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Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Comments

IMHO street photographers have to be better than average editors.

Sadly, evidence indicates that this tends not to be the case, especially for hobbyist street photographers.

I'm not sure that there is a higher percentage than average of bad street photography ... but the bad street pictures that I see tend to annoy me more. :)

Good article, but seriously lacking explainaton about the man with a gun. :)

Gosh, he IS good!
I bought the print, I've ordered the book, but I wonder: where is the market for this stuff? Even the very best?

In between other projects, I still love to do various kinds of street photography, and of course, after all these years, it still makes me nervous to shoot strangers out on the streets of NYC. But some days when I'm feeling especially confident, I make myself a rule called Get Caught: Take photos of strangers when they turn and look directly into my camera.

It's not just an exercise in overcoming shyness, it turns out to produce some of the most arresting images.

One other detail: I hate it when I see photographers grab a shot and then slink away as if they've committed some perversion. If I'm noticed, I've made it my habit to give the stranger a smile and a wave or a thumbs up, and approach them when possible, to engage rather than flee. I've not only had some great conversations, but I've taken some great posed portraits in those few minutes.

I enjoy looking at good street photography. It's extremely difficult for me to do. While in New Orleans recently I tried the "stay in one place" approach. Funny how many people will duck politely out of the way as they walk past, exactly what you hope they won't do.

Ibarionex Perello has just posted a very interesting two part interview with Colin Westerbeck, co-author of Bystander: A History of Street Photography.

http://www.ibarionex.net/thecandidframe

The Decisive Moment Exhibition-

I'm not very good at "street photography," although I do enjoy the challenge that shooting on the fly presents. Every aspect of the photo -- its framing, focus, exposure, and timing -- must be coordinated and optimized on the fly, and even fractions of a second difference in timing alone can change everything. And let's not forget the role that luck plays, either, so on those rare occasions when everything does come together, it's a very satisfying feeling indeed.

While street photography is very much a secondary focus for me, I also believe it's useful practice for my (cough, choke) "serious photography," almost all of which is done using a tripod and by working in a careful, considered, and deliberate manner. Because "street" is the complete opposite in every respect, it serves to loosen me up, if you will, which helps me approach my primary subject matter (urban areas late at night) less formally, which in my opinion is a Good Thing.

Lastly, I also find it amazing how much different neighborhoods in cities can feel when I explore them on foot instead of by bicycle or car. New York's Harlem, for instance, has a character that clearly changes block by block, although the changes are mostly invisible to an eye that is moving any faster than walking speed. Carrying a camera with me when I'm out exploring makes doing so that much more enjoyable, as it lets me do two things I enjoy at the same time.

"So again, why street photography? Because, when against all odds you do manage to capture an amazing image, there’s no better feeling. I’m sure that’s true no matter what type of photography you’re into."

IMHO barring blind luck... all "good" photographs and photography is hard. Even (especially?) studio work where you have total lighting control.

I'm a huge fan because street gives me a reason to explore a city. And find those special moments.

http://kennethwajda.com/coloradofaces/gallery/index.html

And some exercise too! I find the editing the most important part. The photo has to have some storytelling element. And many do not and so get culled.

I think I do it because it is a sort of meditation ...walking around, usually without a planned direction, following my nose...being in the moment. When you are in the moment, flowing, it is like dancing or swimming or eating a delicious meal. You forget yourself and there's only light, shade, movement, smell, feeling, moment. Sometimes, when you are lucky, you can record something which speaks to other human beings, too, and that is also rewarding.

The hard thing for beginners in street photography once they've overcome equipment indecision is lifting the camera to the eye and releasing the shutter. People can get upset, but it usually depends on the photographer. If you are nervous, they will be, too. If you are comfortable, natural, they won't notice, and if they do, they won't care.

You can't control the world however, and sometimes, rarely if you are comfortable, people will care and you have to be prepared to stay calm and to talk to them, or to run!

