Applying Hall's proxemic concepts is not only easy to put into practice, but it will help you see and anticipate many more decisive moments. The first step is to orient yourself.
|Don't get so absorbed in what you're looking at that you can no longer see!|
|Waiting for a street performance to start provided the necessary distraction to make the shot.|
|If you observe so that you can time the moment, getting in close does not require an invasion of privacy.|
Public transportation serves as a good example. You can observe at any bus stop the pattern of new people arriving to wait for the bus. The new person is the stranger to those already waiting. But as time passes, and yet more people arrive to wait, the person who was the stranger becomes a familiar and will move closer to the original group with each successive newcomer. Those newcomers will, in turn, reduce the critical distance as their presence becomes assimilated by the other people who are waiting.
|Ride the bus long enough, and you'll blend in—even in Paris.|
For the style of street photography we are discussing, the goal is to capture people in their most natural state, and not the mask they use in asserting their personal space. The best approach, therefore, is to assimilate yourself simply with time, and not through a forced attempt to make your subjects accept you by engaging with them.
|Waiting is the hardest part.|
Again, proxemics helps by reducing the time we need to be looking though the viewfinder. If you've been perceiving your subject, you'll have an understanding of the patterns of behavior. Whether it's a particular approach to flipping the pages of a newspaper, the stride of a walk, how your subject takes a drag on a cigarette, or when the couple will hold hands again, there will be a pattern to the conduct which will let you anticipate the subject's action, enabling you to make exposure and framing decisions before lifting the camera.
|There's no reason to stare through the camera if you're anticipating when moments will happen.|
In this short clip of Cartier-Bresson taking pictures on the street, you can see him applying the simple rules: observe, integrate, plan the shot, and then unobtrusively and quickly take it:
The world is the stage photographers witness to find their artistic expression. The process involves getting in touch with the fundamental ideas which compel us to make pictures, and to engage with our subjects. In fulfilling these purposes, it is vital to not only have respect for our own creative process, but to respect that our subjects are individuals engaged in their own development and existences. Approaching street photography with humility, grace, and respect for our subjects is the path to better pictures.
|Up close and personal, but still not interrupting his read.|
Likewise, he never used his camera to intrude on moments he considered too private for others. That contributed to winning cooperation from such people as William Faulkner, Jean-Paul Sartre, Truman Capote and Marilyn Monroe, each captured in rare moments of unguardedness.
Like his admirer Diane Arbus, he spent considerable time with his camera subjects before finding just the right moment to take the best shot.There are fewer better rules to live by: don't intrude on other's privacy, and take time to relate to your subject before you start taking pictures. Understanding proxemics sets you far down the path of achieving both these worthy goals.