Monday, August 28, 2006

The Power of the Hip

I’m a proponent of the hip shot, the photographic shooting technique wherein the photographer makes an exposure without looking and composing through the viewfinder. While the hipshot gets its name from the use of the hip as one the possible shooting and framing supports, a hip shot, IMO, is any shot taken without looking and composing through the viewfinder.

As a proponent of the hip shot, I was amazed when “discussion” on RFF sprang up around the technique, and it was proclaimed to be “cowardly.” I was surprised to see this statement receive support. I defended the technique, and will continue to defend it as a valuable tool that all photographers should be comfortable and adept at employing.

I think the main reason that some consider the hip shot to be cowardly is the impression that it is sneaky. The below-the-belt connotation seems to imply that the photographer is shy, tentative and unwilling. Unassertiveness is considered unattractive and weak. Whereas a shy, tentative photographer may be unwilling to confront a subject directly, and may employ the hipshot to “get the picture,” it isn’t a cowardly act at all—even in this context. After all, anybody who actually goes out and takes pictures of complete strangers is not a coward. You have to have some guts to get out there and even try it. It’s hard to do and in this sense using the hip shot is a great way for the beginner to build confidence (and for the seasoned street shooter to get warmed-up). For the beginning street shooter it can be a developmental technique, an aid that can assist in overcoming the fear of photographing strangers, and becoming a better photographer. However, whereas we can consider the hip shot to be a good technique for the beginner there is more to the hipshot than this “training wheel” approach to street shooting.

As a technique the hip shot can be a powerful tool that can open-up an entirely different approach to photography, one that allows the photographer to add a different dimension to their shooting and one that differs radically from the more traditional approach.

To Be Continued