If there's somebody that shoots physically close, that's Gilden. And he's not subtle, no way. He shoots with flash even in daylight. He's probably not the invisible photographer, but the stunning factor is on his side. His images of New York make it look like a frenetic and mad city, even if he focuses on the individuals that populate it. Japan is nasty, dark, full of tough yakuza guys with tattoos and cigarettes. His fashion magazine is an ode to mafia capos and beautiful femme fatales. He's cool and blunt. His aesthetics follow that bluntness.
A small 35mm camera and a flashgun. It doesn't matter if the x-sync of your flash is not the fastest ever (no leaf shutter needed!) as a bit of that blurriness of slow shutter speeds add to the feel.
A wide angle lens. Accounts vary, but Gilden seems to shoot with a 28mm or a 24mm lens. Probably with both.
Lots of practice shooting with the camera in one hand and the flash in the other. Come on, it's not easy to focus when you do this! Also, take in account that the power of the flash or the aperture have to be set in accordance to the distance to the subject (to not underexpose or overexpose). Try to do this with one hand. Hard, innit? Well, after all you'll end up pre-exposing almost every shot. So you need to know what to shoot.
Bodyguards. I mean, you can't do this and stay alive for very long. You can call them assistants. It sounds cool, and makes you sound more like a photographer than a local godfather. (There's a cached blog entry about this.)
Lots of balls. In the female version you can find your local equivalent. You shoot close and people see you. You shoot closer if you just can't be close.
A strange eye for composition. You focus in parts of people. An expression, a few hands. The woman with the nice hat and the man with the watch look promising... get close, closer, you have nothing else in the frame, you shoot. That's it. Get rid of the backgrounds and streets, who wants them.
Good dresscode. First of all, silent shoes or trainers. Don't try slippers, they don't give that slightly rough image you have to keep for keeping your subjects away from you after shooting. Dodgy hats and gloves help. A beard. Make it look as if you just stole that Leica in your last 'job'.
Some stunning images. So close, so big. Wow factor guaranteed.
Fashion editors think that you're so odd that they want you to shoot some beautiful models with nice handbags. Gosh.
You find subject matter everywhere. After all, you only need people. The more variety and the weirder exemplars found, the better.
You have to compete with Bruce Gilden.
Risk factor: you can end up badly beaten by your local version of mafia or criminals. Even football hooligans are nasty, man! Remember, even if you are invisible, your flash is not.
You depend a lot on good and tight editing. After all, most of the shots are done in a similar fashion and the ones that work really work. Lots of chances to get beaten up before you finish a book.
Short life expectancy. Do I have to repeat this? (Wait till we review Robert Cappa, a war photographer whose motto is "If your photos are not good enough, you're not close enough.)
You can run out of batteries for your flash. Seriously, you need to carry plenty of crap unless you shoot with an XA2 with an A9 flash.
Your pictures are not that popular with all audiences.
If you have a taste for action, give it a go. After all shooting like Bruce Gilden teaches you lots of technique. And balls. You can also meet some interesting people. Anyhow, if you apreciate having legs, you might still want to stick to shooting like Henri Cartier-Bresson. If you have a thing for shooting people with flash and don't like the risk involved in shooting like Bruce Gilden, you might want to consider shooting like Diane Arbus. Soon we will have her 'shoot like' in this blog.