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Thursday, 01 May 2008

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"This may be especially important for street photography because, without a purpose, street photography can be meaningless, particularly if the pictures don't have any graphic distinction: how many times have you seen on the internet humdrum photos of street people, of old men sitting on benches, that say nothing either socially or graphically? "
"Of course its meaning does not have to be social or narrative: as photography is a visual art, the meaning can be wholly graphic; or it might be psychological. "

I thought these phrases were very interesting- I have been working on a series of black and white images around the streets of Nadi for an exhibition, and really want to avoid images being cliche. But to me the most important thing is that the photo moves beyond a simple statement (old man on bench), and leaves you wondering; and renders the people within memorable. Like the first of your wonderful images- while it's interesting to me graphically the thing I really like is the story: who are those people? and where are they heading with such purpose?!

I think to achieve that you need to leave your own ego, style and ideals behind to a certain extent, and let the street speak via your images.

"Finally, I cannot stress too strongly that for any street photography it is the composition, the graphic form of the frame that is paramount because this is what strikes the viewer the most strongly: the form is the primary factor and the content, or the concept, or the story the shot tells needs to be wedded to the form."

No, I can't agree, Mitch. Certainly composition is always important, as the human eye immediately seeks pattern and figure-ground organization first. But the paramount visual characteristics of truly good "street photography" are gesture, irony, humor, incongruity, and generally timing. This is a genre which, almost by definition, consists mostly of images of people in urban environments. The vast majority of what camera owners call "street photography" is simply dull even if composition and lighting are good. Trying, for example, to suggest deep significance to a snap of some guy smoking a cigarette on a busy city sidewalk during magic hour doesn't work; there's nothing to look at, nothing to laugh at, no mystery or incongruity (unless he's standing in front of a sign that reads "Butt Out" or standing next to a woman using a portable oxygen respirator.

No, what makes the truly talented "street photographers" worth looking at is their ability to find and capture genuine emotions and extraordinary moments. This is the one genre of photography where graphic composition takes a back seat to timing and scene framing. Look at work by Helen Levitt or Elliot Erwitt and you'll see what I mean.

I love street photography and found this article to be a perfect example of why I have this site's RSS feed bookmarked.

My biggest issue with taking images of strangers is the feeling that I'm somehow exploiting them. That, for one reason or another, I'm taking advantage of innocent people for the sake of my art. Yet as I walk through the streets of my city, I'm constantly (mentally) framing shots of strangers, be they homeless, wealthy, what have you, secretly wishing that I had my camera at-the-ready.

Also, your point of "having a project" is a brilliant idea. It gives us a greater purpose than to simply "geek-out" over the latest gear. It's a challenging concept that can empower us to create photos that rise above the mediocrity that's so prevalent on the internet. We're all drawn to take pictures for one reason or another, but to have a reason, a purpose to photograph is a different thing entirely. It's when a series of photographs becomes not only well exposed images, but great story telling.

This is an excellent article. The best I have read to explain why folks do what you and others do, photograph strangers, walking about, minding there own business. I still don’t like it, never will. But, big but, if there is a point to it, a project, something you want to say about the folks in somewhere and their plight or their good fortune, ( your point was not clear to me but remember I am thick, or was it Bangkok is crowded) ok then more power to you. But then you would be a photojournalist. Are most street photographers photojournalists? I think not, more like paparazzi on the common man. Do you folks get model release forms signed by all these people in your pictures. Do you think they are pleased having their, usually unattractive images, plastered all over the internet for your ego gratification? Ah well, I love freedom, keep on clicking. E.

Ken Tanaka writes:

>>>No, what makes the truly talented "street photographers" worth looking at is their ability to find and capture genuine emotions and extraordinary moments. This is the one genre of photography where graphic composition takes a back seat to timing and scene framing. Look at work by Helen Levitt or Elliot Erwitt and you'll see what I mean.<<<

It seems to me, Ken, that we have a very basic difference in our views on this. Street photography is basically photography in the same tradition as "genre painting", which is concerned with the realistic depiction of scenes from everyday life. And the great Flemish and Dutch genre painters, Pieter Brueghel The Elder, Jan Steen, Pieter de Hooch — not to speak of the genre paintings of Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Jan Vermeer — all had superb composition in paintings of unrivalled beauty — in addition to capturing "genuine emotion and extraordinary moments". Your citation of Elliott Erwitt and Helen Levitt, both of whose composition is often excellent, only underscores the point that telling a story or capturing an emotion is not enough, that the form of the photograph needs to work together with the content.