For me, it's a celebration of being human,capturing the unguarded moments of living our daily lives. It can display all the range of human emotion, from pure joy, to utter sorrow and anything in between. A street photograph can represent what it is to be human, create a record of our history and the challenges and changes that occur over time within our societies.

Random images of random people walking at random in the street are not street photography. They're a waste of bandwidth. Plenty of that on the internet.
But on the web you'll also find plenty of talented people injecting their vision and capable of capturing and composing incredible moments (editing away the rest!).
Sadly, it takes some work to separate wheat from chaff, while producing chaff is cheap and easy. It's worth the effort, though, there's plenty of good stuff out there. People you would have never known about, in the old days, let alone exchanged ideas and inspiration with. We are lucky campers here.

Street photography requires a lot of walking, a lot of patience and a lot of trial and error. It's a numbers game and to gets the odds on your side it helps if you are one of those folks who tends to carry a camera all the time, just in case.

Of course, it also helps if you live in a city and tend to walk everywhere. Not many places you can easily do that without some local knowledge and personal bravery.

Unfortunately, not many people are good at it despite of, or maybe because of, its popularity. It's been done to death and it takes exceptional dedication and skill to stand out. I think Gordon's second shot is exceptional.

Personally I gave up on it. I like having people in my shots, but the shot is not about the people but the composition. They are extras in the scene rather than the stars of the show. It's a sort of urban-landscape/street hybrid. It doesn't require the same level of bravery.

"Street Photography" has become, unfortunately, one of those terms that means almost nothing. Usually it means "the kind of photography I do".

I know that I can't do anything I personally recognize as "street" particularly well, and that it is insanely difficult.

If it is not to simply be random snaps, you must compress the entire act of photography, into an instant. It simply takes me longer than that to bring together some Idea and a way to represent that Idea in a photograph. (Here 'Idea' should be construed quite loosely, it's not necessarily expressible in words, it's not a neat motto, it might be a visual joke, it might be a feeling, or, sometimes, it is something one can express in words).

For me, marrying the Idea to the Image is a fairly conscious process, and fairly slow. The only "street" I can do is when something is repeated over and over. Then I can work it out at my own pace, as the Idea occurs over and over.

For me, I suppose it's the chance to peek inside the moments in people's lives. Truth be told, I really think it speaks of where and how people live. I have photographed on the streets of Europe and the U.S. and it always excites me.

Why do I do it because like many of the people I have photographed I was once lost and fogotten orphaned at 16 and reduced to stealing toeat at 17. Some of my street work is at www.davidseelig.com under galleries and personal work. Look at New Orleans my latest work

I have a moderate taste for street photography. I must say I felt better about my limitations knowing that my attitude towards shooting strangers without their consent is echoed by Mr. Lewis. I feel quite nervous about it: I never know how people will react. Turns out it isn't an experience-related thing!
There are two considerations I believe to be important when the topic is street photography. One of the reasons it is so popular is because it is regarded - at least in certain circles - as a formula for instant success: shoot black and white with a 35mm lens in the streets, and voilá: you're the new Cartier-Bresson. At least that's what some seem to think, even if their pictures are utterly uninteresting.
In fact some people believe any picture of people in the street is a valuable example of street photography. It isn't. The scenes must tell something about life. Pictures of the back of passers-by rarely do so, even if they were taken with a Leica MP and a 35mm lens. The pictures don't have to show any extraordinary events, but they must be meaningful. (William Klein's pictures can give us all some lessons on how to make meaningful, interesting street photography.)
I think it is pertinent to add there are two schools of street photography: one is reactive and is all about getting small scenes of everyday life; the other consists of choosing an interesting background and wait for something significant to happen in front of you. One requires thinking fast and being ready to shoot at any moment; the other demands patience. Robert Doisneau excelled at the latter: he called it his "petit théatre". Being hopelessly shy, that's my favourite kind of street photography.
Just my two cents. Thanks for this interesting article.

Good gracious. That picture of the guy with the phone and the handgun is startling, and I would never have had the temerity to take it without permission. Even from across the street.

