Anthony Feliciano has some good advice for aspiring street photographers: “It’s all about the decisive moment,” says Feliciano, a photography instructor and professional photographer for 25 years. A California resident raised in New York, Feliciano brings a fine art approach to his vocation, as he earned a minor in Fine Arts from Columbia University while he was getting a master’s degree in Psychology.
I asked him what makes a good shot in this exciting hobby. “In street photography, it’s the story,” he says. “The story that tells about what’s happening in the image. What is that person doing? They call it the decisive moment — capturing the decisive moment. Which is a quote from Henri Cartier-Bresson, a famous street photographer of the early 1900s. He said ‘always look for the decisive moment, so if you don’t get the decisive moment, it means that maybe you should try again.’”
I asked him if it’s a good idea to use a zoom lens to help get the ideal shot. He says “Absolutely. Some instructors would say, get a prime lens, shoot in manual mode. I don’t concur with that at all. I want to make it as easy as possible for the beginner, to the point where people are more adept at it. And there’s two parts to photography — either you’re an artistic photographer, or you’re a technical photographer, you have to learn the artistic part. If you’re artistic, you have to learn the more technical parts of the camera.”
Feliciano explains why an artistic approach to photography is complimented by the technical aspects: “The technical part will help you get to the next steps in photography,” he says. “If you don’t learn the aperture, shutter, ISO, focal length, exposure compensation, bracketing, white balance — all these things — then your photos are just going to be bland. And then of course, you need to know photo editing.”
In addition to these technical aspects, Feliciano teaches the compositional skills that make a shot great — skills which come from what the human eye finds pleasing. “Some people, all they do is shoot everything in the center — but that’s not the way we see,” Feliciano adds. “We see in a rule of thirds, which is top to bottom, the middle, the left, the middle and the right. You want to put your subject in one of those points. That makes it more interesting, it tells a story, it tells where the person’s going.”
There’s a bit more to composing an eye-catching shot. “Leading lines is another way to get people to focus on the subject,” Feliciano continues. “Repeating patterns is the way we see. The rule of odd numbers — 3–5–7–9 — all of these things catch your attention. The eye and the brain are always looking for symmetry, and we want to see things that balance.”
Drawing from his background in fine art, Feliciano is inspired by two very different painters in his street photography work — Edward Hopper and Jackson Pollock.
“Hopper is a realist painter,” Feliciano says,” who uses simple lines and uses the ‘Chiaroscuro’ technique. Chiaroscuro uses the light and shadows to draw in the viewer. Hopper’s 1942 Nighthawks oil color painting showcases why I like to take street imagery. The use of color, light and shape in that painting is excellent. The feeling of loneliness and solitude shows a lot about the artist. When I do street photography, I often think of Edward Hopper’s style. I call it capturing a ‘timeless moment in time.’ Simple, with lots of linear perspectives. It is difficult to do that, in today’s ubiquitous world of electronic gadgets, but it can be done.”
One of Feliciano’s other inspirations for street photography, Jackson Pollock, relies on the shock value of presenting something different. “Jackson Pollock represents almost the antithesis of Edward Hopper style,” Feliciano says. “Pollock, also known as a ‘drip painter,’ was more abstract and a rebellious type of painter. He could draw well, but decided early on to paint life as a puzzle. His paintings for me, tell me to think openly and freely about your subject. Try and be different, experiment, (use) shock for appeal at times.”
Feliciano has an inspiring message to photographers. “As digital artists we have many options to stand out from other photographers,” he says. “ If we all take the same photos, we are not satisfying our need to be creative, and to tell a different story. As photographers our main job is to create an emotional connection for our viewer. We can do it with simple geometric lines, use of limited light, or subject matter. We can be direct or indirect with our message. That is what makes us different and unique.”