Cainta, Rizal: 50mm Street Photography (Inspired by “The Impassioned Eye”)
“The Impassioned Eye” revealed the secrets and approach of photojournalism legend Henri Cartier-Bresson, and after watching the inspiring 2003 documentary, it will open your eyes to a different perspective on taking photographs that breathes life on a single plain. In this film biography, the Magnum Photos co-founder briefly narrates some pf his photographs while he shares some principles and theories on how he approached subjects and all visual elements. And of course, it’s just impossible to mentally grasps all these overnight, but I guess, the best way to start would be to actually take photographs. Instead of visiting locations known among local photographers as street photography destinations, I roamed the streets and back alleys of my hometown, Cainta, Rizal, to somehow understand some lessons from the works of the great Cartier-Bresson. If you’re from Cainta also, you’d probably be familiar to some of these locations.
Henri Cartier-Bresson is known for using a 50mm prime lens on most of his works. To stick closely on a fixed focal length however would leave a zoom lens user a bit handicapped and unfortunately, I’m one of those zoom lens users conveniently switching from one focal length to another when composing. Using a prime lens challenged me to compose visual elements by walking a few steps back and forth, and left to right. That’s easy when you have wide area to adjust, but in a confined space or anywhere where movement is limited, equipped with only a 50mm, I think that’s the real challenge (if you have or tried a 50mm, you would understand).
“This recognition, in real life, of a rhythm of surfaces, lines, and values is for me the essence of photography; composition should be a constant of preoccupation, being a simultaneous coalition – an organic coordination of visual elements.”
Lines, shapes, and patterns found in natural surroundings are also a note-worthy lessons in Henri Cartier-Bresson’s works.He clearly associated geometry in his photographs to create an environment that would equally complement his subject. One of the equally fascinating things I’ve learned about the documentary was Cartier-Bresson’s keen awareness of the natural alignment of all the elements including natural forces, uncontrollable beings and inanimate objects, dead on the viewfinder – the perfect geometrical balance. The time when your instinct tells you to press that shutter button. Furthermore, these celestial occurrences – “it’s all luck”, he says.
In this set of photographs, I tried to use some lines, shapes, and patterns while also adding a hint of blue and yellow to majority of photos to give a sense of place. Blue and yellow is a flag color of Cainta (but that was I think the former mayor’s I’m not really sure, you could just see lots of blues and yellows around).
These photos all occurred in a single day with two sessions, one almost mid-day, and the other around late afternoon. Everything shot in Cainta, an average town on the borders of the bustling Metro Manila, a gateway to the Rizal Province‘s hidden beauty, a town where most travelers just pass by. Many photography enthusiasts would probably consider my hometown a bit boring as a destination shoot street photography since there’s not a lot of known activity here unlike in more popular areas like Quiapo and Binondo. The challenge now is to somehow turn mundane scenes into something which looks extraordinary, and knowing bits of here and there could come handy (and this also goes out to your hometowns, friends). Your knowledge of your town is probably your best ally in taking photos. Use it to your advantage.
I was on the pedestrian footbridge for over an hour, but I don’t really know what to shoot and what to expect. All I knew was, it’s a nice setting. I am ready with my frame, but again, what am I going to shoot? I was actually about to give up when a girl in a white dress accompanied by an adult crossed the bridge. The lights were switched on and the sky was turning blue.That time I knew that I’m taking this photograph (first photo above). Henri Cartier-Bresson probably didn’t just grabbed a camera and fired it right away, patience is also probably involved.
So that’s it, my friends. These lessons are only snippets to the the documentary of “The Impassioned Eye” and you’ll probably learn much more if you see it. The film and the great photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson inspired me to go out there and practice more photography, and I hope it would inspire you as well.This challenge showed me that using a 50mm lens entirely wasn’t easy, but it’s good practice to develop a more observant eye and also brings out your resourcefulness.