Tyler Vance is a 65 year old documentary photographer living in Louisiana. He uses a Fuji XT-1 or X100t camera and practices grabbing shots without engaging the subject.
My photography career began in high school, working for the local newspaper. In college I majored in Journalism, and worked for daily newspapers for several years.
During the past fifteen years I have worked with Mary Ellen Mark at her workshops in Mexico. I have attended workshops with David Allen Harvey, Eugene Richards, Costa Manos and several other Magnum Agency photographers.
For the past two years I've worked on documentary projects in the Mississippi Delta area with Magdalena Sole, who recently published the book, Delta Rising. Working in the newspaper business during the ’60’s and ’70’s crafted my visual approach to photographing people, and I love street shooting.
I recently began photographing in New Orleans, a city that has a distinct flair and history. The city is a study of contradictions and contrasts. Choosing a viewpoint is the most difficult and requires eliminating everything but the essential. Visual cliches are everywhere, but the trick is to see through these to find an honest photo.
Each part of the city is different visually. The demographics vary wildly, but are always overwhelming. It’s a city rich in culture and at the same time, a city with unique problems including crime and poverty.
The French Quarter section is a one of a kind experience, where Bourbon Street morphs into a different world at night. I use the Fuji mirrorless camera system, which is perfect for this environment. The Fuji is more compact than a DSLR, weighs less, and is less imposing for street work. I currently use either the Fuji XT-1 or X100t camera. My lens of choice on the XT-1 is either the 18mm (28 equivalent of full frame) or the 35mm (50mm full frame). I like to work close to my subjects, but in an area like the French Quarter at night where things can get a little crazy, one has to be constantly aware.
Weddings in the French Quarter often include a “Second Line”. This is a Louisiana tradition where the bride and groom, led by a brass marching band, parade twirling parasols and waving handkerchiefs through the streets of the French Quarter. After the civil war, this African-American tradition became associated with jazz funerals, but now signifies a new beginning for the wedding couple.
Street photography is more than walking around with a camera. I work best by myself, and when going out to photograph I try to look for visually interesting light, and then wait for something or someone to complete the scene. Often, all that’s required is to isolate an interesting person or small group during street events.
As a photographer for more than 40 years, I have found a few rules of the road to be helpful. For documentary or street photography I think less is better—I carry only one camera and one lens, and don’t even carry a shoulder bag. I often see photographers carrying two (or more) bodies with big zoom lenses on the street. I have been in workshops where these folks were completely worn out at the end of the day—and had few pictures to show for all the equipment they carried because they were so obvious.
Secondly, I am a shoot and run photographer. By that I mean I tend to grab a shot without engaging the subject. I have tried it both ways, but usually if I try to engage a subject in conversation, then ask to take a photo, it always looks posed. If a documentary project requires me to interact with my subject I will not try for a photo. Later, after I and my camera have become part of the background, I will watch the subject to catch a brief candid moment.
Finally, I have collected a vast library of photography books. These include works by the iconic photographers who have influenced my work, including Joseph Kouldelka, Robert Frank, David Allen Harvey, Mary Ellen Mark, Eugene Richards and many others. Their work inspires me to strive for more meaningful photos.
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