David Pham Streetmusician on Hindenburgstrasse, Moenchengladbach

I serenade you and you smile for me.

We just walk the streets and stop at random places. May it be in front of a shopping mall, a playground for kids, a park. Sometimes we would just stop in front of walking people and play to them a tune that hopefully creates a smile on their faces. A chuckle or just a small smirk is all we want in return. Then we succeed in our mission and we proceed down the street.

What went down, the story behind the photo

I was walking around my hometown Moenchengladbach with my mom’s old Canonet QL17. It was loaded with an Ilford Delta 100 film and I was, for the first time, engaging in streetphotography with an analog film camera. The first striking experience that I made was how I myself felt on the street. The Canonet is a small pocket sized camera, almost like today’s point and shoot cameras. Thus I didn’t get the feeling of a creeper that one might have while holding a bulky DSLR. The way I behave on the streets change in a way that I wouldn’t be too hesitant to move closer to people. With a small camera like the Canonet people don’t feel too threatened and self-conscious when I point my camera at them allowing for more candid photos. Also it allows me to dive into the crowd and turn invisible to them, the key to streetphotography.

Hindenburgstrasse, Moenchengladbach

The featured photo above was shot from the hip. I was standing at street crossing waiting for the traffic lights to turn green when this three-man Jazz band reached the crossing. The accordion player to my left, the saxophonist to my right and the bassist behind me. While waiting I was delighted by their smooth tunes. I lowered my camera and pointed it to the saxophonist. He saw my old camera, looked right into it and that is where I pushed the shutter. Shots like that are always like gambling. Shooting from the hip is a quite advanced technique, since aiming at your subject is so much harder when you’re not looking through your viewfinder. Also you don’t know if your focus is correct. Therefore a good technique that lots of people use is to pre-focus. However, with a rangefinder this can be a little bit harder, since you need to adjust the two split images before you shoot. This means you have to exactly stick to the distance that you set you focus on.

To achieve this you can just stand in front a random subject. I use my bookshelf. Then focus through the viewfinder and leave it as that when you step out on the street. With time you develop a feeling for distances and even react according to the situation. As you can see in my photo above I failed with properly focusing on the subject. That was due to the sudden situation that came up. I need to be aware not only of the composition, but also my camera settings. Something that I yet have to practice.

This was my first experience with a rangefinder on the street. It’s so much fun and a much more discreet way to capture street life. You can check out more photos that I took with that film roll on my fickr page.

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