Yes, the current resurgence and renewed popularity of "street photography" is very much a two sided sword- never before has it been so popular and so emulated. As a result, there's: a lot of shots of people grimacing (not from capturing the relentless rigors of everyday life, but from people having a camera stuck in their face), an endless supply of one note jokes of people juxtaposed in front of signs and billboards, and many others that display crowds scenes with no central focus or ties that bind or contrast various elements within the overall composition. And it can get tedious sifting through it all to find the real gems out there (as in any other genre).

For street photography to really prosper well into the future and not just become a static classic, we need new perspectives and visions to keep it alive and changing (eg- Eamonn Doyle's "i").

When I was in school in the '70s, it was just "documentary photography," and I don't recall the term street photography being used. Gary Winogrand spent some time with us, and I think he just spoke in terms of "photography" without the need for limiting or defining adjectives.

Inn my twenties I did tons of this kind of work, pushing myself far out of my comfort zone, given that I was very shy. But yeah, I was aggressive, flashing in people's face before Bruce Gilden was doing it (I was inspired by Mark Cohen pictures I'd seen in a magazine.) But today I just can't do it anymore. I'm no longer shy, but I'm now too aware of other people's reactions to being photographed, and I just don't want to do it to them. This is not to say that I don't approve other photographers doing it, it's just not for me anymore. Also, I now live in a very polite society (New Zealand) where people simply don't behave around others in an aggressive manner. My street photography buddies are incredibly discreet and/or delightfully engaging when their subjects are aware that they are being photographed.

ANY genre of photography or art in general can be afflicted with "it all looks the same"

Landscape - another rock another tree another waterfall another moutain

Travel - another beach another really old building

Sports - another ... game

Politics - another person in a suit trying to look serious and important

....

Why I do street photography is linked very much to my objective to view the world positively, day to day. There are two parts to this objective.

For me, to view the world means to be caught up in that flow of every changing situations and people. My eyes engage the world around me and in that engagement I can only see possibility. To direct the idea of possibility, I need then to be positive: how I take to the world has to be reflected by those I take -- I struggle to take people who I think wouldn't want to be photographed, or are in situations that they wouldn't want to be photographed in (there are exceptions, but very few).

I then have some additional restrictions that I impose on myself: asthetic (Does it look good?), connection and engagement (Can someone form a bond with the person in the photo?), uniqueness and complexity (How many details can see at first and keep seeing as a look deeper? Is it really by chance or can it be easily replicated?)

The final reason why is just the challenge: I love the difficulty to capture the perfect moment. There's that moment of beauty somewhere, everyday. That's not a good reason for everyone, but it's good enough for me.

Cheers, Pak
https://www.flickr.com/photos/pakmingw

Apropos of nothing: my favorite graffiti is a wall on which "Jesus saves" is writ large. Underneath someone scrawled: "and the Mongul hordes".

After twenty years plus carrying cameras around, I realised that the only thing that really sets me free photographically is street.
All other forms are too deliberate, is it seems I need "the chase" to really get in to my zone, ignore the process (and gear) and just do it.
My early inspiration was/is still the great National geo and Magnum shooters who I guess can all be loosely classed as street style.
The lower gear and technical scrutiny also helps. I guess style is the key to street over all else.
P.s. Great to have you back.

"Man With Gun" image is unreal. I'm not sure I've ever wanted to hear the story surrounding a photo as much as with this one.

In my view, cell phones will be the ruination of street photography. Almost everyone on the street seems to be fixated on them much of the time--head down, arm extended and the cell phone commanding the viewer's eye. Gone are opportunities to capture intriguing expressions, postures and gestures. Gone are shots of personal interactions between or amongst people. So while street photography may still be a "popular" genre, it's harder than ever to find something worthy of being photographed. I guess that explains why so much of what you see these days is not worth a first look, let alone a second one. The examples shown in this article are interesting only because of the incongruities they present between cell phones and other elements. As such, they are exceptions to the rule.

