By way of introduction I admit that the work of Magnum photographer Rene Burri has been very influential on my eye. Burri's ability to see and capture scenes in layers, often rather graphic, with each layer adding more richness to the overall image. Studying Burri's images has forever tuned my photo eye to spot such opportunities. Ditto many images by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Buce Davidson, and several other great shooters of the 20th century.
The images below represent a sampling of my current efforts to capture such scenes and are presented here primarily to potentially give others ideas for their own work.
I had just passed the fellow with the signs and the attention-seeking whistle. I turned to get a shot of him as I reached the middle of the crosswalk when a bicycle messenger rolled into the scene. The signs, the people, the buildings all together make this an almost comical compression of the routine daily activities and special interests that rub shoulders in every big city's nexus.
In an ideal situation I would have captured a slightly wider scene, particularly on the left. Even so, I was pleased to have captured the essence of the scene.
Camera: Olympus OMD E-M5
"San Francisco" (untitled)
I came upon this scene while walking in the Union Square area of San Francisco. It nearly took my breath away. What a compression of the urban experience! The dense promotional signage, the pedestrians, the construction equipment, the wild geometric orgy created by the equipment, windows, and shadows.
Interestingly, the image did not come together until the crane operator apparently became warm and opened his door.
I have not yet tired of looking at this image.
Camera: Canon S95
"Daley Plaza 2" (untitled)
It's a late afternoon in mid-summer on the eastern edge of Chicago's Daley Plaza. The full hustle of rush hour hasn't yet begun. The sun is setting behind the camera but the glass facade in front of us is acting like an enormous mirror creating duplicate shadows and creating unusual fill light.
In many respects this image is very kindred to "35 W. Madison". In fact I captured them within a month of each other and with the same camera. The difference, admittedly subtle, is layering. There are actually six layers in the image. (Pigeons, near pedestrians, street traffic, far pedestrians, building, and reflections.) If you're like most viewers you notice the closest layer, the pigeons, much later. The bald fellow in the brown shirt steals the initial attention and your eyes move up from there. Good lesson in cognitive processes.
Camera: Fujifilm X100
"Daley Plaza 3" (untitled)
Same location and orientation as "Daley Plaza 2", one year later. This is a location I most enjoy visiting in the late afternoon during summer and early autumn. Like a good fishing spot it's usually rich with possibilities and, at the very least, is generally entertaining.
Here, instead of layers we have separate scenes and a bit of whimsical mystery. The woman in the foreground seems to have had a good day. The guys across the street in the tree shadows seem engrossed in conversation. The woman behind them seems engrossed in herself and is accompanied by her shadow. The video board above her head, run by a local television station, shows rather whimsical snippets from closed captions of the station's news broadcast.
Camera: Olympus OMD E-M5