Collecting souls is very much a continuation of Leuthard’s first ebook on street photography, Going Candid. It’s also a free PDF, it’s also about 100 pages long, and it’s also brimming with stunning examples of Leuthard’s work. But while Going Candid was a guide on street photography, Collecting Souls is more of a personal manifesto. As a result, and while we are again treated with Leuthard’s attitude and enthusiasm (the very things that Going Candid worth reading), it’s his opinion on what does and does constitute street photography that takes central stage. Views that I can only label as somewhat authoritarian and exclusionary. And this is where Leuthard leaves me behind.

“This second eBook is more about my personal view on things and is a bit more advanced. It should give you an insight to my way of thinking and should also provide a lot of tips around Street Photography.”

Collecting Souls offers even less ‘practical’ photography advice than the previous book, but there is some there for those who look hard enough. One of the things I immediately took on was Leuthard’s advice to keep track of the sun and other powerful sources of light, and strategically walk the city in relation to them. For example, if you are shooting in the morning this means you should probably try to walk west, so that the sun is at your back and illuminating whatever it is that has caught your attention rather than drowning everything out. I have also realised that Leuthard’s protestations against focusing on gear and “settings” should also be considered practical advice. A ‘better’ camera simply will not make you a better photography, just as trading my current set of golf clubs in exchange for a very expensive set will not magically fix my inability to hit straight. Apart from a psychological boost, the vast majority of us are not at a level where ever greater (and ever more expensive) gear will make a difference. And yes, it’s great learning all the settings on your camera, but until you have them down pat you should probably walk around with your camera on automatic. You don’t want to miss a great picture because you haven’t entirely got shutter speed down pat (I made this mistake last week). In short, focus on the point of photography – taking pictures, and don’t let technical crap get in the way.

“You cannot burn the soul of a person onto your sensor without confronting yourself with humanity. You have to learn a lot about life in public and on the street to really be able to catch such a moment.”

But as I said, this book is a manifesto, and the vast majority of it has nothing to do with these tidbits of advice. Much of the book seems to be written under the assumption, and to further the assumption, that street photography is strictly limited to taking candid portraits on the street. The rest of the book seems to have the aim of psyching the reader into this form of street photography. Leuthard writes with passion about this sort of street photography, and seems to scoff at those who don’t share his enthusiasm — they should go photograph flowers. He offers many tips on ‘blending in’ and being stealthy, respecting (or not) the rights of the people you photograph, using flash photography in candid portraiture, and how to man up and photography strangers in close proximity. He reassures the reader that all will be well. It may feel a little strange to those who have social awareness or have grown up in societies that value privacy and personal space, but you can get over it. All of this builds on anecdotes and what came before, a cascade of enthusiasm pushing the reader to join Leuthard in his quest.

“Street Photography is the documentation of everyday life in public. It’s nothing more and nothing less. The better you can transfer some ordinary situation into an interesting photo, the easier it is for you to become a good Street Photographer. “

And, I must say it worked. I finished this book and immediately started walking up to people in Berlin and trying to take their picture up close. And Leuthard was right. No one hit me, tried to destroy my camera or call the cops. Those that didn’t want their pictures taken made it perfectly clear, and those that couldn’t care less looked like they couldn’t care less. But after all this, I didn’t find it fun. Candid portraiture is an interesting part of street photography. I definitely enjoy seeing the pictures produced by the likes of Leuthard, but for me it isn’t the end all be all. I agree with Leuthard’s definition of street journalism from the first book — it is a form of photojournalism. You are trying to capture and tell the stories of the street and city. And the thing is, I think there are more stories to tell from the streets than can be found in the startled expressions of people who were minding their own business. Candid Portraiture has it’s place, but so do the myriad of other examples of street photography you can find on websites like Burn Magazine, Invisible Photographer, on Flickr, and even in Leuthard’s own ebooks. It entirely depends on what story you are trying to tell.

“it’s not the good shots that keep you doing it; it’s your interest in humanity that keeps you walking down the street.”

I am glad I read this book and I am glad I had a short experiment with Leuthard’s form of street photography. I will probably read the third of his ebooks after I finish up some of the other books I have started. I very much recommend the book (and the experiment) to others that are interested in street photography. Maybe this will be your style of street photography too. If you want to download Collecting Souls, you can find it at Leuthard’s website.

“A good photo has nothing to do with an expensive camera or manual settings. A good photo has soul. It has something you cannot see, something you cannot buy, something you cannot touch, something you cannot learn… This moment cannot really be  planned, setup or fabricated. It will just happen and when you are ready, you will be able to capture it. “