13 Oct 2014

Born by chance: handbag photography II

A few months ago I wrote a post that I called Handbag photography (check it out here) in which I explained the benefits of having a small, inconspicuous camera, the most obvious of them being that the camera will be with you more often than not, if not at all times, since it fits a small handbag and you will, therefore, carry it with you on a daily basis, rather than bringing the bigger dslr with you when you are going out on a conscious, planned photo session. This has nothing to do with image quality or any other technical aspect of photography (this is not a debate between big vs. small gear nor a brand/system war), but rather with the way or style of shooting you will do. You can no doubt reach the same end with various tools, but the way to get to that final point will be totally different.

Tightrope 'workers', GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Barcode, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Most of the posts of this blog, which means most of my photography, come from those days when I consciously grab my cameras and go out to shoot. The destinations, purposes and intentions are multiple, but there is one common and underlying premise in all of them: I'm out intentionally shooting. I switch on the photography mood and off I go, fully prepared for a photo walk. This doesn't mean that everything is pre-planned or arranged beforehand, since I always like to improvise along the way and let things unfold in an adventurous, natural way, but it's nevertheless a wittingly exercise triggered by a very clear goal: go out and shoot!

Night hut, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Finish line, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Social isolation, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Late dinner, GM1 + Olympus M Zuiko 45mm
Handbag photography alludes to the opposite approach: all those images that you create or capture while you are carrying on your daily routines, while performing mundane tasks or enjoying some leisure time, so long as you are not deliberately on a photo session; handbag photography refers to those images that happen while you are doing something else, but that are possible because you are carrying a camera with you at that moment. This doesn't mean that a bigger camera is not suitable for this kind of unplanned or unexpected photography (in fact, the first picture of this post was taken with my bigger mirrorless), but a small, unobtrusive camera is preferable since it is so small that you can carry it with you without noticing it.

A plot of light, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
The crossing I, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
The crossing II, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
The images in this post diverge completely from one another in terms of content, location, style and even processing, and they were taken in the span of a few months, yet they all were born by chance (as the title says) because I had the camera with me while I was doing something else: looking for the restroom in a sports event, walking back home after dinner with visiting friends, enjoying some drinks and food at late night hours, guiding a group of students through the streets and museums of Madrid and other Spanish landmarks while on a study trip... I was an spectator, a walker, a drinker and a guide respectively in all those contexts, but I happened to have my camera within hand's reach, inside my handbag, at all times, and that's how all these captures were created.

The signs of time, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
On frames, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
You don't necessarily need to be hungry to fancy a piece of cake when you suddenly see one in a bakery's window, and the same applies to this kind of photography: assuming you have a passion (and an eye) for photography, the photographer in you will always be there, ready to stand up anytime you see something that catches your attention from a visual point of view; even when you are busy doing some other task, you never stop having the photographer's eye, and anything with visual appeal will immediately trigger the urge to grab the camera and capture that scene. That's why it's so important to  always have a camera with you. It's not about programmed vs. casual photography, either: if you like photography, you will see photographically all the time, whether consciously or unconsciously, and the only difference will be if you have a camera with you (thus giving you the chance to take a picture) or not.

Toledo, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
Loarre, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
Panticosa, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Cities and forests, streets and waterfalls, people and trees, the content is totally irrelevant, what matters is that these photographs came to life while you were primarily being something else (a carrier in a hurry, a teacher in control, a family guy). One could argue that the biggest difference between conscious photography and what I here call 'handbag photography' is that the former places the focus on photography itself, therefore relegating all other concerns to a secondary level, while the latter places the emphasis in whatever other activity you are performing, and introduces photography as a companion, something that happens naturally without looking for it.

Ordesa waterfall I, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
Ordesa waterfall II, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
A walk in Panticosa, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Ordesa forest I, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
Ordesa forest II, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
Ordesa forest III, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
Like a good friend, photography will come to you whenever you see something of visual interest, providing you have a camera with you, that is!

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