I love street photography, pretty much for all the reasons mentioned by Gordon. I look forward to checking out the book.

On a side note, I feel like it should be called improvised (or improv) photography. It seems like that is a better and more relatable description when discussing with practitioners and non-practitioners alike. With cameras ready to go, we are constantly improvising based on observations of, and stimuli from, the environment around us. That could be on a street, or anywhere else. And just like improv comedy, a lot of it is uninteresting or mildly interesting, but every now and then a gem emerges that has lasting impact on the comedian/photographer and the audience/viewer.

I do it for several reasons. I used to do this quite seriously in India in 1970s but gave up while raising kids and developing a career. Unfortunately all those negatives are lost. I now realize that those images had much that are now forever lost to modern development. So one of my motivations today is to preserve some flavors of life before they are also lost to time. The second, perhaps the main, reason for me is the hunt. The act of taking a photograph on the street often gives me high adrenalin. The third reason is the rare occasion when a number of visual elements come together, the meaning and the content become universal. For these rare images, the reality might have little to do with the final pictorial interpretation. I am fascinated by this transformation of an image to an abstraction, which I had taken without recognizing its significance.

"I never photograph anyone who has indicated they don’t want to be photographed"

What about those who were not aware you were photographing them, but would have objected had they been aware what you were doing?

Richard

Why shoot street? Why the hell not? It's like hunting or fishing--you'll never know what you might get. It's the thrill of the chase. Also, people "au naturel" are one of the most fascinating things to shoot.

OK, so I what I shoot isn't anywhere near the level of anything Eisenstad, Winogrand or Capa shot. And it can be nerve-wracking, wondering if your shot could lead to a really tense & unpleasant situation--maybe get your face or your camera busted (although the biggest hassle I ever had was from some cops whom I WAS'NT shooting).

But every now & then I get a good one, which makes it all worth it.....

Why do I do it? I'm an observer, I love to walk, and I love cities. I think street photography was invented to provide the perfect creative outlet for me!

I have so many questions about 'Man with Gun,' and one certainty: I wouldn't want to be anywhere near him.

So, how was he shot? With gun or camera?

I know someone who has a T-shirt saying, "I'm a photographer. I shoot people. Sometimes I cut off their heads."

Funny when you think about it, but gruesome at first reading.

It seems I've discovered Gordon Lewis a year and a half after he stopped updating his website. I browsed some of that site and wanted to ask Mr. Lewis a question. Oh well, perhaps one of your readers has some information. Mr. Lewis used a Nikon FM3A, as do I. Occasionally (and with increasing frequency)the shutter opens but does not close, and/or the mirror does not pop back down when it should. The shutter stays open for 10 seconds or so. This happens both when I'm in aperture priority and when I set the shutter speed. Apologies if my question is not relevant to Mr. Lewis' article. You have a widely-experienced readership, and if any of that number has a suggestion, or has suffered the same camera malfunction, I would appreciate hearing about it.

I'm one of those who lack the cojones to take street photos. I interrupted the resident master boat maker below, while he was tuning the motor of this outrigger pump boat. He looked at me just as I pressed the shutter. After belatedly asking his permission, he resumed working while I took more pictures.

Click for larger.

Later, when I was processing the photo, I got a good look at his expression which was scary! I should've been more stealthy, but one can't be when visiting a small isolated island.

Why street?

For most hobbyist/amateurs (whatever the term is) 'street' takes away some of their biggest problems: thinking of a subject, having to decide what makes a good picture, technique.

There's no fretting over 'what can I photograph today?' The street is always there, always changing and often close by.

Given that most of what passes for 'street' photography on the web appears to be random photographs of people on streets the need to try to make pictures which tell a story, provoke thought or document a moment appears to have vanished.

The pictures don't have to be perfectly framed or level because that adds drama or immediacy to them.

Why street? Because street photos look like snaps and anyone can take snaps.

