I guess this is where my love of photography began. Not even as a traditional street photographer, but it was on the street so I'm counting it. Most people (photography nerds) think of Garry Winogrand, Diane Arbus, Weegee and Robert Frank capturing the street spirit of their environment in stunning black and white images. They think of gritty people, dingy streets, crazies, juxtaposition of social strata, etc. I didn't bother with any of that. I just loved the buildings.
When I became interested in still images I had no idea what street photography even was. I was doing some contract (tedious, low-paid, grunt) work for a book company in San Francisco's financial district over the summer of 2011, and couldn't get over the energy of the city, with its canyons of buildings and rivers of residents. Armed only with an iPhone 3Gs loaded down with apps I started taking panoramas, HDR images, and all manner of mobile-edited images to be shared on Instagram, where I noticed among the people I followed had taken a lot of photos of the people at street level. Not only were there photos of people, but they were up close and personal. They were intimate and uncomfortable, but absolutely captivating.
I'm an introverted person, and the idea of training a camera on strangers terrified me. In my mind the second the lens trained on them a buzzer would go off in their heads, they'd know exactly what I was doing, and I'd be attacked with a combination of fists and citation of Susan Sontag essays. Holding up a camera made me feel self-conscious, and I was afraid I was broadcasting it to everyone. There was no way I'd be able to pursue this genre of photography.
The idea stuck with me though, and I started moving the camera down from the tops of the buildings bit by bit. I got closer to my subjects, more nonchalant, and realized that most folks are too caught up in their own world to even notice, and the ones that did notice didn't care, or wouldn't say anything. Getting caught wasn't the end of the world.
These days street photography is a cherished hobby and a new way of interacting with my environment. I still look at the entire photo as more of a landscape with a human subject, but I'm happy with that. I still try and get a feel for a person's context. I'm finally starting to feel comfortable in the Bay Area, and I think photography has really helped me by forcing me to observe what's happening and try to decipher what this place is about, rather than putting my head down in discomfort.
As a bonus I get a good photo out of it every now and again. You can find some of them in the "Fine Art" section of this very website.