A Broad Church

Paulie B’s Walkie Talkie series is one of my favourite aspects of photography YouTube. I loved two of his most recent episodes — for passion both subjects have for photography, but also because, set against each other they show what a gloriously broad church (street) photography is.

Laura Fuchs is a pulsing beacon of pure joy who radiates throughout every interaction she has on the streets of NYC. Her mission is seemingly to meet everyone and anyone, blast them with her megawatt smile and make a portrait of them. Quoting from the comments, she’s “casually walking around giving people their [sic] best profile pictures in their lives for free”. I watched the entire episode with a huge stupid grin on my face, and if it hadn’t been late in the evening, I would have grabbed my camera to go and take pictures. Pure positivity, pure enthusiasm.

Jake Ricker has been walking the Golden Gate Bridge almost every day for four years, photographing the people, cars and views. The video gives an insight into his compulsion to make work about the bridge, and the difficult and beautiful experiences he has had while doing so. It’s a place that often attracts people in extremis, as well as commuters passing through, and working on the bridge as led to him saving a handful of lives as well as photographing car accidents. It’s often uncomfortable viewing — the pictures are incredible, but it’s heartbreaking to hear that he has gone into debt to continue the project and at times you can see how conflicted he is. Evidently there’s a tug of war in his heart and mind about whether the obsession is worth the psychological and financial pain. In a different way to the Laura Fuchs video, it makes me want to make images. Not because of the feeling of sympathetic joy that I get while watching Laura work the streets, but because his intensity is awe-inspiring (literally so: it inspires equal parts fear and respect.) It makes me wonder what I could achieve if I dedicated myself to a project with even a fraction of his ferocity.

The two photographers have very different approaches and personalities, but they’re united by the core demand of street photography — relentless engagement with the world, over an extended period of time.