The art of storytelling has been perfected through countless generations by the fire. We humans, being the avid consumers of good narrative that we are, know quite well how to tell a great story from a so-so account. And therein lies, I believe, the difference between good and bad "street photography"...

Photographers who use teles are creepy. 35mm or wider is respectful.

Well everybody else is avoiding the big question - what telephone numbers would Jesus have stored on his cellphone - so I'll give it a crack.
I would have thought Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were obvious certainties. Peter... Paul....even Judas was probably on it.
Surely he would have had his mother, Mary, perhaps with "Let It Be" as her special ringtone. The local bakery and fishmonger. The local wine outlet... wait a minute... no,no need for that one.

I think this genre will have a lot of development in the future thanks to smartphones.

The street photography I admire most it that which has acquired a certain patina with the passage of time. That's what makes Vivian Maier's subtle hidden treasures of mid-century Chicago so great or Weegee's stark flashbulb exposures of NYC in the 1940s so striking today.
It's impossible to know what shots you take today will have that kind of staying power. Perhaps a sidewalk crowd bowed to their cellphones will become quaint in 50 years when e-mails are delivered directly to our brains.
In any case, documenting everyday life is a worthwhile pursuit for just about anyone.

Rob said "In my view, cell phones will be the ruination of street photography. Almost everyone on the street seems to be fixated on them much of the time--head down, arm extended and the cell phone commanding the viewer's eye. Gone are opportunities to capture intriguing expressions, postures and gestures. Gone are shots of personal interactions between or amongst people."

As a counterpoint, Lee Friedlander is still out there walking the streets of New York, taking street photos. His recent work features cell-phone walkers as part of the subject (according to a recent New York Times article by Teju Cole).

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/26/magazine/lee-friedlander-captures-the-citys-hustle-and-flow.html?_r=0

...and for a while I was running a Tumblr of people-on-phones in Montreal, but I haven't added to it in some time.
http://montrealvillemobile.tumblr.com/

(My point being that phone-droning can be a subject worth exploring.)

Simon Griffee wrote, "I think I do it because it is a sort of meditation..."

Yes, exactly. I swear, that's at least 50% of the attraction of street photography for me. I think I'd go crazy if I didn't have those times of focus and flow.

Gary:
It sounds like your FM3a shutter is sticking. Normally, an SLR mirror will not come down until the shutter is closed; the shutter on closing completely will actuate the mirror return mechanism. If the shutter is sticking open, or does not quite close, (though it might look closed) the mirror will stay up.

Has the shutter been damaged, even slightly? Either way, this is a job for a good repairer. Nice camera, the FM3a.

Back to street photography:
I tried taking candid shots at a local zombie pub crawl a couple of years ago. My big mistake was using the rig here, which is a bit conspicuous. (Start at 'With a Strange Device' then there's one picture on each of the 2nd to 10th posts above)

The undead often spotted the camera immediately and were all too keen to have their photos taken. I ended up with lots of the sort of shot seen on social media, though of generally better quality.....

I did have some luck, though, even if some were posed.


I am guessing the guy with the gun was an actor waiting for a scene to start. He looks too archetypally 'mafia' to be a real hit-man. He also looks strangely familiar.

Of course I could be wrong.

>>What about those who were not aware you were photographing them, but would have objected had they been aware what you were doing?

I don't take candid photos of people whom I have good reason to believe would object, such as Muslims or the Amish, or people obviously engaged in criminal activity. Other than that, why be overly concerned about a possible negative reaction? Isn't it just as possible that someone could have a positive reaction or wouldn't care either way?

Photography became more than a hobby for me after reading "The Eye of Eisenstaedt". After a career that ranged from shooting Weddings,Journalism. Lab Owner, and Head of a small University Photo Department, retirement took me back to my beginning. I rediscovered what drew me to photography in the first place, people.

Spending the day on my favorite Market street in Paris allows me to document joy, laughter, anger, violence, entertainment, parenthood, hunger, and the infinite other conditions only the human expression can convey. Nothing is ever static. My heavy bags are long gone. I move freely.

