iPhone photog shoots gritty street scenes ‘from the hip’

Scott Strazzante may have named his upcoming coffee table book
of iPhone photos, Shooting from the Hip, for the way
he holds his camera near his waistline to surreptitiously
photograph people.

But the title is also apt because his love
for shooting with the iPhone began with an itchy trigger
finger.

The
award-winning photojournalist was on a much-needed vacation in
2010 but quickly felt anxious without a camera in his hands.
His daughter, Betsy, handed over her iPhone and her relieved
father began capturing dozens of images, the first of what he
estimates to be more than a half million photos.

Strazzante’s
book is an edit of his favorite 150 iPhone photos and it is

available for pre-order
through Press Syndication Group, a
publisher and photo agency, to be released this fall. It is his
second book with PSG.


“I haven’t
written a dedication yet. How do you thank people who don’t
know they were photographed?” Strazzante, a San Francisco
Chronicle
photographer, told Cult of Mac. “If
someone comes up to me and says they saw their picture in the
book, I’d give them a free copy.”

Shooting from the HipThe
collection is just a small bite of an estimated half million
photos Strazzante shot with his iPhone.
Photo: Scott Strazzante

Strazzante
is one of several well-known pros to have embraced the iPhone,
its camera and an App Store loaded with useful editing and
publishing software the most disruptive force in photography
since the Kodak Brownie.

For
novice photographers, the iPhone, its image quality growing
with each generation, eliminates the need for technical
know-how or expensive bulky equipment. These were once barriers
in the minds of many who believed they need both to just make
pictures and now, photography has never been more
popular.

To a photojournalist like Strazzante, the iPhone eliminates
another barrier – camera awareness. Ethics dictate a
storyteller like Strazzante mustn’t stage moments or request a
do-over of something missed. Still, even as a photographer
tries to blend into a scene to capture candid interactions,
there is still a nagging feeling that the camera’s presence is
somehow stunting what would otherwise be natural.

“I don’t like when people are aware they are being photographed
and that is something I have always struggled with,” said
Strazzante, who has more than 56,000 followers on
Instagram
. “Throughout my newspaper career, I would have to
shoot from the hip, especially with kids. I got tired of kids
looking right into the camera.”

Gunslingers in the old West known to shoot from the hip may not
have always hit with accuracy. Firing as the barrel of a gun
leaves the holster may save a split second and win the first
shot, but the gun raised and pointed has a higher percentage of
hitting the target.

Similar to the confident sheriff or outlaw, Strazzante likes
his chances from the hip and seldom composes a picture using
the iPhone’s screen.

Shooting from the HipFacing pages
from Shooting from the Hip
Photo: Scott Strazzante

Not looking allows him to see and react. A creature of habit,
he hunts the same path three or four times a week, his eyes
scanning the throngs of people walking toward him. His arms are
relaxed with lowered hands holding the iPhone 6 near the belly
button that offers an upward view of the faces of San
Francisco’s.

He fires between 500 and 1,000 times and says the pictures are
composed to his liking 75 percent of the time.

When looking through the viewfinder of his DSLR, Strazzante
says composition can sometimes feel forced or overly formal.
From the hip allows him to let go of control, but Strazzante
has found the moments he captures this way to be more
serendipitous.

Shooting from the HipStrazzante’s
dedication in the book will be a thank you to the people who are
unaware they were photographed.
Photo: Scott Strazzante

“The pictures seem to be equally divided into two categories,”
he said. “Half are people just walking down the street in their
own world or there are these incredible moments that happen in
public that go unnoticed. If people just paid attention, they
would see some amazing stuff.”

Maybe not. Strazzante is hyper-vigilant and hardwired to see
the most fleeting of situations.

His eye can quickly draw a bead on contrast. He will spot two
ideas just before they intersect and capture them in an odd
juxtaposition: a dog staring at a passerby wearing a cat tail,
businessmen looking at the smartphones as they cross a
checkered plaza, looking like pawns on a chess board or a man
with a cone of ice cream swirled in the same shape as a modern
building in the background.

Shooting from the HipStrazzante
can find interest in big city bustle and rural county fairs.
Photo: Scott Strazzante

An otherwise distracting advertising at a bus stop is an
opportunity for something humorous or poignant as soon as the
right person walks by. The cover of the book sets the table for
a new viewer. It is the shark from the movie Jaws
reflected in a window, a man strolling by with his head lost in
the open mouth of the Great White.

Shooting from the HipScott
Strazzante
Photo: Betsy Strazzante

Strazzante sees the benefit in stalking the same grounds. He
integrates with the rhythms of the streets and sidewalks and
gets familiar with the play of light and shadow.

For the shadow
detail and tonality he likes in his work, he shoots through the
popular app, Hipstamatic, switching off between the John S. and
Lowly lens but always with the BlackKeys black and white film
setting.

Hipstamatic created the Bucktown HipstaPak for Strazzante,
featuring the Scott S. lens and a new BlackKeys infrared film.

“I discovered Scott’s work a while back on Instagram,” Mario
Estrada, Hipstamatic’s Director of Fun, said. “He has such an
incredible eye for light and human interaction. He was
capturing these candid street moments that were interesting and
honest. It’s been great to see what he’s been able to do with
Hipstamatic as a tool. Scott’s work has helped elevate the
quality of the (Hipstamatic) community as a whole.”

The bulk of his street shooting came in Chicago, where he
worked for the Chicago Tribune for 13 years. He left
there to join the Chronicle in 2014 and finds San
Francisco to be the most visually raw city has ever worked in.
The book has mostly San Francisco scenes, though there are
images from Chicago and some of the cities he has traveled for
work.

The video below shows the manner in which Strazzante shoots
with his iPhone. The black and white short film was made by his
daughter, Betsy, who lovingly relinquished her iPhone to him on
that vacation seven years ago.



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