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Often when people talk about street photography they’ll point to the work of renowned photographers like Garry Winogrand, Robert Frank, and Josef Koudelka. Opinions start to differ when you talk about the rules that guide the practice: Some think you need to quietly observe, to wait patiently for the shot. Others say that good street photos are only to be had by getting out there and pushing your way into the action. I’ve tried both approaches and think that a healthy mix is needed to make entertaining images.
But I recently found one approach to subvert the argument entirely: Put on a head-to-toe bear costume and walk around the city. What does it matter if you go out into the action, or wait and observe, if you’re dressed up as a huge furry animal?
I spent three days in January snapping photos of passersby in New York City and found that people treated me better when I was in the bear suit. They were happy I took their photo. Kids waved at me. Parents paid me money to pose with their family. When I’m in the bear suit, people are allowed to say hi to me, and I am allowed to say hi back.
A lot of what’s interesting about a photo is not necessarily what’s inside the frame: Often the real subject of the photo doesn’t make it into the picture.