The only times I've personally felt in danger was when making the mistake of shooting the workers in small traveling Carnival's that dot the Midwest. After a close encounter with one subject that more than threatened my well being, I came to understand that certain people find the life of a Carnie a safe place of refuge. Photographer's can be most unwelcome. Small Traveling Circus's are much the same. I now always seek out the Show Manager first, usually receive permission after promising to check with each worker before shooting their activity's.

Jay Maisel.

>I am guessing the guy with the gun was an actor waiting for a scene to start
Possibly. Whatever he is, he is at the least careless, and almost certainly untrained regarding firearms. Note his index finger inside the trigger guard, on the trigger. Unless his intention is to shoot the ground imminently, this is remarkably sloppy.

Basic gun safety is that you don't touch the trigger until you have the sights lined up on the target and are prepared to shoot. Resting your finger on the trigger for no good reason, as cell-phone guy is doing, leads to negligent discharges, stuff getting broken, and people getting hurt or even killed. Seeing someone acting as cell-phone guy is doing makes me cringe. Not because of the handgun, but because his behavior is stupid, sloppy, unprofessional, and dangerous.

I really think that Man with gun and phone should spawn a caption competition - the mind really does boggle!

“If you're a devoted street photographer, why do you do it?”

Serendipity.

One of the things I really like about street photography and its close cousin, documentary photography, is the close relationship between the images captured and the personality of the photographer. For example, I love the books by Martin Parr (www.martinparr.com/), a UK photographer who has a penchant for poking gentle fun at his subjects. The images of Fred Herzog (www.equinoxgallery.com/artists/portfolio/fred-herzog) show an artist with a keen eye and a love of his gritty native Vancouver of the 1950's. In the same school as Martin Parr, there's Tony Ray Jones (www.americansuburbx.com/2013/07/tony-ray-jones-a-day-off-an-english-journal-1974.html) who specialized in poking fun at the English while preserving a world now mostly lost to Americanization. Then, there's my favourite of all, James Ravilious, who documented the last gasp of the English rural farming community life with love and compassion (www.jamesravilious.com/)


Getting here very late (as usual). Many excellent comments on your fine essay, Gordon! Your book is a good runway to help beginners launch into the hobby. And that “Man With a Gun” is s quite a jarring image! A film set scene?

”Have I overlooked anything?” Naw. But may I add a few disjointed thoughts?

First, in reply to Bill Mitchell: “…where is the market for this stuff? Even the very best?” Not to be discouraging but there is virtually none. The market for free-standing (non-documentary) candid street work was never strong but essentially closed when Garry Winogrand died in 1984. You can get a very good read on the situation by looking at Phillips’s auction sales for Winogrand prints. (Phillips is the preeminent house for auctions of photographic works today.) No, the production and appreciation of contemporary “street photography” is nearly entirely the domain of amateur photographers.

But don’t let that discourage you! Recording a unique candid moment in space and time is the highest calling for any camera and its owner. It’s a testimony that the camera is uniquely qualified to produce. It’s a far higher calling than recording synthetically staged scenes. And the supreme accomplishment within that mission is to capture such moments in an expressive manner that piques viewers’ curiosities, makes them laugh, and/or enables them to see into another perspective dimension. And, as Gordon and others have noted, it’s damn hard to do well.

“If you’re a devoted street photographer, why do you do it?”
I must confess that I do not consider myself a “street” photographer. Rather, I’m a photographer who often works in the streets. The distinction might seem semantic or rhetorical but it’s quite real. I am not, for example, searching mainly to capture people and their behavior on the street. Rather, I’m looking for interesting visual and spacial relationships, most of which feature people but not necessarily in more than a supporting role. As such, I do not look for compositions in the classical painterly sense. My compositions are generally formed from relationships of elements in the frame; gesture, relative sizes, spacial relationships, tonal or emotional relationships. Wandering around slowly with open eyes is the main technique. But hanging around interesting places and waiting for light is equally effective.

