The San Francisco SMUG welcomed their speaker of the month, Emilio Banuelos, as he discussed the aspects of documentary and street photography. Street photography requires a unique level of interaction with the subject.

Banuelos relates with those he photographs by sharing their experience. Rather than snapping a picture and walking away, he speaks with them and carefully takes the time to get the right picture. He structures his work in projects with an overlying theme about the rituals of life and the pursuit of happiness. He goes into the community and returns his work to the community.

He showed us pictures from his Greyhound America project in which he traveled to the 4 corners of the country on Greyhound buses, getting to know and photographing his fellow passengers. These are not people on vacation. They are disconnected people, traveling to a new job and or escaping from an old one, starting a new life or needing to travel inexpensively for other circumstances. He spent days eating, sleeping and talking with them, learning their stories which he translates into pictures.

He offered a few tips on improving your street photos:

  • When the subject looks directly at you, the photographer becomes invisible
  • Always carry your camera with you. "If you have your camera, you don't need to go out and photograph, you just need to go out."
  • Don't hide your camera, and you become "the photographer"
  • Until someone says no, it means yes
  • Avoid conflict. If you defy the police, expect to be detained
  • You typically do not need a model release for editorial and art photos, but you do for commercial work
  • Print out your top 15 pictures and look at them every day. Your new pictures must be that good or better

Banuelos also teaches documentary photography for the Academy of Art University in San Francisco as well as private and small group workshops. You can view his breathtaking galleries here.

Submitted by the San Francisco SMUG Scribe: Stuart Nafey

You can read the extended article on his Facebook page.