in conversation with: MARCI LINDSAY
Marci Lindsay has had a love for street photography since she was a child, long before she knew it had a name. But it wasn't until 2017 that Marci took up the challenge of photographing the streets seriously. She is drawn to ordinary people doing ordinary things. To her, it is all extraordinary...the emotion, the gestures, the connections, and the humour. Marci believes that we humans are much more alike than we are different, and she hopes her photos remind people of that.
Marci has been extensively exhibited in Washington DC, New York, Miami, San Francisco, Paris, Trieste, and Sydney. She is part of the Women in Street Collective, DC Street Photography Collective and the Optic Nerve Collective.
In this interview Marci shares with us her street photography journey, discovering new streets with her camera, and what street photography means to her now.
Tell us a little more about yourself. What got you involved in photography?
I was born in Boston and currently live in Washington, DC. In between, I lived in Virginia, Iowa, St. Louis, and Austin. But I came of age in New York City, where I chose to go to university and then began a short-lived career in urban planning. That may be the place I still feel most at home.
I was introduced to photography—street photography, actually— as a young child. My parents had a book from a Museum of Modern Art (NYC) exhibit called The Family of Man. It had photos by Bill Brandt, Lisette Model, and Garry Winogrand, among many others. I was entranced. Of course, I had no idea there was something called “street photography,” and I’m not even sure the genre had the moniker back then (circa 1970).
Not long after, I got my first film camera. I was maybe 11. I shot mainly around my suburban neighborhood, which I found extremely boring. All I could do was shoot during walks in the woods with the dog. I even remember shooting our beat up metal trash cans in the golden hour, with their long shadows. I made my own photo album, which I still have.
What is your perfect street scene? Where do you find your inspiration?
Like most street photographers, I love to shoot in places where there are a lot of people and at least some action. And like many others, I often find more inspiration with the change of scenery you get when traveling. But these situations are not always possible (especially in the past 18 months), so I have tried to be open to the challenge of shooting wherever there are any people at all. Interesting street photos can be made anywhere at any time—home and away, protests and everyday life, and in cities and small towns. Because of the pandemic, I am working on opening my mind and thinking outside the box, to find inspiration in new places.
Do you have any favorite artists/photographers?
Maybe it’s because they were the first photographers I was exposed to, but some of my favorites remain the classic, largely black-and-white photographers from the early to mid 20th century, such as Brassaï, Cartier-Bresson, Doisneau, Erwitt, Levitt, and Winogrand. As a poor college student in Paris in 1981, I bought myself a gift of a book of Magnum photographs, which I still have. In addition, I took a lot of film classes in college. I was fascinated by Italian neorealism in particular. This genre was characterized by slice-of-life stories, and non-actors were often used in leading roles. (Everything seemed to be propelling me toward street photography.) Today I still spend time looking at art; I think it’s helpful for photographers to be exposed to the best of other mediums. I’m very much drawn to impressionist painters, especially their composition. It’s almost as if they were street photographers before cameras were widely available.
What were the difficulties you encountered when you first started out in street photography?
Although my introduction to street photography was at a young age, and I’ve always loved looking at street photographs, I didn’t know it was a genre until about 4 years ago, when I got on Instagram. Between childhood and then, I didn’t shoot a whole lot except on the rare trip or taking snapshots of my children. Once I knew there were many people out there doing this thing called street photography and learned more about it, I decided to take up the challenge myself. But being shy, this was a bit terrifying. I was still raising a family in the suburbs at that time, but I started dipping my toe in on trips to New York or to Europe. Those places are good for the newbie - densely populated, many tourists, and people rather laid back about being photographed in most instances.
Early difficulties for me were getting close enough to people (still working on that) and learning to use a digital camera (still working on that). I took a few classes back in the days of film, and I would really like to take some workshops now, although I haven’t yet.
Then again, we’ve been in a global pandemic for a good chunk of the time I’ve been doing this. I’ve gotten comfortable shooting on the street, but there’s so much more to learn about making good street photos. The process will continue.
What are your thoughts and feelings about shooting individually with a friend/s
when out on the streets?
Just as I can’t shop with someone when I need to find something specific, I prefer shooting alone. A few days ago I met up to shoot with some DC photographers. It was great because we hadn’t been together in person for quite a while. But it reminded some of us why we prefer being alone when trying to get something done besides socializing. I like to meet other street shooters when I travel, but many times we’ll make it a coffee or lunch rather than a photo walk, just to get to know each other.
What is the most challenging part about being a photographer during the pandemic?
It’s been tough not being able to travel. Even in DC, I didn’t want to get on public transportation for a long time, so all my shooting was done on short walks from my home. It was a very sudden change, too. In March 2020, my husband and I cut short a trip to Japan because of Covid. Within a week I went from shooting in Tokyo—one of the best places to do street—to hunkering down in DC and taking photos of empty streets.
Soon after, when everything was shut down, my husband and I would take a walk after he was finished working for the day. We called it our “sanity walk” back then and I took my camera. So in that way the pandemic was good for me because it was when I began to take my camera every time I went out. They were short walks, but they were every day.
When you take pictures, do you usually have a concept in mind of what you want
to shoot, or do you let images just “come to you,” or both? Describe your process.
If I’m not shooting at an event, I usually let images come to me, or rather I go hunting for interesting things to shoot, without a preconceived idea. I’ve learned, like most of us eventually do, that if you’re out there often enough, you will capture something worthwhile. I would like to find a project to work on, so that I go out with a goal, but I haven’t really done that yet. I have a project in mind, but it involves foreign travel, so that will have to wait a little longer.
Does the equipment you use help you in achieving your vision in your photography? (What camera do you use? Do you have a preferred lens/focal
I currently have a Fuji X-T3 that I bought with an 18-55mm lens. More recently I added a 27mm pancake lens. I guess my equipment does help me in that I have a camera that is small and light, silent, weather-resistant, and with wider-angle lenses. I’m not sure if I’ll ever need anything more than that. I am definitely NOT a gearhead and am not particularly tech savvy. The best camera for me is the one that I will have with me, so it has to be one I am willing to carry all the time.
What are some of your goals as an artists or photographer? Where do you hope
to see yourself in five years?
I want to keep shooting as much as possible. I’m not young anymore, so I am definitely starting to internalize that time isn’t endless. But street photography has become more than just a hobby - it’s become somewhat of a mild obsession (and I’ve heard many others say the same). I just want to get better and see what experiences it leads to.
Are there any special projects you are currently working on that you would like to
let everyone know about?
There’s a project I’m working on with the DC Street Photography Collective, but no personal projects just yet. I would very much like to do that, though - it’s time!
“When I am not out photographing, I (like to)….
...these days, I’m editing photos, submitting photos, reading about photography, looking at photos, or talking to one of my groups of like-minded photographers. I am in two collectives, the DC Street Photography Collective and the Optic Nerve Collective. I also do occasional writing for Women in Street (Blog, Facebook and Instagram) and I’m curating for @street_macadam (Instagram) and Photographers Under Containment (Facebook.)
When I’m not doing photo-related things, I like to travel, the only other thing that I’ve been as passionate about as photography. And then there’s spending time with my husband and four kids, who always come first, but now I bring my camera along!