If you want to know more about my schtick Italian photographer and writer Alex Coghe did a good interview of me for Leica in 2012. Even better, just go to my site (linked to my name below) and just let the main page slide show run. It will give you a pretty comprehensive tour of my work.

But enough about me. Those interested in street photography’s longer—than-you-probably-thought history might enjoy Bystander: A History of Street Photography by Joel Meyerowitz and Colin Westerbeck. The team of a former goggles-on street snapper and an art historian/curator created an excellent, and perhaps the definitive reference on the subject. It’s long been out of print but can still be had for an almost-reasonable price on the secondary market.

Thanks Gordon for such a thought-provoking essay.

I concur with Michael Chuang regarding the unprofessional way the guy is holding the gun. I noticed that right away, and I'm a Canadian. :-)

Would Jesus have his father's number on his phone?

I do a lot of traveling to foreign countries. When I get somewhere I haven't been to I ask the locals how they feel about having their photo taken by a "street photographer". If the prevailing opinion is they hate it or it might be dangerous I take that into consideration.

Say I am in a town or country where doing normal street photography might make me extremely unpopular and/or a target for violence (yes it's happened). In that case I ask permission before shooting. Naturally these photos are more in the line of environmental portraits. These can be great too. Think of the famous Afghan girl image. I have been in countries where the locals love having their photos taken and once they notice you will do all kinds of laughable things for your camera. Most of those images are deletes but it goes a long way to ingratiating yourself with the people on the street. If you are spending a few days in one location the word gets around pretty quickly about your activities. It's best if it's a good vibe. Generally I have found that if the locals in one area get to know you, doing actual "street photography" becomes possible.

In countries or towns where they are not freaked out by cameras and/or photographers then it's nice and easy. Like Gordon I don't slink around, I just do my thing and if a conversation ensues all the better. I love chatting with people I meet on the street. My street photography has enriched me far more with the people I meet and talk to than the images I have created.

Street photography is not about streets: its about photographing people (and their artifacts) in public places (without posing).

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

Street photography is not documentary photography. Street photography is not reportage. Street photography is about the image you take. Winogrand was a street photographer not a documentary photographer.

A tip for those wanting to try it but not having worked up the courage is to go big or go small:

Go Big! Use a DSLR. With a flash on even if you don't use it ("he must be a reporter"). Wear a bright shirt. Be obvious. Look like a tourist. Look like you mean to be there. Be gregarious. Or pretend not the speak English.

Go small! Use a small camera (like a Ricoh GR or GRD or even a smartphone). Use the the display on the back to frame. Hold the camera low (belly height) or over your head. Keep it away from your eye. Go wide. Get in close (especially in busy places). Hold your ground. Go places where people are distracted.

One Capitol Hill in Seattle we have a few street photographers. After a while you start to bump into them on the street. A nod. A "hi". An exchange of URLs. An introduction to the other locals.

For those thinking that cellphones are ruining everything: smartphones at night make a very interesting light source on the subject. Every cloud has a silver lining.

In Seattle like New Orleans, the polite people duck out of the way to "not block your shot". You can avoid that by not having the camera at your eye: the universal signal of "I'm taking a photo". Either bring it up to make the shot or use the EVF on the back. You need to be more invisible.

Getting caught is always good for an interesting expression but you'll often only get one shot but that's all you need.

Be ready with a compliment. "Hey. Nice hat!". It knocks them off balance. Make eye contact.

Set your preview to black and white. Art photography is in black and white. The annoyed can see you are an artist.

Tell them you shoot on film.

Tell them you're interested in the light and not in them. Usually that really is the case. It takes some though to determine.

I concur with the "bad gun handling position". Keep the finger off the trigger. Given the "open carry" laws in the East I'm guessing this is an actor with a replica. The question in my mind is "Is he left handed or right handed?". Well, how lucky do you feel, punk? Nice shot! It made my day.

