Beau, Marc, and Mark wandering the California desert in 2017. Shot on digital.

The Unseen Benefits of Street Photography with Friends

Nick Ahrens
5 min readOct 9, 2018

Alexa gave an inaccurate preview of the weather on this past Sunday morning. It ended up being much hotter than expected but in living in Los Angeles for nearly a decade, this shouldn’t have come as a shock. Dressed improperly for the weather and already overheating, I met up with Beau around 10:30 AM. While walking, we happened upon a rather large flight of pigeons eating what seemed like completely invisible food from the sidewalk. Beau started prepping his large film camera for a careful, calculated shot while I wait to grab a photo of the entire scene, photographer and all, when a passerby walks right through (and spits on) the pigeons like it was his job. Wings and feathers are everywhere as the pigeons collide in panic. Neither they or we were expecting it.

Chaos as the pigeons are startled. Hastily shot on digital.

After the small wakeup call of excitement, a snack, caffeine boost, and a bit of a chat was on deck at a pastry shop right on the edge of Downtown Los Angeles’ famed Fashion District. Topics ranged from me lusting over the new Z series cameras from Nikon to Beau’s gorgeous Asahi Pentax 6x7 with a 90mm f/2.8 locked to the front awaiting a subject to freeze in time. Topics continued on or near photography pretty naturally as one would imagine for an outing such as this. We wrapped up with our drinks and pastries and headed out the door to explore Santee Alley, a cramped, chaotic corridor several blocks long that is jammed with shops, food, and people. It was not long until Marc and Rolando joined up and we were off and wandering our stomping grounds of DTLA for another group jaunt.

Marc shoots Rolando sitting in a chair we found in the guts of DTLA. Shot on digital.

Days like this are pretty common lately. I actually prefer to be completely alone with headphones on when shooting, but the rewards from wandering around with friends are wonderfully useful and fulfilling. We’ve gone on countless walkabouts and road trips with cameras in tow resulting in some of the best shots I’ve ever taken, oftentimes of my friends taking their own. It would be easy for us to devolve into complaints about gear or war stories about bad clients but that rarely ever happens. Instead, we just search the streets for the next photo.

Inspiration is a funny thing. It comes and goes at different times from different places, sometimes at random and sometimes through calculation. While I tend to gravitate towards high contrast, minimalist photography, quite often I’m more inspired by complex color landscape photos or modern, fashion style portraits. Ultimately these images (or other sources of inspiration) are coming from and/or captured another person which is why I enjoy the social aspect of street photography. Watching how another photographer approaches a subject in an instant, free lesson. Even better is learning from different photographers with different styles on a regular basis. Good teachers rarely stop teaching, even if they don’t know they have students that are paying attention.

Beau scopes out the view. Shot on digital.

This past Sunday ultimately didn’t yield many photos to be happy with, but that’s OK. Talking to Marc about how he as imaging a new type of film he was going to shoot would look made me realize I had the same stock of CineStill 800t collecting dust at home and it was about time that got loaded up. Or how talking to Beau about an upcoming international trip got me even more excited for a return trip to Japan I’ll be taking later this year.

One also can’t pass up on experiences like coming across a random lawn chair under moody lighting that sparks an impromptu portrait session in the middle of the street. Or when disappointment from a previously accessible but now locked off area lead to connecting with a huge group of skateboarders, many of which are also photographers and grabbing a few shots of them in action.

It’s honestly pretty hard to buy into the notions of “feeding on someone’s energy” and other good vibes stuff but at the same time, there does seem to be something to the shared experience. Street photography, at its core, is about connecting with the unplanned events and human-built environments of the world around us. Exploring that in a solitary, meditative way is something I’d never be willing to give up but sharing that with people once in a while is worth much more than you may know.

Below are a few of many photos taken with the roaming photo group over the years.

Photos from wandering with friends over the years. Clockwise: Marc getting low for a shot in an alley, Beau doing the same at the infamous Slauson Station bridge, Rolando has a sit, Beau jumping in a bit of a secret spot. All four shot on digital.

I’m curious, where do you find your inspiration? Does it come from solitary moments or social? Both? Do you ever wander and shoot with others? I’d love to know in the comments below.



Nick Ahrens

Fine art photography and growing up. Executive Producer at Night School / Netflix. Former journalist turned former art pusher. @robotpants on Insta/Twitter.