David Alan Harvey is Blowing My Damned Mind (again)

In Inspiration, Migrate, The Creative Process by Chris FoleyLeave a Comment


"I find that using photography as a vehicle for immersing myself in the world is the most exciting thing there is."

~ David Alan Harvey

I saw an ad on Instagram advertising a free hour-long lecture David Alan Harvey recently did for Chase Jarvis’ CreativeLive channel and I definitely couldn’t pass it up.

At 14 minutes in he definitely raised my eyebrows. At 25 minutes in he straight blew my mind. At 29 minutes in he blew my mind yet again.

Well. Okay. I’m an autodidact with no formal photography training. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or bad thing in the long run, but at this stage in my life/hobby/career/whatever I’m a hungry consumer of lectures, resources, photography books, not to mention harboring a mild — shall we call it an addiction — enthusiasm for regular photowalks. I strongly recommend this lecture right here: https://www.creativelive.com/class/photo-week-2018-in-focus-david-alan-harvey

Okay, here’s what blew my mind.

Five weeks for one single image

David says, "I find that I get my best single pictures by working on a photo essay." He was talking about spending five weeks with a group of teenagers in Paris, and at the end of that five weeks, he only picked and submitted a single picture. And that picture is quite immediately recognizable. It's this one from 1988:

David Alan Harvey
(please don't sue me, David.)

This image is superb and captures a wonderful moment in a way that also communicates the location very clearly. It’s not an image of the Eiffel Tower, but the Tower is recognizably but quietly expressing itself in the background, providing a context and establishing a tone and location for the moment to occur inside of.

This is his lead takeaway image from a five week long project. This really flies in the face of the common belief that the photographer just stumbles onto a scene, takes a single career-defining photo, and goes back to the hotel and throws a television out of the window or something similarly rockstaresque.


Mindblower number two:


(Cue needle dragging across record sound effect)

Wait, what?

He says “When I’m working I’m really close to people. I’m really close to people because I don’t photograph strangers, I photograph people that I know. … I already knew them so I was able to get in close.

He was referring specifically to a project he did in Brazil, in which he was very much let inside of a handful of different subcultures all coinciding in Rio at the time.

I’m sure that he didn’t mean that he never photographs strangers, but this revelation makes a lot of sense given his body of work, and I’m suddenly finding myself with, well, my mind blown.

This puts the street photography thing in a different perspective for me. I have to think more on this, but I can certainly see another few articles coming on this theme.

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