While strolling through Golden Gate Park, a Pentax K1000 hangs around my neck and film canisters fill my pockets. I come across roller-skaters gliding in circles to French hip-hop. I ask to take their picture, and the two smile and nod. I shuffle and shoot, keeping up with their dance.
The ephemeral snapshots of Garry Winogrand and Henri Cartier-Bresson, which I discovered during my black and white photography courses in college, have inspired me to document today’s street life in San Francisco. As I venture from Market Street to Lands End, photography allows me to meet eclectic people that are the ebb and flow of urban life. The medium empowers me to break through socioeconomic and racial barriers that can often keep people from interacting. Photography is my invitation to participate in the experience, to connect with new people.
Mankind is a rich subject to photograph. Looking through the viewfinder, I am fascinated by how I can engage with a stranger within the frame. What in reality is a covert encounter, when preserved as a photograph, the moment is magnified in its meaning. I have the luxury of being able to consider the image and revisit that scene as often as I wish. Capturing an instance in time is important to me because it satisfies my desire to tell a story visually.
I go out to the city with little intention or expectation. With camera in hand, I focus on my surroundings and am present in the moment. To watch the skaters practice their choreography, to hear the sound of their wheels rolling on the pavement–these are personal instances that I would not have been able to experience if it weren’t for photography.
Photography demands patience and faith in the uncertain. I don’t know what I’ve captured exactly, and I won’t know until I develop the film. And that’s when I realize why I am a photographer. I am spontaneous, leaving the outcome to chance. Just like my photographs, I live in the moment. The experiences that I’ve had as a street photographer have expanded my worldview and satisfied my innate curiosity about human nature.
Anisa Bashiri is the Photo Desk Editor for the California Aggie Newspaper. She can be reached at email@example.com.