Amazing street photography is being created constantly, all over the world. New York may be the center and bigger cities such as Tokyo and Paris may be equally well-documented, but really, your subject is where you find it. Ted Pushinsky has been shooting in San Francisco's Mission District for well over a quarter century (in addition to traveling the world), and in recent years he has published zines with our friends Hamburger Eyes. We asked him about what catches his eye.
You've shot all over the world - how much does a city affect what kind of photos you take? Like, do you think you would be the same photographer if you lived in NY or LA?
Being in a city (San Francisco or New York or Beijing or Kuala Lumpur) means being surrounded by hundreds of thousands or even millions of people. There was a fine TV show, The Naked City, and at the end of each episode the narrator would say, “There are eight million stories in the naked city; this has been one of them.” I fancied myself a writer, but I wasn’t any good. I can only hope that those millions of people around me give my photographs something consistent with the order of words in a novel by Dickens or Conrad or Dostoevsky.
How do you approach the people you are photographing? Do you go up and talk to them or do you prefer to remain inconspicuous?
I’m sneaky and fast. I started out making a living shooting modern dance and boxing and wrestling—shooting action. For the most part, I’m still shooting that way, which leaves no time for talking beforehand.
How often do you photograph? Do you carry your camera with you and photograph every day?
I always carry a camera. The few times I haven’t, the sudden realization brings on panic and I start looking around for a store selling disposables. There’s the Daniel Boone story: his father gave him one bullet and told him that represented their supper. I don’t want to come home without a photograph that’s at least almost as important as dinner.
Why black and white? And I've seen some recent color work, so why color, too?
When I was a kid, the great photographs were in black and white in Life Magazine; the films that impressed me the most were shot in black and white. When I learned to process and print, it was black and white. I’ve always had a darkroom, but never learned color printing. I used to get jobs that required color, but then I also brought a camera loaded with tri-x to shoot for myself. Now I’m shooting digital, so everything is there to be seen just as easily in color as black and white. I’m pleasantly surprised to find some of my images work better in color.
How much do you try to control composition while you're shooting?
Sure, composition is on my mind when I’m shooting. Of course, controlling composition is a crapshoot when things are happening fast. Sometimes it’s a relief just to get everything you want into the frame.
Do you set out to take photos with a specific subject or theme in mind? Or do you leave it up to chance?
Like it or not, chance has gotten me to where I am at 67 years old.