Incidentally, the term "street photography" is not really the best label for this type of photography: perhaps "genre photography" would be more accurate.

—Mitch/Paris

"Do you folks get model release forms signed by all these people in your pictures."

Ernest,
Just to be clear, model releases are not required except for commercial uses. Every photographer should be clear on this. If you are in a public place your image is fair game for art or documentary photography.

Google the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) for chapter and verse.

Mike J.

Thanks for that Mitch:

Loads of info to chew on, as it's kind of a how to/ how I work piece.

As someone who regularly shoots on the street, I both concur with and feel differently about a few things here. I think I am someplace between your ideas and Ken's.

You seem to be laying down the law of "Street Photography" (loads of people do it) when you should be offering insight on what you get from and what works for you in street shooting. I think your comments about all those images on the net of old / homeless guy on bench just an observation of very amateur street work. Hey you have to start someplace right?

You said:

Finally, I cannot stress too strongly that for any street photography it is the composition, the graphic form of the frame that is paramount because this is what strikes the viewer the most strongly: the form is the primary factor and the content, or the concept, or the story the shot tells needs to be wedded to the form. Without excellence in composition, the content loses impact.

This is great advice and a fine opinion to hold but it seems to me that you are moving into the realm of formalism over emotion, energy and unpredictability that so often (for me anyway) "makes" a street shot.

Like all genres and forms, it is the over all balance of composition vs content (among other factors) that creates a strong image or body of work.

Thanks for a nice read

Hi Mitch. Terrific article. I lived in Bangkok for 3 years and it was where I learnt my street photography too. I think its something about the Thai people & their smiling openness.

Here's some of my thai street photography:
http://igloomelts.my-expressions.com/galleries/6325_1869187992/37624

Cheers

Mike wrote:
"Just to be clear, model releases are not required except for commercial uses. Every photographer should be clear on this. If you are in a public place your image is fair game for art or documentary photography."

What if you sell prints? Is it still "art"?

To me great street photography describes life; Which may well be the biggest project a photographer can undertake and one that lasts as long as his own. Gene Smith's grand vision for Pittsburgh was at that time (and to my knowledge still is)the biggest project undertaken by a single photographer. It failed; It didn't fail because of any difficulty he had in describing life, he's unsurpassed in that regard. It was because the sheer scope of what he was trying to achieve was too much for one man, even for a man like Gene Smith. But we are grateful for those photographs of depicting the life of the city of Pittsburgh, his failure was our gain

Perhaps the description of life is beyond a single project or photograph.But maybe it can be summed up in a single photograph involving a man and a bench like the one shot by Brassaï in 36 or another by André Kertész shot in 1913. Maybe that's another project for another day

Sean

"What if you sell prints? Is it still 'art'?"

Yup.

Mike J.

"What if you sell prints? Is it still 'art'?"

"Yup."

For more on this principle, see the section subheaded "Invasion of privacy in the United States" in this article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Street_photography

The marriage of form and content is the ultimate goal. But "excellence in composition" can be a very subjective matter. I was once asked to explain why Bresson's photographs were so highly regarded and like a fool I tried to explain when he'd already made up his mind.

Naturally people have different ideas about photography in the same way that people have about music. It's so subjective that most arguments are futile, I do agree with much of your approach to street photography, Mitch. But I feel I must respond to your views of the shots of people on benches, and I'll use this quote

"He that cometh to seek after knowledge, with a mind to scorn, shall be sure to find matter for his humour, but no matter for his instruction."

Sir Francis Bacon


Mitch Thank you for this post. Being able to take photos such as these and to explain principles and guidlines used for those of us who hope to do the same is very useful. What a great way for me to learn. I am sure that those who are more skilled can disagree on some of the points made but that does not detract from the value of posts such as this on TOP. I also have to say I have found it useful to see what you have done with the GR-D II. I have contemplated the purchase of one but was worried about image quality. You may have pushed me over the edge.

"(Gene Smith's grand vision) It didn't fail because of any difficulty he had in describing life, he's unsurpassed in that regard. It was because the sheer scope of what he was trying to achieve was too much for one man, even for a man like Gene Smith."

