NOT QUITE PLAIN SIGHT
BY MICHAEL PERKINS
STREET PHOTOGRAPHY CAN PERHAPS BE DESCRIBED as the means by which the invisible is rendered visible, a way of seeing things in one’s everyday world which are so familiar as to go generally unseen, and somehow make them prominent, to illuminate that which is hidden in plain sight. It can be documentary or reportorial in effect, but mainly the aim is merely to un-camouflage things, to render them newly obvious to the viewer.
The street work that is emerging as the Great Hibernation slowly unwinds is rolling out along two tracks. One of these tracks will contain the newsier, more sensational images of Gee, How Much Things Have Changed, scenes of adaptation, loss, a repurposing of our old way of life. The other track, every bit as worthy of comment, will be everything else, or See How Much Remains The Same. These photographs are assurances that we will still ride the morning train, still walk on beaches, still fall in love. These pictures will be amazing by the assuring ordinariness of them, for the message that not everything was destroyed. And to rebuild our world, we will need images from both viewpoints.
The Completion Of Their Appointed Rounds, 2021
This shot of a village mailman in a small town seems to borrow from both camps. His mask indicates that he is part of our nervous new order, but his track, measured from house to house as h delivers the daily goods is eternal, in that I could have made this picture in much the same way six months, a year, or ten years ago. The houses he’s delivering to are also part of a pattern of reassurance. Their architecture is weathered, settled, and their various elements, from flags to bird feeders, seem to say, we’ve been here for a while. We’re going to be around.
Street photography can be simply the act of catching an event or a human reaction on the fly. And when that is done with perception and skill, it can almost look as inevitable as a staged act. But on a simpler level, we’re just snatching moments out of the time flow, holding them up to the light, and asking, “J’ever notice this?” And on a good day, that little act of daring is as good as photography gets.