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A zen approach to the street

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Street photography is different from news photojournalism in that street photos often ask questions, not answer them.

Street photography is difficult to define—some practitioners of this style even resist a definition—because it is many things. But I would describe it as working toward a zen state, an exploration in light, pattern, color, behavior, history, emotion, place and other influences. Firing the shutter is more a matter of reacting than thinking. I don't know what I'm looking for, but I know it when I see it.

A photo can stand on its own, but putting pictures together allows a photographer to give shape to what's been documented. These two images were made less than 50 yards apart in downtown Durham. One man walks through a scene full of color, lines and dissected elements. The environment hints at the history of the downtown, but suggests that it is being transformed.

Just across the intersection, Anthony Mills, a doorman and valet at the 21c Museum Hotel, works on one of the hottest days of the year. The tight shot of his ear contrasts with the loose composition of the other scene, but the shape of the earphone and the shape of the streetlamp connect the two photos.

Past and present are represented in both pictures. Knowing the context of the hot pink penguin tells a story of change, but the emblem has fallen on its side. Viewers can assign their own meaning to that.

PHOTO BY ALEX BOERNER
  • Photo by Alex Boerner

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