I got hooked on photography pretty early.
Cameras, slides, viewers, projectors, splicers—they were all objects of mystery to me as a kid. And they lived in the cabinet next to the toys and puzzles in our house.
I remember rummaging around in there one day and finding my stepdad's beat up Minox-B. Why he had what's ostensibly a spy camera is still beyond me. But, boy, was it a beautiful object to behold. I don't think I ever figured out what the film looked like. We never actually had any. But I'm pretty sure I shot thousands of 'images' with that thing—walking to school, wandering around the house, exploring the woods with my friends. I still remember the swift click of the shutter and metallic whoosh as you slid the body closed to advance. Mesmerizing.
But if I think back even further, I guess I probably picked up the photography bug from my grandfather. He was a hardcore camera addict. In fact, I still have (and regularly shoot with) his old Rollei 35. And his entire collection of Realist stereographic family snapshots is right over there, on the shelf behind me as I type this.
Anyway, I’ve pretty much always had a camera handy–especially while traveling for my day job. And I’ve found that I’m at my best when I’m on the street, just moving with the flow of people.
I’m inspired by the usual suspects—Friedlander, Winogrand, Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans. And I’ve still got a lot to learn: how to be less conspicuous, how to pay better attention, how to be patient enough not to miss the decisive moment when it presents itself.
But I take huge pride in some of the some of the stuff here. My favorites: anything that still surprises me weeks after I shoot it. Whenever I come away with an arresting image that has more going on—more irony, more counterpoint, more crazy little detail—than I picked up on in the moment, that’s when it’s working for me.
For me, picking up a camera is like clocking into the present. It’s like putting on some weird, complicated, foreign piece of equipment—a diving bell, basically—and then submerging myself into the murky water of life. Never quite knowing what I'm going to find is kind of the best part.
And whether I’m walking through the streets of city I live in, or wandering around a place I’ve never seen before, the camera in my hand grounds me. It keeps me here. It reminds me to note to the details—and do my best capture them as quietly and truthfully as I can.
Whether there's actually film in the camera, or not.
All images © 2017 Rudi O'Meara