Mark Twain’s Influence On My Street Photography

Bel giorno friends, today I wanted to write a little about one of the influences on my street photography in the hopes it might inspire you like it has me.  There are a good number of authors out there who have had an impact on my life in one way or another but few stand out, or perhaps I should say there are only a few I can quote from memory.


Mark Twain is one of those authors whose name is known around the world, he’s the author of the classics Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn (among others) and traveled the world over.  A quote from The Innocents Abroad sums up my feeling on street photography and life in general.  When I think of this quote the words Travel and Street Photography are interchangeable in my mind.

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.

Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad

Think about that for a moment…  If I told you street photography is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness would you agree?  Look, I’m not saying I felt these things towards everyone I met on the street before I took up street photography but I noticed a curiosity brewing as I began creating images of strangers.  Folks I’d have never approached, people I had no interest in became great stories waiting to be discovered to me.

20085896960_c95e83cdb6_oPhotography can be a rather solitary endeavor if you so choose, before street photography dominated my time I would lose myself in the wilderness for hours on end chasing the elusive perfect landscape photograph.  I can remember doing travel photography and waiting for what seemed like hours until tourist got out of my way so I could get a “clean” shot.  I look back and realize I had been sabotaging myself all along, the human element is the secret sauce to great photography…  Street photography helped me realize this and the quote above summed it up much better than I could have said it.

JMB_0074-2You can take the Mark Twain quote literally or you could infer that traveling outside of your “little corner of the earth” could also mean getting outside of your comfort zone.  When I’m considering where and/or who to photograph I often think back to this quote and it inspires me to get curious and step outside of my comfort zone whether that means location or interaction.

Pittsburgh 2015
What motivates you?  Gets you out of your comfort zone?  Leave your answer in the comments below.

1 Comment

  • jorgemtrevino says:

    «What motivates you? Gets you out of your comfort zone?»
    What Winnogrand said “Seeing how the camera looks at the world”. My confort zone is virtually the whole world.

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