, we passed a sidewalk flower market. The women were putting together their arrangements getting ready for opening. I stood there with my camera chest high until this lady looked my way. Immediately I tipped the brim of my cap and she gave me a smile as I raised my camera to my eye, I could see she had frozen in place giving me a few extra seconds to take the picture.
This gentleman sells cigarettes in one of the many kiosks in Krakow’s city center. When I asked if I could take his picture, he sat back in his chair, crossed his leg gave me the go ahead. I did the in black and white on purpose. As a cigarette salesman, he seemed to look more sinister. There I said it, so there is no hidden agenda.
Those of us at a certain age in the United States will remember TV shows like Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour and The Ed Sullivan Show. They would host performers like the gentleman from Krakow, Poland. His fingers brought a haunting musical sound from crystal glasses, each filled with a different level of water. His repertoire includes themes from The Godfather Theme and The Sting.
In Kilkee Ireland, while taking pictures by the sea these two struck up a conversation with me. What I came to love about the small towns on Ireland’s West Coast is how much interest they had in the visitors. After a lengthy conversation, they directed us to a short cut to The Wild Atlantic Way and the cliffs.
These two gentlemen sat on a park bench in Krakow. One of them saw the camera and said, “Take our picture, OK”. Even though I knew what was next I snapped and showed it to them. It put a smile on their faces. That’s when they asked for a little money. I divided the change from my pocket and gave it to them. At that moment I was uncomfortable, seeing close-up and preserving what life can hand out.
To see more images of our two-year Senior Ex-Pat travel journey, please visit my website at gregoryspring.com. You can find me on FaceBook, Instagram, and Twitter. Our Travel Blog is Grace’s Wanderlusting Dreams: Still Bohemian at 65, follow her on FaceBook and Twitter.
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