Le Flâneur – Sneak Brim

Posted by on Oct 12, 2014 in essays, Street Photography | 7 Comments
Le Flâneur – Sneak Brim

A collection of candid photographs, taken during late afternoon strolls in Georgetown. The observations of Vivian Maier are what attracted me to this subject matter. She sometimes included her own reflection or shadow in her photographs. For the flâneur, a camera is just an instrument used to help him learn to see. He's an enigmatic observer who immerses himself into a scene. The people he walks past, or along with, are unsuspecting actors in a story yet to be told. The photographs he captures, fragments of his surrounding reality, are the only record.

"The crowd is his element, as the air is that of birds and water of fishes. His passion and his profession are to become one flesh with the crowd. For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world—impartial natures which the tongue can but clumsily define. The spectator is a prince who everywhere rejoices in his incognito. The lover of life makes the whole world his family, just like the lover of the fair sex who builds up his family from all the beautiful women that he has ever found, or that are or are not—to be found; or the lover of pictures who lives in a magical society of dreams painted on canvas. Thus the lover of universal life enters into the crowd as though it were an immense reservoir of electrical energy. Or we might liken him to a mirror as vast as the crowd itself; or to a kaleidoscope gifted with consciousness, responding to each one of its movements and reproducing the multiplicity of life and the flickering grace of all the elements of life."
—Charles Baudelaire

location: Washington, DC
date: Summer of 2014


notes: Images were captured with a 17mm prime lens (~35mm equivalent on a micro 4/3 camera body). This allowed me to project my shadow while maintaining a comfortable distance from my subject. Analog Efex Pro 2 was used to create a vintage film look for these photographs. I wore a wide brimmed Tiley hat.

7 Comments

  1. Deb Fort
    October 31, 2014

    How perfectly delightful!! Smiled through the whole thing. I’ll come back and visit again. I love the textures and the way they give your shadow different characters. A marvelous story!

    Reply
  2. Paul Martin
    November 1, 2014

    This work is really fascinating Henry. Yes it’s great fun on the superficial level, but there’s way more than some street fun on offer here. The viewer must read the Baudelaire quote, and your own introduction, before setting out. Both are an indispensable guide to the journey.

    The most captivating thing for me is the way that your shadow somehow inhabits the people on which it is placed. Maybe it’s the recurring Tilley that gives your projected self a spectral quality. Maybe it’s the fact that CP Baudelaire primed me for that illusion. Whatever, it’s irresistible.

    I tried looking start to finish, and then finish to start, and it works either way … you have projected yourself not merely onto but into your fellow travellers.

    The photography’s very good, the craftsmanship’s got your usual effortless touch, but the photography never gets in the way of the essay of Le Flaneur.

    It’s photography elevated into language; pictures to words; symbols to thoughts. You’ve made a sort of Rosetta stone for photographers. Thank you.

    Reply
  3. Marion Brady
    November 1, 2014

    This beautifully presented and thought provoking essay of shadow tag is fun and at the same time somewhat menacing. Thoughts of stalking crossed my mind. But it then conjured Azazel the evil, body- usurping fallen angel in the film Fallen (starred Denzel Washington). I look through your essay again to the strains of Time is on my side and wonder about all these infected people..

    Reply
  4. Sarah Mawdsley
    November 2, 2014

    I thoroughly enjoyed your latest photo essay. I like that a couple of your subjects are also wearing hats – and not the typical headwear I associate with Americans – the baseball cap.

    A truly delightful story.

    Reply
  5. Herman Bosua
    November 2, 2014

    What a walk, Henry! One is pulled into the whole trip, becomes immersed in it. Much more real and to do with the “me” than normal street photography.

    Reply
  6. Don Zirilli
    November 2, 2014

    You found the perfect quote and idea for this essay. It really catapults me into the photo essay. Well done.

    Reply
  7. Timothy Gibbon
    November 4, 2014

    oh, you have let us play the flaneur with you! swim along with Henry(‘s hat). I soak it all up, the cross section of urbanity. I thirst in my rural paradise,

    Reply

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