Unfortunately the Pittsburgh project failed because of Smith's personal demons, not because it was too big or ambitious for him. If there was one person who had the energy, drive, talent and sheer ego to pull something off on that scale, it was Smith. And I say this with the greatest respect to him, because I believe even among his peers he was in a class of his own.

One day I too hope to be that man on the bench wondering if the photographer will join the usual roundabout conversation in the bottom of a paper bag when my image is posted as a cliché

I don't know if it is just street photography that seems to attract such strong divisions, or if every other type of photography generates these debates.

But people sure are touchy about what 'is' or 'isn't' the 'correct' way to do take pictures on a street. Long lens or not. Colour or not. Aware subjects or not.

I can certainly understand wanting to pick your own particular style and stick to it, working it for however well it works for you. But at the same time so many are awfully quick to brand anything done in a different way as 'not street photography'

Seems somewhat curious about this particular niche of the photographic world that the practitioners are so sensitive about what isn't what they are doing.

Like most subjective topics, I like to quote my attorney/ex-wife:

"It depends."

First off, the obvious semantic elephant in the room. Some (eg Sean Reid) would argue there is not such thing as "street photography." If we can put that moniker aside for the moment, I have seen "street" shots that spoke to me and others that didn't. I have taken shots that spoke to me and others that didn't. But like all art, the meaning is in the eye of the beholder. The creator of the image can (and does) embed their own lens on the world (pun intended), but I would argue that it is the baggage of the viewer that gets the most play upon viewing.

This has been argued since time out of mind, so I guess I fall more towards the "less inherent meaning" camp. I do agree with Mitch that form and composition are critical. But I would also caution that one can rarely anticipate what the viewer will bring to the table, so even the "best" image can leave someone flat.

And so we come to the real crux of the matter imho. One has to be true to one's own internal compass on what is "good" (or at least what speaks to them, and essentially disregard what others will think. But as has been said before, if an artist creates work that is never seen, then in fact they have created nothing. It is a fine line being tread between not caring what people think, but desperately needing people to at least think something.

life is weird...art is life. Therefore I said "is" twice.

..also thanX for this article

you've said the fundamentals of sp in clear and not too much words. i've printed it to have a look on again and again.

since i am out with the G9 in my hands on a strap i feel much more comfortable "in the street", cause it really matters if your cam is in your hands or in a pocket. yes and the use of LCD looks more friendly to people than "the observer look" with eye and face behind a big looking cam & lens.

and thanks Mike for the knowledge about the rights. i hope in germany it is the same ;-)...

I strongly agree with the last paragraph of Alland's article:

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/Framing%20Art.shtml

R.

I've two additional points I'd like to add.

First, as Gordon keenly remarked, "street photography" does often produce polarized discussions concerning categorization. I'd advise folks to soak up all worthy views and follow your own compass regarding what you like to look at. The market for this type of work within the art and publishing worlds has long been extinct with the exception of collectible work produced by notable mid-20th century names. So you'll be shooting mostly to entertain yourself, your friends, and perhaps strangers on the Internet...which is fine.

Second, Mike's comment that people in public places are fair game for photographers is by no means watertight. There are many circumstances in which a photographer could be hauled into court over "street" photos. (Also realize that the costs of even successfully defending yourself may be very substantial.) Refer to any of several books on photo law (one recently posted here) for more information.

I would also add that laws and cultural acceptance of street photography vary widely around the world. What's legal in, say, New York is not legal in Paris. So before you click with gay abandon in another country make an effort to first learn what its laws and cultural mores allow.

One of my best interest in photography is street photography.
I have so many street photos as well as candid images.
You could look at my images in different photography sites.

"Finally, I cannot stress too strongly that for any street photography it is the composition, the graphic form of the frame, that is paramount, because this is what strikes the viewer the most strongly: the form is the primary factor and the content, or the concept, or the story the shot tells needs to be wedded to the form. Without excellence in composition, the content loses impact."

Not really. It is mainly the content of the frame that counts. Mason Resnick does a street photo workshop. His first assignment is anti-composition.

http://www.ppsop.net/strt.aspx

That's the fun part. There are no rules.

