To continue my October Chronicles…
With pulpo under the belt (ha ha…), I took it upon myself to adventure beyond gustatory curiosities. I was eager to begin my own photographic experience of Spain, the land beyond my bed in Hotel Nautico (below, ‘Morning Light’).
Stepping beyond the hotel entrance onto the old stone streets of central, port-side Vigo, I barely made it two blocks. Hearing signs of sociality–voices and laughter far off–knew I wasn’t the first to take advantage of the afternoon sun. I made my way towards the source of the sound through a short street and found myself in a plaza full of activity: skater punks big and small, clumps of teenage girls, elderly couples, toddlers, and parentals.
Still feeling the foreigner amidst the natives, I didn’t take my camera out right away. Arriving in a new culture brings different norms, even regarding how and when to use a camera. Cognizant of this, I was cautious at first, and didn’t immediately begin taking photos. Figuring the skater-punks would be least phased by my presence, I made my way towards a series of stone steps adjacent to their activities. Soon though, I was distracted by others: kids running in the grassy spit in the middle of the plaza (below, ‘Spaceship Boy’) and a few teenage boys sitting in front of a graffitied garage door.
Eventually I sat down on the edge of one of these grassy spits in the center of the plaza. Characters moved in and out of my view. With so much activity around me, I relaxed and let impulse drive where I directed my camera’s eye. An elderly man moved into the frame with a young boy, presumably his grandson. They were playing soccer, the boy a fearless goalie. I took a few frames, recognizing the balance between these two and the adolescents behind. Hours later I would realize one of those frames (below, ‘Looking Forward’) was one of the best images I’ve made to date.
Motivated by that day’s success, I’ve continued to make photos here in Vigo. To no surprise, however, not all shoots are as serendipitous and successful as that first afternoon in the park. I’ve been challenged by my surroundings. The characteristics of a city–bustling pedestrians, gray thoroughfares, interpersonal indifference–challenge my impulse to take more personal portrait or lifestyle style photos. Consequently, I’ve found myself experimenting more. Instead of refining portraits and documenting familiar environments, I find myself wandering unfamiliar streets, shooting wider, and playing with colors and motion more than ever. Here are a few examples.
Still, there are characters in the city that don’t mind being photographed. While on a photographic jaunt through upper Vigo, my friend Raychel and I happened upon a great scene: a sanguine accordion player enjoying the last of October’s afternoon sunshine. I almost let the scene go by, but the afternoon light convinced me otherwise. Stepping aside, I took a few frames while pedestrians continued to pass between us. A minute later, I tossed a coin in his donation box, still unsure that any of them turned out. Not an hour later I realized the shots indeed turned out. Together, they form a rather whimsical series (below, ‘Three-Four).
Through these experiences, I’m becoming more and more comfortable photographing my surroundings, including the people all around me. I’m less concerned nothing will turn out, and I’m more confident that this creative exercise will be useful. Without a doubt, the process is teaching me something; how I frame people within my photos reveals not only something of my subjects. It also reveals secrets of my own, including what fears I have, and what I desire in a city full of strangers.