I like street photography. Street photography is basically capturing the ordinary life on the street in any city, with an eye toward the people that live and work in that city. Most of the time they don’t know you are taking their picture. It takes a little getting used to to shoot this way – you feel a bit like you are doing something wrong. But over the years of shooting on the streets in Europe I have come to realize that the people of Europe are a BIG part of any good travel experience. Photographing them, talking to them, getting to know them, consciously adding this element to your trip enriches your experience in untold ways.
As you get to know a few people over there, as you do a little people watching, you find that they live and love, work and play just as you do. They have pretty much the same hopes and aspirations as you, they face many of the same challenges as you, and they look at life in very similar ways. You find they may have quite different ideas about how to solve our common problems, and just maybe some of their ideas are better than yours. But it is really our commonality comes through. We are all part of the same human family, and getting to know one another cannot be a bad thing!
I will never forget when we met this wonderful gentleman – and I mean Gentleman – last year at Omaha Beach in Normandy. He is a veteran of D-Day, a Royal British Marine, and was the soul of kindness as people clustered around him and listened to his story. It was a bit surreal, surrounded as we were with the graves of nearly 10,000 dead from that dreadful conflict, and sharing the memories of one who was there and had fought valliantly and had survived it all. You don’t get these meaningful experiences if you don’t pay attention to the people you meet on your way.
So make it a point to do a little people watching, maybe even a little street photography. And don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with a local. Get to know them a little bit. Let them get to know you. We have a lot more in common with each other than we often realize. And after all, Europe is not its buildings and museums – Europe is its people! And they are wonderful!