On the market for street photography being extinct, maybe that's true in the States but that is not the case in France and most emphatically not true in Japan, where more photographer's monographs are published than in any other country: there is, for example, a whole genre of "Tokyo photography", produced by many fine photographers, both famous and emerging ones. Take, for example, Araki's "Tokyo: A City Heading for Death", or Moriyama Daido's most recent books, "Hawaii" and "Buenos Aires", with roughly 400 and 300 B&W photographs each, respectively. Unfortunately, the latter two books are not easily available in the West, but I have seen both books at a couple of bookstores in Paris. They can be ordered from Amazon Japan, but the shipping is costly.

On the law being different around the world, that is true; and in France it is stringent but not applied. It was enacted against paparazzi and is based on the concept that the right to the image belongs to the subject of the photograph — including even the architect having the right to the images of the building he or she has designed. If applied, the law would stop all photojournalism and newspapers would not be able to print pictures of people at, for example, a demonstration; so it is not surprising that the law is not applied. I don't know of any photographer who has had problems with photographing on the street in France as a result of this law.

On the idea of exploitation and the plastering of "usually unattractive images...all over the internet for your ego gratification", the interesting point is to consider whether the ethics of publishing pictures of strangers has change has changed int he age of the internet, simply because of wider dispersion through the internet compared to the printed media. Certainly, street photographs that are not published in the printed media receive much wider viewership on the internet; but take the case of a famous photographer like Moriyama Daido, two of whose iconic photographs linked below taken before the internet age have been published in many newspapers with wide distribution and in photography magazines and books around the world:

http://www.onoci.net/cartier_3110/upload/moriyama/20.jpg
http://images.artnet.com/artwork_images_148090_346383_daido-moriyama.jpg

The question here, for me, is whether the value of photographs, expressing something deep about life, are warranted in the light of how they show the subject. It seems to me that all this depends on the photographer approaches his or her subject: if the photographer is looking down or patronising the subject it's a very slippery slope to exploitation, but is he or she is treating the subject with the respect accorded to an equal and compassionately, then for exploitation ti be present would be a very rare case indeed.

Finally, on form and content, I did not mean to say that there is a tension of form versus content but merely that the two have to be support each other the way they do in a good poem, in which the meaning comes from the form as well as the content. The best example of this in literature that I know is Shakespeare's Sonnet 129 in which the language runs riot in the expression of the idea of lust:

QUOTE
The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; and till action, lust
Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,
Enjoy’d no sooner but despised straight,
Past reason hunted, and no sooner had
Past reason hated, as a swallow’d bait
On purpose laid to make the taker mad;
Mad in pursuit and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;
Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.
All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.
END QUOTE

And here is a quote from Matisse that states the same concern for the intimate relationship of form and content in expressive painting:

QUOTE
Expression to my way of thinking does not consist of the passion mirrored upon a human face or betrayed by violent gesture. The whole arrangement of my picture is expressive. The place occuopied by the figures or objects, the empty spaces around them, the proportions, everything plays a part.
END QUOTE

The link given by kombizz to the Mason Resnick's workshop anti-composition first assignment, is not at all an example of "It's mainly the content of the frame that counts". On the contrary, Resnick's site states, "We will assign several exercises designed to encourage students to unlearn the classical rules of composition in order to discover a uniquely photographic visual language" and that "Street photography is all about finding order in a chaotic world." That is exactly what I'm talking about in terms of form and content.

—MItch/Paris

"perhaps "genre photography" would be more accurate."....... now that makes it all easy, as it sorta covers everything. Better simplify it all, get rid of genre..................... so we are back to photography ................. just loitering with a camera in hand....

Thank you, everyone, for a particularly interesting and stimulating discussion thus far. This is T.O.P. at its best.

Whether or not street photography expresses anything deep about life is debatable. Mitch's suggestion that the answer is dependent on the photographer's intentions can influence an answer with reference to a particular image or body of images. But meaning lies in the eye of the beholder. For example, an image showing a man -apparently- leering at an attractive woman will likely read quite differently to men than to women, to young boys than to old men. The photographer's intentions may be largely irrelevantly academic in such a case.

It's been said that photography is the ultimate example of quoting out of context. Perhaps street photography is the ultimate example of that ultimate example.

-I would like to recommend this wonderful website with superb street photographs of diverse styles:

http://www.in-public.com/

R.

