One of the things I love about street photography is going home and finding people, things and situations in my photos I didn’t notice initially. There’s almost always dirty looks, strange socks, pretty earrings, people arguing in the distance or, my favorite, people staring back at me with unease. When I come across these things it reminds me of a scene in a movie where a photographer develops his photos only to find mysterious markings he later discovers to be foreshadowing.
In street photography, where you’re dealing with a lot of commotion and chaos in your photographs, more often than not the shot never lines up. Either because it never happened the way you were expecting or you didn’t see it soon enough. This is what makes street photography a fairly inefficient and difficult process. You walk a lot, you’re looking everywhere you can and taking a lot of photos of potentially interesting things. Then you get home and a very small number of those images have the qualities of a universal and shareable image.
That’s just the way of photography and of street photography in particular. It’s both what I like and I don’t like about the craft. There’s a flow to it that is counterintuitive and takes a long time to master, reminiscent of Jazz. I love the sensory overload and the feeling of being overwhelmed visually with the task of instinctively and quickly sorting whatever calls to you. There’s a unique value to street photography in being able to utilize the outside world in this way. The idea of not knowing why you’re photographing what you photograph is a creative method that allows you to better understand yourself. It’s as if all the people, moods and relationships around you blur into a crystal ball and it’s up to you to summon something both tangible and intangible from it.
The real difficulty in this is that you have to stay sharp as you push yourself out into the world over and over again into situations you wouldn’t otherwise be in. You have to do this because you’re dependent on the moment, which is external and beyond your control. To me that dynamic feels like a dependency and it is one that has always given me a certain level of anxiety. When I’m not seeing clearly or the timing isn’t right, moments, people and stories are lost. And as you all know, it really does feel like a loss. That feeling is the impetus for the images above. I do not accept that feeling of loss.
In addition, I’m curious as to what I capture, but do not see while photographing and vice versa. I want to preserve what I do notice but ineffectively capture while photographing. In thinking this way, I’m also taking a step in the direction of using a photograph as a moment in a film, which is very much how I think as a photographer. Besides, it’s nice to think that every photo we capture is just a scene from a story in a film that we have yet to make and that when we do miss the photo, the rest of the film is still there waiting to be made.
-Peter Earl McCollough
Peter Earl McCollough was born in Billings, Montana, in 1982 and grew up in Davis, California. Shortly after turning 18, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps where he served from 2000-2004. After being honorably discharged he began studying photography in Sacramento. In 2008, after transferring to Ohio University, he received a Bachelor of Science in Visual Communication with an emphasis in Photojournalism. He is currently a freelance photographer and aspiring cinematographer based in San Francisco. In his off time he likes to paint and work on his street photography. More photos can be seen on his website, www.petermccollough.com.