Can photographers document as an observer but still stay connected? My experience as a street culture photographer in New Orleans, Louisiana / by Zack Smith

Treme Brass Band, Baby Dolls, Grand Marshall. Add sax, trumpet, drums and all those parts make the whole.

Treme Brass Band, Baby Dolls, Grand Marshall. Add sax, trumpet, drums and all those parts make the whole.

As I sit here sifting through Lightroom tagging, keywording and editing the 9,206 images I made at this year's Satchmo Summerfest  I can't help but relive all of the amazing moments over the last few days. As festival, wedding, or conference photographers can attest, photographing these multifaceted events are intense when you are doing it and intense when it's over! During these events I am so focused trying to anticipate the magic moment when background and subject come together in a way that pleases both the client, and hopefully my own aesthetic. We can't forget why we are there - we got hired to be there and to bring our eye to the event and we must never ever forget that. 

It's hard to be in the moment and feel the music, when your first priority is observer and documentarian.

Can we really feel a part of a moment if we are always documenting it? I doubt it, but we do it.

Can we really feel a part of a moment if we are always documenting it? I doubt it, but we do it.

I mean, can we really honestly say we are part of the second line and feeling the music while we are documenting the action? I really thinks it's impossible. I can understand being lost in the moment and dancing in the streets from house to bar to house to bar with camera wailing wildly in the air only to pause to expose, compose, and capture. But is that really practical? Do you think you'd really get a high percentage of great shots? In my opinion I don't think so. If your duty as a photographer is to document for a purpose and have a true intention of "why" you are photographing and "what" you are documenting, then you must be an Focused Intentional Observer. While we are not a part of the action, we need to be dedicated to the action's flow and timing so that we move and breath like the action but are ready to detach, and compose.

Really, I can go on and philosophize about 2nd line photography in New Orleans, but I won't. I'll just see you on the streets..it's been a long time coming. Zack