Exploitation in photography is a thorny issue and I've heard many arguments on the subject.

I've just actually read your Mattise quote in Robert Adam's "Beauty in a photography" While i was looking for the following quote

"What are the legitimate basis for the judgement of photographs? Since it is always easier to be negative, let me begin with some widely used but wrongheaded bases for judgement. Ones we might profitably abandon. The most popular one is sincerity".

Exploitation is a debate in itself


A great way to get around your reticence and shyness about shooting strangers on the street is to get mugged while you're doing it. It happened to me not once but twice today. Fortunately i did not lose my Bessas or end up with a knife in my abdomen. And this certainly doesn't make me think about abandoning the street as my preferred subject. Rather, i feel i've earned my stripes. Now, instead of worrying about the delicate issue of privacy i know there isn't any. We're all being watched while we're in public all the time. If not by the 'good guys' then certainly by the 'bad guys'. You are kidding yourself if you think you're invisible or special or unique or privileged. From now on i will feel fortunate indeed if the only thing someone wants to steal from me is a snapshot of my precious face.

Oh and as to the man on the bench...a subject is only as boring or cliche as the photographer behind the camera.

Really terrific photos by the way. I love shooting the street at night but am still working on technique (and yes, Ctein, your advice was well taken way back then).

dya'

Hi Mitch,

"On the contrary, Resnick's site states, "We will assign several exercises designed to encourage students to unlearn the classical rules of composition in order to discover a uniquely photographic visual language" and that "Street photography is all about finding order in a chaotic world." That is exactly what I'm talking about in terms of form and content."

First, thanks for the plug ;-)


And to amplify...the tension between form and content is what I encourage my students to look for while breaking them free of forms of composition that were considered the norm before photography. There's a uniquely photographic language that I find is primarily "spoken" by street photos, but in order to help reinvent it, you need to unlearn the rules of composition.

As for your comments about a project being a motivator for better street photography, that's not necessarily for everyone. A quick story: When I was learning street photography with Garry Winogrand in 1976, I decided one day that I'd take a lot of pictures of guys smoking cigars. A project! After about an hour of this I went up to Garry and told him my plan. He told me this was a bad idea (he used stronger language!), explaining that by selecting a specific range of subject matter I have imposed a preconception on my photography, which would block me from seeing and capturing other photographs.

His approach--no preconceptions about either subject matter or content--was liberating! Try it sometime.

Cheers,
Mason Resnick

This has been one of the most grounded debates on "Street photography" that I've ever been involved in (a good advert for TOP I think). Like Ken, I'd like to thank everybody that contributed, especially to Mitch for facing the slings and arrows with good grace.

It's a shame in some ways that the debate's overshadowed the photographs. I always prefer it to be the other way around, But it's a Sunday afternoon and the next best thing to taking pictures is looking at them. I think a cup of coffee and a good hour viewing your project is not a bad idea right now.


Sean

As it was for HCB, for me street composition is all about geometry, a subject i completely failed to grasp in HS. Street photography, especially when done from the hip, by definition, breaks every rule. There's no way to capture the people, the moment, the context, the emotion according to any prescribed rules. So what's left is a sense of rightness. A sense of everything being where it should be. And that might not be where you wanted it to be or planned for it to be. But where it ended up when life was breathed into the frame. Sometimes that 'right' breaks the rules of viewing. The photographer has to edit his choices as instinctively as he clicks the shutter. He often must suspend his own beliefs, training, preconceptions and prejudices in order to allow a rare moment its right to be and not toss it into the trash because it is strange. The photographer must be as open as the very air around him and full of wonder and the sense of possibility at every step in the process.

Which is why i also disagree with the idea of shooting a "project". We are as a bridge, with the river of life flowing through us, open to all that we see. We must be conscious of not just what's happening but what's likely to happen given all conditions. And we must be prepared to shoot should our instincts prove correct. Which person is likely to emote, which couple is likely to embrace passionately, which kid is likely to dart out unexpectedly, which businessman is likely to betray himself with a wistful or insecure expression. With a great stock, by the time you hear about it it's no longer a good investment. On the street, by the time you see it happening it's often too late to shoot it.

