路上觀察學 The art of street observation

February 28, 2016

文:伟杰,译:Eve                    Author: Teo Wei Jie, Translator: Eve


I live in the vast world of photography. Ahead of me are the masters who had almost achieved perfection. Trailing behind me are the infinite advancement of hardwares and technology. Those who once were my peers have far exceeded me. As if I'm the only one who's still standing here.

An image of children playing happily, captured while I was walking at the playground in my neighborhood.


The journey began from understanding the principle of photography, machinery and techniques. Then slowly, countless discoveries and confusions along the way lead me to finding my own camera, method and style. My Facebook feed is always filled with contents like my students’ never-ending multi-angle selfies (in fact they are not bad-looking, haha), people in groups sharing their collective happiness, or the lone wolves talking about the joy and loneliness of their bachelor lives… then there’s me who insensitively like to moan and groan in the caption of the photographs.

Sometimes a mistake can turn out to be a pleasant surprise. The shutter speed was accidentally off-track when I took this photo, dragging the shadows long and blurry. It has created another story.

好像聊得太遠了。從手握單眼相機至今,嘗試過不同類型的攝影,到最後確定了街拍是我的歸屬,不為什麼,只因為我喜歡隨性散步。天氣好或心底的那個小孩對世界蠢蠢欲動時 ,我就會捉起相機到處去散步。走過車水馬龍的道路、不起眼的小巷、充斥詭異氣氛的荒廢屋子、人來人往的車站、攀爬樓梯眺望遠方的建築物……任何可以用腳走到的地方,都是我願意邁開腳步的區域。

I think I digressed. Ever since I laid my hands on a DSLR, I tried different types of photography until I've discovered that street photography is where I belong. Nothing special about it except that I like to casually walk around. When the weather is good or when my inner child wants to play, I'll grab my camera and take a walk. I walk past busy roads, unknown backlanes, creepy houses, busy station, sometimes I'll climb up the stairs to look at buildings. Any area that I can reach by foot is the place that I want to explore.

散步途中所感覺到的情緒、碰見的人物、撩撥我心靈的風景,都透過快門的閉合讓光影鑲在我的記憶里。談不上對攝影器材的專研、技術的運用,我只記得這幾句話:“相機總是隨身”、“別管這麼多、拍吧”、“記得要觀察”。我的Fujifilm X100T和一台菲林相機總是放在我的背包裡,任何走動的時刻,只要發現捉住我眼光的東西,就趕快掏出來咔擦了。

All my emotions, the people I met, scenery that touched my heart, were all kept in my memory through my camera shutter. To me, photography is not really about using high-end gadgets and techniques, it's about a few quotes that I always keep in mind, “always bring your camera along",“don't care, just shoot",  and “remember to observe". My Fujifilm X100T and my film camera are always in my backpack. Every time I discover something that catches my attention, I'll grab them out and shoot.

Bare feet on the train in Yangon, Myanmar. Take this as a clue and start guessing the story of this person.


I give up on the romantic landscape photography, and I'm afraid of model's portraits, because I simply do not have the skill. In the beginning of my photography journey, I was very concerned about aperture, shutter speed and other technical aspects. I'd also worry about how to capture the soul and essence of a photo - the lighting. But on a second thought, I don't intend to become a master. I don't take photos to be a master. I take photos simply because I love it. So I start to stop worrying and just shoot!

A sofa placed outside the building. If you don’t step outside, you probably wouldn't notice that the simplest furnishing could be modern minimalistic.


I think because I write and I shoot, I do pay attention to the little details hidden along the way. The details may be a person’s facial expression or posture, or geometric lines hidden in the buildings. From the little details I expand the view to a photograph, I can then see even more interesting things. More often than not, I discover traces of cats and I follow them closely. Gently I approach them until they let their guard down, and carefully I try to capture their charm.

A cat wandering in Jalan Chow Kit. In terms of lighting maybe this is far from perfect, but the feeling was right, it's my personal favourite.


Street photography is an interesting activity. There's this Japanese Street Observation Art that really excites me - in the midst of hustles and bustles, we put aside the electronics that keep distracting us, and start to observe every corner of the world. What's the name of the tree near my house, what are the differences between the drain covers on the road, how many cats in my residence, what time does the beggar usually appear on the corridor…? Street photography encourages me to step outside. Taking a walk opens my camera frames. So, forget the rules, bring your camera and take a walk outside. Have you ever noticed, in this world that you are living and breathing, what makes it what it is?

This is a guest post by Wei Jie. His images tell a thousand words. Thanks for sharing! - Eve
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