- obtained, done, made, etc., by stealth; secret or unauthorized; clandestine: a surreptitious glance.
- acting in a stealthy way.
- obtained by subreption; subreptitious.
There’s an old maxim among documentary photographers: “If your photos aren’t good enough, it’s because you’re not close enough.” The challenge for street photographers who wish to capture unscripted moments of life in the city is that the closer they get, the more the scene changes. People often smile and pose if asked for permission or frown and turn away if it is not - or even become angry and combative.
To overcome this issue, some photographers work quickly to snap a frame before the subjects can respond, while others - the less adventurous among us - shoot safely from afar using a telephoto lens. The problem with the first technique is that focus and composition often suffer while in shooting from afar there’s a sense of separation and lack of intimacy that exists between subject and viewer.
My solution to this paradox is to employ stealth. By hiding my intent, I’m able to interject myself into scenes and capture them as they actually unfold. There’s no posing nor averting from the camera’s gaze. Though occasionally I receive odd “What is that guy doing just standing there?” looks, mostly I’m ignored and my camera captures life undisturbed.
For this body of work, I restricted myself to only photographs taken without permission and the subject unaware - hence the name “Surreptitious.” Though sometimes a photo might be improved through some form of manipulation or directing, in this case, I allowed myself neither option. I also limited myself to only one lens - a wide angle which forced me to move in close and often intrude into a subject’s space.
Using this approach, I documented life on the streets of the five NY Burroughs: Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island, Queens and the Bronx in May and June of 2018. This is by no means an exhaustive overview of life in New York City. Rather, it’s a snapshot, a blink in the moment of this constantly moving and changing city.
Street photography is created out on the streets, but rarely does it return there. As with most art, it’s displayed on gallery walls and in books separate and apart from the gritty places that birthed it. To change this one-way dynamic, I’ve created portfolios of work that will be installed on publicly accessible fences in the Lower East Side neighborhood surrounding the Storefront Project gallery concurrent with the gallery show.
John Raymond Mireles
September 19, 2018 CLICK ON PHOTOS TO VIEW LARGE IMAGE
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