Years ago I heard a story about an island near Vancouver. There was one policeman on that island, and everyone knew him. They knew his car too which made his speed traps and stakeouts a little difficult.
Trying to be a street photographer in a small town feels similar. I watch Bruce Gilden fight his way down a busy New York street, pushing against the flow of people and shooting up close.
And then I walk out into my local town centre where generally a few scattered people wander along the high street. I try to be inconspicuous, but only the very short-sighted fail to see the weirdo with the camera. This generally leads to a bemused smile, a scowl, a dive for cover, or a polite body swerve to avoid spoiling my photo.
Apart from the strangeness of being the only street photographer I’ve seen in my town, I genuinely don’t want to be that weirdo. I simply find people interesting as they go about their business. I can understand Gilden’s claims to a love for or affinity with the people he photographs (eg see this great video).
To me, street photographs are an expression and celebration of our humanity. Despite the fact that the outcome is almost always shared virtually, for me photographing on the street is an attempt to experience the ‘real world’.
Having said all that, I’m not sure how long it can be done in a small town. There must come time when everyone recognises you and either strikes a pose or throws a punch. But maybe by then I’ll be photographing flowers.