The other mantra that guides my heart and my eye and my hand on the street is a voice inside that constantly whispers "make me care". Make me care about what you are pointing at. If the photographer doesn't care the viewer won't care. If the photographer has empathy, reverence, wonder, humility and inspiration, he will "make me care".

Mason Resnick writes:

"As for your comments about a project being a motivator for better street photography, that's not necessarily for everyone. A quick story: When I was learning street photography with Garry Winogrand in 1976, I decided one day that I'd take a lot of pictures of guys smoking cigars. A project! After about an hour of this I went up to Garry and told him my plan. He told me this was a bad idea (he used stronger language!), explaining that by selecting a specific range of subject matter I have imposed a preconception on my photography, which would block me from seeing and capturing other photographs.

"And to amplify...the tension between form and content is what I encourage my students to look for while breaking them free of forms of composition that were considered the norm before photography. There's a uniquely photographic language that I find is primarily 'spoken' by street photos, but in order to help reinvent it, you need to unlearn the rules of composition."

Mason, methinks that you're setting up red herrings in both these cases, really. I certainly agree that a narrow, uninteresting project will be inhibiting and is worse than no project at all--although I'm not one to discourage initiative, as there might be a great photographer out there in the aether who can create a great series based on guys smoking cigars, but that ain't me.

On the rules of composition, they're a myth: the "rule of thirds", for example, doesn't exist, nor does the golden section, in the sense of a rule that photographers or painters need to adhere to in order not to "fall of a cliff." I agree with you that there is a photographic way of seeing, but that is not limited or primarily applied to street photography, having been discovered by painters such as Picasso and Matisse and earlier, evident even in a more pronounced way, in the work of Degas. And the "snapshot aesthetic" also has a broader reach than street photography.

Ken Tanaka writes:

"Whether or not street photography expresses anything deep about life is debatable. Mitch's suggestion that the answer is dependent on the photographer's intentions can influence an answer with reference to a particular image or body of images. But meaning lies in the eye of the beholder."

Well, I come out on the side of the debate that street photography can express something about the nature and meaning of life; but, Ken, you're shifting the ground here, perhaps because I didn't express myself precisely enough: I didn't suggest that whether street photography has meaning depends on the photographer's intention; what I wrote was that the whether taking pictures of strangers and publishing them on the internet is exploitative depends to a large degree of the photographer's attitude to his subject. Whether there is meaning or not, is a more complicated question and needs to be discussed with analysis.

For those who liked the pictures, thank you for the kind words; and thank you, especially, Sean for calling attention to looking at them. It's interesting because, as far as I can estimate, it seems that there were only about 600-700 views of pictures, which is much less than the 5,000 views that I got overnight when, early in the life of TOP, Mike put one of my comments on the front page as a "featured comment"--and that was at a time when TOP had a much lower readership level. Interesting.

Eloquent stuff, dyathink! I agree that you have to "feel" what you photograph and I would also say that you have to — of course I mean "I have to" — feel the form. One thing that I neglected to include in the article is relevant to all this: Cartier-Bresson recommended "Zen in the Art of Archery" by Herrigel as a useful book for photographers. It's worth reading because it gives you an understanding for the zen sense of doing something well when you are not conscious of doing it at all — and street photography can often have this sense.

—Mitch/Paris

Mitch, it's interesting that you mention the "zen sense of doing something well when you are not conscious of doing it at all" as it pertains to photography. I have been greatly influenced by "The Tao of Photography" by Tom Ang. He says:

"The Tao of photography is to avoid the false allure of taking control. For total control is a chimera. This does not mean you should do nothing; the notion is something much more positive. Rather, it is to let it be, to allow a situation to find its own level. As you relinquish control, you gain power. This allows space for naturalness. Spontaneity replaces artifice. The Tao of photography is, therefore to allow Tao to assert itself, to allow Tao to guide you and take your tools in its hands in order to express itself. The result of letting go is paradoxically to produce photography that is more satisfying to you."

..i think we both have learned much from Eastern thinking in our approach to photography and perhaps that is one reason why i so appreciated the photos that accompanied your text.

dya

An interesting discussion with many contributions - and I'm a bit late to the party!

First of all, from where I stand the business of categorisation in photography is forlorn. However it is something that I deeply would like to penetrate. The reason? It seems to me that "photography", or some aspects of it, presents something unique in the world of "art" or "communication". I don't know yet what that is, but I would really like to understand it. Most photographs can be collected under Barthes' notion of "the community of images" but many, and those in the genre discussed go beyond mere graphics

A lot of the arguments in this post seem to me to concentrate on two things.

