Zach Zerr Photography

Blog

Man of the People (Of the Streets)

Street photographers are known to be slightly off. There is a peculiar detachment, and we seem to be constantly observing our own environment as if we were nothing more than our lens. When I shoot street with other people I often have to apologize for not listening because I was busy scanning. Scanning for the right shot, constantly taking in my surroundings. I walk away mid sentence because I see something I know will compose itself nicely if I can just get to it in time. This doesn't lend itself well to socializing with people that don't find themselves telling homeless people they are beautiful at least a couple times a month. When you do compose the shot you want, and manage to capture it the feeling is one unmatched by anything else. Street photography is difficult, and most the pictures you take won't be worth looking at but the ones that come together make it all worth it. Each shot a reflection of the moment the way you see it, each edit a reflection of the shooter and the situation. 

Working without models or plans it takes a certain kind of mind to be attracted to the grit and grime of the streets. There's no money in it either, unless you're Steve McCurry nobody wants portraits of impoverished people in their hallways. Who could blame them?

I have always found shooting street more fulfilling than any job I've done with or without a camera. The only downside is some of the greatest street shots will never be taken. There are shots left on the streets that would blow National Geographic away. They are left there because you'd likely be dead before you got your camera up to your eye. There are cities throughout the world with shots that are quite literally to die for. I have been a passenger on rides through sections of Bogota and Medellin where priceless shots cost only your life if you dare walk there with a camera. There are shots I see still vividly in my mind that I know I'll likely never get the chance to take. I remember the pit in my stomach as I put my camera away knowing that everything I'm seeing is what I came to shoot but can't. That's the beauty of it though, the realness, the rawness of the streets that we don't disturb. If I can't take a shot, it wasn't meant to be taken. The ones I can take, reflect things as they are. I've always said I won't show you what's beautiful but I'll show what's real. That is the motto by which I shoot. Like I said we don't have models to pose or shoots to plan, we just give it to you the way it is. 

As detached as I become, at the end of a day of shooting street I'm grateful. Grateful because I can't help but think “That could be me”. As one who has never really meshed with the general population, I am acutely aware that in one way or another I'm not far off. I'm just lucky enough to have some semblance of mental fortitude that keeps me tight roping the sanity line. There are weeks I talked to more people on the street, happily on the side of the sanity line that embraces the freedom of the streets, than I do to the average, normal person. By normal I mean not mentally ill, addicted to something debilitating or both. These are some of my favorite weeks. Detachment is always good for the soul, so there is relief in that itself. But these people are truly just better conversation.

I document life outside of the wonderfully comfortable way of living that the few believe so common. The part of shooting street that brings a smile out of my soul is that, no matter how deranged they may be, talking to these vagrants, sometimes I get where they are coming from.