The Gritty Streets
I think there was a time when people were less affected by taking a random picture of a person on the street. Maybe in the Robert Frank era? Maybe before social media became so prevalent it was unlikely anyone would ever see that image? (or in any sizable number) Now it’s downright confrontational. Or can be. Not everyone wants to be an internet star. In fact, publishing pictures online, while totally legal, (taken in public), can actually affect some detrimentally. (job, family,….inadvertently exposing a ‘skeleton in the closet’) For anyone who’s lived in NYC, street photography has almost become as dangerous as conflict photography. (war) Especially if you insist on using a TLA200 flash, (making yourself quite obvious). Add to that, Daniel Arnold shoots film, (can’t erase an image off a card), and a Contax 28mm Biogon lens on his Contax G2. (making him fairly physically close to his subject)
Daniel Arnold has not only been banned from Instagram previously, (for nudity), but actually sold $15,000 of photos in a single day off that very same platform. The prolific Instagrammer actually became more popular after the banning issue. A social media martyr, if you will. Which only goes to bolster the old P.T. Barnum adage,…”There’s no such thing as bad publicity”. While he does at times ask to take a photo, he just as often does not. There’re just some opportunities that don’t allow the time for such pleasantries. And many times posing will just destroy the image.
Truly Candid Camera
Frankly, people are at their best when not aware of the camera. I would say a full 50% of my (selected) images with models are actually “out takes”. People are spontaneous, and so should be the photographer. While he did start with a Yashica T5, it’s the Contax G2 he’s been married to for a few years. Personally, I believe the Contax Zeiss lenses are way sharper than Nikon or Leica.(especially using the wider angle lenses and apertures giving greater DOF) But I don’t want to start a pissing contest here. It’s just an opinion. (I shoot Nikon, Rollei and Contax) He seems to have been able to take great advantage of the G2’s great abilities, while minimizing their foibles.
Quoting Daniel Arnold, “Shooting people candid is a very mobile practice. You have a split second. It doesn’t allow for preciousness,” he says, adding, “I’ve been living here 14 years—and still, all it takes to entertain me is a city block.” But don’t think for one second his images are a “piece of cake”. It’s a genre that requires a very talented eye,…and many times a large pair of “cajones”. Again, especially with flash.
Not a Bed of Roses
As a point of reference,… in 1999 Philip-Lorca diCorcia set up his (large format) camera on a tripod in Times Square, attached strobe lights to scaffolding across the street and, in the time-honored tradition of street photography, took a random series of pictures of strangers passing under his lights. The project continued for two years, culminating in an exhibition of photographs called “Heads” at Pace/MacGill Gallery in New York City. An Orthodox Jew saw his picture in the exhibition catalog. He promptly called his lawyer and sued diCorcia and Pace for exhibiting and publishing the portrait without permission. The suit sought an injunction to halt sales and publication of the photograph, as well as $500,000 in compensatory damages and $1.5 million in punitive damages. However, the suit was dismissed by a New York State Supreme Court judge who said that the photographer’s right to artistic expression trumped the subject’s privacy rights. ‘Whew!’ (for all of us)
So, trust me when I say much admiration should be lauded on Daniel Arnold for snapping away in a style that is obvious, (not stealthy), circumventing a gritty NYC minefield of both legal and physical harm. And other artists as well. With 225K followers on Instagram, he’s now one of the “stars” of Instagram. Well, certainly in street photographer terms.