On Distance and Photography

I wrote briefly on Instagram about distance and photography. The post was inspired by a passage in Alex and Rebecca Norris Webb’s new book, “On Street Photography and the Poetic Image” that resonated with me. In it, Alex Webb mentions the mental shift he experienced when shooting street photos in Florida – a place where people don’t often walk, but always drive. He talks about the separation from the subject by a simple car door, and how it was also a psychological separation for him. While a brief passage, his writing made me think more deeply about my “street” process now that I’m almost always separated from my subjects by distance, or glass.

The rest of the book, by its ‘poetic’ nature, reminds me of an art professor I once had. He had a knack for saying everything and nothing at the same time. Every sentence was a kiss from God until he walked away. That’s when you realized you had no idea what the hell he was talking about. I agonized in confusion all semester over his fortune-cookie philosophies. Still, I believed that someday, his advice would make sense. And it did, several years later. I was just too young (and stupid) of an artist to understand back then. Life experience creates insight.

Such is Webb’s book. I’m not entirely sure what all I read, but I feel that if I flip through it every now and then, something new will resonate in a way it didn’t before. This was just the nugget I found this time. Now I just have to find a way to apply it for myself – perhaps through a new routine, technical approach, or concept. I’ll meditate about it.

The above picture was taken inside my sister’s car while we were parked at the Sonic Drive-In. The blur of my nephew’s feet in the backseat make the picture mysterious for me, and I like that his action is not entirely clear. The large graphic shapes of our car and the expression of the people parked next to us was also something that keep me coming back to this shot in particular. There’s a clear separation present in the picture, but the viewer is included in our car. A second version of this shot, where my nephew’s feet were still and our neighbors looked forward, was not as interesting.

Megan Wolfe
About the Author:
I'm a San Francisco photographer and writer currently based in the South. My work is inspired by weathered history, interviews with locals, and wanderlust.


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