Vibrant, bustling places full of noise, smoke, and strange smells are by far my favourite locations to shoot street. One location that ticks all these boxes has always been Bangkok. Although it is tempting to head out late at night, I have found that by far the best time to shoot is early in the morning.
At 5 am around Sukhumvit Road, between Soi 4 and Soi 23, you are likely to witness incredibly diverse walks of life. At this time the previous night’s revelers will still be going; although they will look in quite a sorry state. At the same time, the last ladyboys and prostitutes will be desperately trying to pick up one last meal ticket for their evening’s work. Alongside this, street hawkers will be setting up and selling packets of rice and noodles to passing commuters on their way to work, sending steam and smoke into the air which mingles with the diesel of passing trucks and busses.
This was the third time I have headed to Bangkok for 2-3 days of Street Photography and I felt confident regarding the area and people I was shooting. However, this time something changed. Much has been written about seeking permission or blending in when photographing the Street. However, little has been written about the ‘vibe’, or the sixth sense that is necessary to be a successful Street Photographer.
New age concepts are not my bag, I like to call a spade a spade and believe that what you see is what you get, so talking about vibes falls outside my comfort zone. However, when on the Street there is definitely something that tells you if you should hit the shutter button or not. Even when asking permission to capture a photo, we will often know if a person is going to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ before the question is formed. Maybe it is just reading body language?
This year Bangkok had changed, and it is hard to put my finger on why. The vibe was different and my ‘sixth sense’ told me to put my camera away more often than take it out. For some reason I just did not come back with the shots I had hoped for. One exception to this was when I went back to Klong Toey slum. Klong Toey is the largest slum in Bangkok, and unlikely to remain there for long as it is located in what could be a prime area for real estate. My scooter driver dropped me off with the familiar warning to stay out the alleys and to leave before dark. However, I felt far safer in Klong Toey than I had anywhere else in Bangkok, even the street food was tastier.
We all love tips to improve our Street Photography. Bloggers particularly enjoy writing tips for Street Photography. If only our pictures would improve as quickly as each ‘Ten Tips’ article suggests. However, good Street Photography is not easy. To gain confidence in what we do, we need more than books of compositional ideas and technical skills. As photographers we need that sixth sense. There is only one way to get this, and that is through spending more time out there with our cameras.
OK, that is about as new-age as I am going to get, I promise. Maybe I should follow with with 10 tips to create a sixth sense. I certainly wish it was that easy.
Take Care and Keep Clicking, Chris