1) That the photograph in itself is the object and should be approached as such and it's merits determined on what can be discerned. So that the idea is to get perhaps that "killer shot" which has everything "right".

2) The purpose of the photography is defined by having an underlying aim or project in mind.

Now there is nothing wrong with images attempting either of these things, but I feel a lot of the comments have missed the most important factor - the photographer. Not his skill in framing, or ability to be in the right place, but rather his approach to life, his view of the world. For this reason I believe that this sort of personal photography is only realised, and the quality and style only emerges when we view a body of work by the photographer.

I would cite Walker Evans, Cartier-Bresson, Frank et al - their greatness is not the qualities of individual images, but in the relationship that the viewer, and long term acquaintance, arrives at with the mind and vision of the photographer

Richard Tugwell wrote:

>>>Now there is nothing wrong with images attempting either of these things, but I feel a lot of the comments have missed the most important factor - the photographer. Not his skill in framing, or ability to be in the right place, but rather his approach to life, his view of the world. For this reason I believe that this sort of personal photography is only realised, and the quality and style only emerges when we view a body of work by the photographer.<<<

It seems you can see this if you look at my Bangkok book project, which contains 192 pictures:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/10268776@N00/sets/72157594271568487/show/

Asher Kelman has looked at the book project carefully and has come away with a deep understanding, somw of which is worthwhile to quote at length:

QUOTE
...
Streams of people with no smiles. I've seen that too in New York but this is almost uniform, like observing people in suspended life as they go from place to place like parts of some giant wigget factory.

We see crowds of people and rows of dead fish waiting to be consumed by more hoards of somber people. There are animals hanging by hooks and animals with hollowed insides like some haunting spector of death had gone on his rounds having his will with the helpless.

Even people in restaurants seem to be mostly in a trance. Once in a while there is a smile as a girl is engaged. School girls stop a while and one covers her mouth to hide a laughter that youth still allows.

This is a somber vision, even with the neon lights and the obvious bustling commerce going on everywhere. But it's just a treadmill, a part the widget factory.

If this had been a poem, it would have been written by the brilliant poet who I both admire and revile, T.S. Elliott. What long poem would he have written on Bangkok? It for sure would be mocking and full of invective. However, he would not be indifferent or bother to ask, "Is this street Photography"

I must take the mass of Bangkok pictures as a poem and then hear in my mind a voice of Miles Davis, "The music is not in the notes you play, it's the music between the notes. The value of Mitch's feverish snapping of the shutter is not in any individual picture. Rather it's the life portrayed in Bangkok, there in a far off land with people passing, the fished packed, the dead animals picked, the portions eaten in the restaurant and the hand passed over the mouth of a girl so young that she still laughs.

Then, when we think we might know what we've seen, we realize it's not that at all, it's just another widget factory in B&W and we are locked inside...

... [The bok [project] looks at the feelings and ideas evoked by the body of work as each image is seen in succession until the end. By that time there is a picture with many dimensions beyond 3D space to transcend each image, it's composition and even particular subjects to some extent. It even moves beyond the identity of Bangkok to many massive industrial/technical service cities where we have lost our connection with the planet and become absorbed into the infectious widget factories that metastasize all over the globe...

...I think that Mitch's many photographs, for me at least, aren't even in that (street photography) "Genre" but rather constitute a single moving work that has to be experienced one image after the other, as if one is actually taking the pictures oneself in rapid succession....
END QUOTE

—Mitch/London

Hi Mitch

It looks as though you took my comment as a direct criticism of your work. It was really directed at the comments of other contributors

Cheers

Richard

i want this cam it is very erg for me

Excellent reading, and always interesting to hear different points of view. As a Street Photographer, I have to say that I choose Content over Composition. Street Photography - or 'No Rules' Photography as it should be called - should be about capturing the moment, more often than not by witnessing and making millisecond decisions... there's no time to compose the shot. By the time you've framed the scene, the moment is gone. Forever.

When I first started shooting Street some 25 years ago, I threw the rule book out the window. I also learnt that there is only one Golden Rule for shooting Street:

Be There!

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