Robert Capa is reported to have said, "If your pictures aren't good enough you aren't close enough." It's a great quote for photographers. A while back I spent a couple weeks shooting for fun in Rome. On one of the first days there I was shooting in the main train station and trying to get good candid shots of arriving families, vendors and porters. Then I spied the guy with the cup of espresso. I tried to blend in but the medium format camera I was using was hardly stealthy. The man caught my eye and motioned me over. I thought he was going to lambast me for trying to photograph him. Instead he waved me in, smiled and said, "You need to get closer!" I smiled and snapped the shutter. We both laughed. A huge print of this has been on the wall in our kitchen for 12 years. It makes me remember to enjoy coffee and enjoy life. And to get closer.
After that experience I stopped trying to sneak around with my camera and realized that I could just ask, gesture, smile etc. and I'd get better shots. By the time I shot the card players I'd switched from my "stand-offish" 75mm normal lens and I was leaning into the group with a 50mm wide angle. I learned that you need to invest time instead of zooming by and snapping. It's so much fun to catch a milieu instead of a scene. Although I really can't explain the difference.
These two images have withstood the test of time. I have copies of each in my studio and every time friends drop by they comment on them.
A friend who is a psychologist bought a copy of the card players. She says that it opens up dialogue with other clients. She points out that the Italian culture brings older friends together. A harder thing in America's transient culture. You can be an honorary member if your are kind with your camera.
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