What I See in the Street

Not sure if I will ever make it to becoming a street photographer… I am so bashful to break the ice with strangers. It is a challenge for me to approach a stranger and ask for permission to take their photos. However, what’s happening and what’s displayed in the street seem so fascinating to me.
beautiful Portland waterfront
Street photography is mostly relating to people and their social content. If I just walk down the street, glance at people, and keep going, I won’t have any emotional contact with them and they are no impact on me.  It is a completely different scenario when I have a camera in hand and people in the street are my subjects.
It was almost a ten hours walk to the Portland downtown area.  Portland is the largest city in Oregon and the most representative of a mix of northwest casual, contemporary, cultural, and particularly its unique fashion and lifestyle. Some said that Portland has a fashion style of its own. For the most part, I tend to agree. Liberation and free spirit are definitely well pronounced here.  And, among everything else, it is a beautiful city.
travel High

Street photos that strike me the most are the ones illustrating the reality, the grim part of life on the street. And, the unmeasurable resources of artistic talents, of all sorts and for all purposes. As I am not very good to reach out to people to shoot their portraits, I had my zoom lens with me in order that I can peek from distance.  It is also due to my previous job training, I tend to look at design aspects and look for a fine design mind. Speaking from creative prospects, I am also interested in lifestyle shots. What I mostly show here is the general lifestyle, something I found interesting, funny, informative or purely to get you to smile.

We took the train to Portland and started our walk from Union Station.  Inside the lobby, I noticed this lady standing in the line in high heels, the casual wedge, but still, high. It is a bit to carry while traveling, not the casual Northwest style (sneakers, moccasins, backpacks) that I often see. But again, I have not traveled internationally for a while and I am too out of date.

This lady’s outfit reminds me of layers in Photoshop. I am so dedicated to photography now that I did not first think about layers from a wardrobe aspect, I thought about layers in photoshop! How much I have changed since I left the fashion industry. I like how she has a drapery look skirt going with contrast laced ruffles and down to the boots with an echoed curve and the boots on cobber stone sound classic. Here is a typical street fashion style. Is my busy mind wandered too far?

Worked in the fashion industry for more than a decade, I like to know what’s trendy and what’s not, but I believe, the key is to choose the styles best fit for yourself. It can make yourself a joke if you purely go by the trend. To me, I like to watch how people dress because a person’s outlook, in most cases, well represents his/her personality.

In front of the large window with trendy orange red tassels, I think the highlight of her hair color looks beautiful. I don’t care for tattoos, but I actually think that subtle touch of dragon graphic pairs with the curve of her hair. A beige demure dress with yellow dots balances the exotic portion of the look. And, cozy sunlight was lightly toasting her hair… My eyes were glued on her the moment when I saw her. She has a bike with orange and yellow stripes. She wore a yellow bracelet and earrings…

Eugene has an excellent bike path, along the river, too. In this May perfect temperature weather, biking is absolutely rejuvenating and the same in Portland. Whenever I see people jogging or biking, I feel there is hope for the future. People want to be fit and are making efforts to remain physically fit.  When I was young, I rode a bike to school because that was the only transportation tool besides the bus.  My father rode bikes wherever he wanted to go because there was no automobile affordable to middle-class people then.

And now, the bike becomes a trending exercise device, a cure for people who are usually sitting too much in the car or in front of the computer. Our future is for us to go back to the past, to paddle the simple wheels.

Back to the Past

Excessive meat consumption is not healthy and now we are going back to the basics, eating more grain for more fiber. Instead of juicy steaks, we are now yearning to have oatmeal and wheat bread with coarse fiber, originally poor folk’s meal.

The Iphone invention has changed the world and still dominates people’s hearts and minds in daily life. Couples do not stare at each other at a restaurant anymore, they are busy looking at their phones.  I was sitting with a young and loving couple on the return train. They behaved like newlyweds, but phones are surely something neither of them was willing to completely surrender.

Texting while biking

I myself included, would not go out of the door without my android phone. So is the guy in this image. How much longer do you think she would remain, patient, till he is done with his texting?

I bet if we randomly walk into a store with customers and we will see at least 80% of them are looking at their phones.  I was in a coffee shop to rest my feet.  Two Spanish soccer teams were playing against each other.  Guys were cheering and yelling, then, there was usually a pause before another applause came back again. You know what the pause is about…. they are worshiping their phones.

Many talented musicians start their debut performances in the street. While I am writing now, I can imagine there are hundreds of them are now playing at New York Time Square and corners of Fifth Avenue off other side streets. In the past when I traveled to New York, I would rather walk down the streets to enjoy street talent shows than dress up to go to Broadway shows or museums.


It is not hard to bring an old violin or guitar, find a traffic spot and start to play. But if the goal sets only the small changes from the pedestrians, it might not be as fun for the money collectors and neither the audience. A musical instrument does not produce pleasing music if the player does not have the persona of a true musician, like this guy pictured. He has that chiseled chin and bony face, long mustache, and wrinkled hat, a resonate of an artist.

the Musician

Several years ago, a famous musician dressed like an everyday civilian and played his guitar on the New York subway…People walked by and dropped the coins in his guitar case all day long, but nobody recognized this famed musician.

I had a good and fun job being the new product development manager for years. Fashion and market research being my imperative duty, I have spent lots of hours inside high-end department stores, boutiques in the posh district,s, and branded shoe stores. The products I was in charge of were our men’s (mostly) and women’s leather accessories. Men’s leather goods trend is often first applied on shoes, then goes to belts. So I got into a habit to shop in shoe stores. When I passed through the airports, I looked at men’s belts and shoes. I also checked out women’s shoes and handbags.

At the Keen store, I was barely able to examine all the creative displayers there is a short twenty-minute stop. Not only that they used Chevrolet rear fender as the back of the bench, but the sitting area is also the design of a keyboard. Chairs used to try on shoes are made from colored oil barrels. They also have ceiling-high shoe displays operated by a turning wheel. Keen’s shoes feature casual and sustainable. The industrial flair of all these metal merchandisers is a perfect fit.

Chevrolet keyboard

Such details may be nothing to street photographers, but meaningful to me. An innovative design mind is how we can enjoy so many choices of everything in our lives today.

It is not by coincidence that I was drawn to shoot the lady with red hair above. It is her fashion statement that caught my attention and she happened to stand in front of that store window decorated with fashion colors and details.

Traditional diners are often older or intentionally decorated like an old timer. There are plastic red and yellow bottles of ketchup and mustard on the table. Plastic water glass is dripping wet in and out. A waitress in a short skirt and white socks came by immediately when you sit down, nostalgic, familiar, friendly, and fast-paced.

Portland Penny Diner sign caught my eyes. It is contemporary, tidy, and welcoming. One penny coin is fabricated with a laurel section raised. Laurel makes me think of a winner. The coin is perpetually turning 360 degrees which draws people’s attention and also symbolizes the constant flow of the clients. The sign makes me want to go in. I bet their table is clean and not sticky.

So much to discover in the street. Resources and talents are endless. I bet that I can walk down the street every day and discover new things every day.  Hopefully one day I will be gutsier to ask people to take their pictures. I believe most people are happy to be photoed.  It is up to me to take that step.

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