No Finder Day
American photographer Mark Cohen adopted a ‘no-finder’ approach to street photography, where he would shoot instinctively, without looking through the viewfinder. As Cohen shot at very close range this often cut off heads and limbs and usually resulted in pictures with a sense of chaos and urgency. He would hold the camera out in front of him – sometimes at arm’s length or from a very low viewpoint – trusting his instinct to get a decent composition.
Don’t confuse this quick-fire style with shooting from the hip (a technique often used by street photographers to disguise the fact that they are taking pictures). This is a deliberate attempt to create an edgy and energetic composition where “being spotted” is irrelevant. Spend half a day shooting specifically in this way and then analyse your work; is there a reason why some images are successful while others are not?
- Use manual focus (zone focusing) with your lens pre-set to around six feet (2m) and the aperture set at f/8 – f/11.
- This technique is all about getting close to your subjects – it won’t work shooting from across the road.
- Don’t worry about the composition; it’s the imperfections that make this type of image work.
- Flash can add impact and give this type of shot a real ‘wow’ factor.
- Cohen’s book, Grim Street (Powerhouse Books, 2005) contains a fascinating collection of what he calls ‘grab shots’ made in this style.
- Look at the work of William Klein and Daido Moriyama, who often adopted a similar style.
- Don’t over-think any of this. Pictures like this will rarely win camera club competitions so leave your rulebook at home and unleash the anarchist within you.