Wondering what to wonder about is a wonderful part of my process for making a photograph.

There is the impulsive grab shot or photographic guess and there is the well thought about photograph done very quickly and mostly in the mind.

I have often wondered about what the famous photographers wondered about when making an image. I would love to know what Cartier-Bresson was wondering about when he made his famous image of the man jumping over the puddle behind the train station in Paris in 1932. The work will show what he wondered about. The puddle, an obstacle for man. Man confronting the obstacle life has put in his path and is sailing over the obstacle, for now, but is likely to get his feet wet anyway.

Looking closely, we can see a poster in the background that has a figure which is dancing like the man dancing over the puddle. So many details wondered about and relationships wondered about. The many details that have been included in the frame had been noticed by Bresson and wondered about as to their value to the center of interest, which are the man and his battle with the puddle.

So many factors to wonder about; wondering how much of each detail to show in the frame, and wondering which details to exclude from the frame because they may detract from the center of interest by distracting the viewers eye. Wondering is a form of calculating, a conversation with yourself. Hopefully, it will be a logical and helpful conversation between our everyday polite selves and between our photographer selves.

Some find it difficult to argue with themselves.

How many factors do I wonder about when considering making a photograph? First is wondering about my direction in photography. Where am I going with the camera and my mind? Wondering where I can do the most good for me and for the viewers of my photographs and for photography itself and all the wonderful potential it holds for all of us to wonder about.

I wonder about what the viewer of my image will think or feel. I wonder how I can make the viewer come in and look closer. I constantly wonder about what I should wonder about. More things to wonder about. The famous wondered more. You can see it in their photographs.

I wonder about making a list, (I love lists) of things wondered about. I wonder about a subject that has caught my attention. I wonder if there is something there for me. I wonder about relationships between elements, factors and details that are always present in a subject.

I wonder where I should point the camera, after wondering about the relationship between center of interest and background. I wonder if the back ground is right for the image or wondering if I should move the camera an inch this way or that way, wondering what the effect will be.

Wondering if the viewer will notice that which the photographer feels is important for the viewer to notice. Wondering how to emphasize the center of interest. Wondering what will happen in a second or two and wondering where to place the focus.

Wondering when to press the button. The list will go on and on, the more wondering about wondering the photographer wonders about, the lists grows and grows about things wondered about. Every day the list is wondered about and added to.

Wonder about how you are photographing and where the problem areas are in technique or mind control. Wondering is mind control and needs to be practiced.

The effective street photographer must wonder very quickly to coincide with time and space and feeling and hope, mixed with a loving heart and the intent to create wonderful images for mankind to grow from and cherish with admiration and agreement, for whatever happiness or hope the photograph provides them.

In the photo above, I wondered what a beautiful young girl like her was doing in this awful place, where I photographed for ten years, but only spent ten minutes with her. She was running away from a broken home she said. I wondered about how to photograph her in her plight. I wondered about the details, her belongings, the train moving past. I wondered whether there would be a man in the caboose looking out the window, as they often did, and I waited for the end of the train to appear from behind the steel walls of the bridge that it was crossing. I wondered about the gamble of me waiting for the extra element of a man looking out the window.

I still wonder about her and the ten minutes we spent together forty years ago by the side of the main line tracks in and out of L.A. I wonder if she is well and happy and I wonder if she might someday see the photograph of her that I made.




This entry was posted in Nikon, Social Documentary/Street Photography, Street Photography Tips, The Human Condition and tagged .


  1. Sean Allen January 13, 2015 at 10:50 pm #

    Wonderful Image John you have captured a slice of time in a heartbeat yet it contains so much more Brother. It contains the past present and future of three individuals or I should say four including your good self all of whom I like to think had an amazing adventure and travels on their next section of lifes journey. Thanks for sharing your past with us and your thoughts John, both are so welcomed. Sending Love from Ireland Sean

  2. Paul Donohoe January 13, 2015 at 6:12 pm #

    Yes John Wondering is why we do it and it is also the thing that happens after Like with your image here. You know I think that for me it is the wondering (and the wonder ) that really is the great thing Or one of the many great things about what we do as street photographers

  3. Eric January 13, 2015 at 9:03 pm #

    A lot of of people meet other people for 10 minutes and never wondering o thinking about this person ever..,thats why for me Photography is so beautifull, its not only the take with the camera , but also the capture with your mind , your silencce commitment with your subject..your love for people . ish that more people will understan the meaning and importance of Photography..thanksMr JohnFree to share your thoughst and wonderings ,its make me understand more your Photogarphy and you like a person..!!

    • John Free January 13, 2015 at 4:57 pm #

      Thanks. I’m glad that this post was helpful

  4. Scott W January 13, 2015 at 8:54 pm #

    My favorite image of yours, John.

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