5 frames with...

5 Frames with a Wondering Mind and a Leica M3 – By Ong Sien Hong

September 25, 2019

My interest in photography has always been people. So naturally, when I take a camera out into the street, I look out for faces around me. I imagine most of us street photographers, are a bit of a lone wolf. I don’t participle in group photography, I don’t discuss gear, as a result, I don’t actually know a lot of real-life photographers. Maybe one or two but not a lot. So I sometimes wonder what is in your (photographer) mind when you take pictures of people. Do we think alike, when we put a camera in front of a stranger?

Recently I sold all my camera gear. At the time of my writing this 5 frames, I don’t actually own a camera or a lens. The reason why I sold all my gear? I am not exactly sure. Have you been through this phase in your photography journey? That you feel stagnant. Like every photo that you took look alike.

I started asking myself why do I take pictures of people, strangers on the streets. I don’t use a zoom lens, I use a rangefinder, a Leica M3 and usually equipped with a 35mm or 50mm lens, i.e I do get very close to the person(s) that I am taking photos of. My subject(s) would have known my presence either before or after I have taken the photo, usually after. Am I invading their privacy? Getting so close to their personal space. Why do I take photos of people?

The reason is perhaps less complicated that I initially thought. I don’t know if other photographers asked themselves the same question, why do they take the photos they took? For me, I realised it is about human interactions. Capturing moments of their interaction with me. For a few seconds of our lives, we were together for a moment (captured). I am never in the photos but their expressions would have shown that I participated the moment together with them. Most times, I would look up of my viewfinder, say hi (after taking the photo), but sometimes, I would just quietly slip away because some moments are best not to be interrupted.

Thank you for reading.
Sien Hong

My Instagram

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10 Comments

  • Reply
    Graham Orbell
    September 25, 2019 at 11:44 am

    Nice photos Sien. I also like to show people in their environment usually more or less front on. I find that being up close with my 24 mm lens I’m less conspicuous than standing off with a big long tele lens which looks like snooping. Up close with a 24 mm people think I am photographing something behind them which is where I seem to be looking and the wide lens takes in the environment. I also use 35 mm and 50 mm primes but up close with 24 mm f 1.4 is my favourite choice.

    • Reply
      Sien Hong
      September 25, 2019 at 12:30 pm

      Thanks, I agreed, when I take photos I don’t like to be looking like I am snooping.. 24mm is a great choice, just that its a little too wide for me.. I couldn’t even get used to 28mm. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

  • Reply
    Terry Allen
    September 25, 2019 at 6:18 pm

    Got rid of all your gear because you felt stale?
    Seems a bit extreme…reminds me of Van Gogh.
    Don’t lop off anything else;-)

    Can I suggest doing some volunteer work?
    Those people love helping people. It gives their life meaning.
    I’m sure you would find new meaning taking those photos.
    Best of luck!

    • Reply
      Sien Hong
      September 26, 2019 at 1:53 pm

      Thanks, I do hope to find new meanings and excitement on taking photos again.

  • Reply
    Dan Castelli
    September 25, 2019 at 9:03 pm

    A well written piece that raises some pertinent questions. Here’s my take:
    “Do we think alike, when we put a camera in front of a stranger?” I look for mannerisms or gestures that unite us a humans – I’m not a ‘hunter’ or collector of faces per se. I like funny situations or graphic representations.
    “The reason why I sold all my gear? I am not exactly sure.” I did the same after I retired from teaching. I went through a stage of self-doubt and trying to think if I mattered any more. In a dark moment, I sold almost all of my gear, then three months later, regretted it. I’ve since re-build my armamentarium. I’m in a better place now.
    “Why do I take photos of people?” To start, I’m a crappy landscape photographer. People? I love the fact that we are different, but we have more in common no matter what our skin color or age, et al. People are just people. I never tire of watching & snapping.
    Photography is process for me. I see the act of taking a photo an unbroken chain from snapping the shutter to processing the film to making the final print in my darkroom. I just don’t get the same feeling of creativity or accomplishment when I work in a digital workflow. But, that’s me.
    (flickr.com/photos/dcastelli9574/)

    • Reply
      Sien Hong
      September 26, 2019 at 1:51 pm

      Hi Dan, thank you for sharing your thoughts…Glad to know I am not the only one who sold all gears, tho I am still without a single camera or lens (but lots of films in fridge).

  • Reply
    eric
    September 26, 2019 at 7:59 am

    Great ! Wonderful !
    A great use of a LEICA M3.
    Congratulations !
    A breath !
    Thank you so much.
    I really like this photographs and this Leica M3.
    πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰

  • Reply
    Brian Nicholls
    September 26, 2019 at 2:15 pm

    Sien, I like your pictures. I find them captivating and keep returning to them. I like your thought provoking questions.
    I have been taking pictures since 1957 when I was given a Coronet box camera as a birthday present. I acquired a lot of gear over the years. I once had two Canon AE1 bodies, an array of lenses plus filters and other associated accessories which I used to lug around in a camera bag. I wasted most of my time agonising on what combination to fit to what body and so missed many good pictures. I too sold all my equipment (in 1993) and bought a Nikon Zoom 100 compact. At first, I felt naked, but suddenly began to take more pictures and enjoy photography. There was no drop in the quality of the images after the transition and I realised that to limit yourself is to add to your creativity.
    The road of excess had led to the path of enlightenment!
    Well Done! Brian (UK)

    • Reply
      Sien Hong
      September 26, 2019 at 2:20 pm

      Thanks Brian, I am flattered and encouraged by your comments.

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