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street photography tips, london street photography, london photography

Mindfulness: welcoming the unexpected

While telling another street photographer that, no, I had not been waiting 45 minutes to get that shot, he said to me: “Well, you must be damn lucky then.” I am not, I have to confess. I take thousands of pictures, I process maybe 5% of them. I fail often, I rarely succeed. I try again, I never stop trying.

But by now I have learned one important thing: success will come if you let things happen, not when you try to realize an idea that has already formed in your mind. Because, let’s be honest: if you know what you want, why can’t you stage it? What would be the fun of waiting hours – maybe days – before getting that perfect shot that you’ve imagined in detail? If you know what you want, if you go out with specific expectations, you’re putting yourself in a situation where you are bound to be disappointed. Then you’ll claim to the world that you are not lucky, when in fact, you’ve only made yourself unlucky by desiring something specific.

I am not beaten up if nothing happens in front of a nice background. I just move along, and I let the world surprise me somewhere else. I look everywhere, I am curious about many things. I am not particularly lucky – but I believe in miracles. The beauty of street photography, and candid photography, is our inability to predict how things might turn out. It is the unexpected, the unpredictable that creates a drug for many of us. But in order to make it work, you need to forget yourself, and get rid of your secret desires. You need to focus on the present, and the present only.

This is what we call mindfulness – the art of embracing the present as if no past, and no future, could get any hold on you, even for a moment only. So give it a try: let go of any pre-conceived idea of images and scenes. Don’t think, just shoot. Embrace the world as it shown to you, not as you would like it to be. And more often than not, you’ll be surprised to see how easy it is to be lucky.