Much so-called street photography is really just clumsy voyeurism. There are those that are good at it, but they're dwarfed by the others, who now seem to be everywhere, choking the Internet with images devoid of meaning. I don't get it.
If I never see another shot of random people in a subway station, it will still be too soon.

Sorry to spoil the party, but honestly I really think anyone with a friend could ask him to pose like the guy with a gun..... there is nothing "street" in the photo. Maybe Gordon had taken great risk in shooting the picture, but to me, it looks like I can repeat the same picture without drama right away..... I like Gordon and his work and his site, but not this picture....

My own experience after years of walking Tokyo streets praying to elicit something more than poker faces from the passing salarymen, is a growing disgust with street photography, as I have practiced it. Simply put street work in the big developed, modern cities of the world is no fun at all, fraught with legal injunctions and the concept of the "Almighty EGO". Fortunately India, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Burma offer a whole different experience, and one understands why Alex Webb spent so much time in the tropics...

@Joe Holmes

One other detail: I hate it when I see photographers grab a shot and then slink away as if they've committed some perversion.
Yes! Actually, I saw Alex Majoli comment on this, but his language was exquisite. In his words, when the photographer makes a picture, and the subject notices, the photographer dishonours the subject by turning away, and this is what breaks there trust between them. Turning away, pretending not to be making pictures, that what you're doing deserves concealing, is not honourable, provokes that uneasy sense.

Incidentally Joe, maybe 10 years ago I used to open up joesnyc.com as the first thing I did on arriving to work each day (I used to work for travel book company, Lonely Planet). I didn't think of it as "street photography" then either, but I always loved your work and it was a big inspiration to me.

@Ed Hawko: "Rob said 'In my view, cell phones will be the ruination of street photography. Almost everyone on the street seems to be fixated on them much of the time--head down, arm extended and the cell phone commanding the viewer's eye. Gone are opportunities to capture intriguing expressions, postures and gestures. Gone are shots of personal interactions between or amongst people.'

As a counterpoint, Lee Friedlander is still out there walking the streets of New York, taking street photos. His recent work features cell-phone walkers as part of the subject (according to a recent New York Times article by Teju Cole)."

I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that street photos of people doing things with cell phones will get old very fast. I'll also predict that Friedlander will never choose this as a subject again.

Joe Holmes:

> Yes, exactly. I swear, that's at least 50% of the attraction of street photography for me. I think I'd go crazy if I didn't have those times of focus and flow.

I would, too. Photography is what keeps me sane!

Regarding louis' remark that street shooters that use tele are creepy, I'd suggest that at most some of them _might_ be.

For example, the beloved Saul Leiter made a number of his exquisite painting-like street photographs with people in it using a tele.

@Steve Caddy -- Thanks!

After I read @Ken Tanaka's comments, I wanted to say, Exactly! I'm less interested in shooting the typical people-in-action street photos than finding that fantastic juxtaposition of light, shape, gesture, and quirky detail. There should be a term for that subcategory of street photography that Ken describes.

Not to mention the street/stranger portraiture of photographers like Jacques Sonck http://nyti.ms/1GteXRE Bruce Wrighton http://bit.ly/1ejt2WI and so many others.

OK, this is the rare case, where I wanted to write a longer comment, and almost finished. Then I closed the tab, before sending, because this battery driven mouse lagged. Really cool, I am not angry, I am not angry. I should go out and shoot some... street.

Halleluja! Google chrome restored my input, which I thought lost (see previous comment), with CTRL-SHIFT-T, even without lazarus plugin. How cool is that...

I do it (these days way too rarely) for several reasons, which in the end are only auto-narratives, but still: The ambivalence between my despise towards the human race and my sympathy for individuals can be good fuel for street photography. Approaching someone with the camera is a little bit like approaching myself, a mirror, the other within. Still, the camera remains a barrier, although the most transparent (therefor my need for window-finders!). Striving the streets with the camera, which still resembles a weapon, is like visiting a cafe: being alone inside the crowd. I like both. Being the hunter, and still shy and anxious to *shoot* (Susan Sontag said: "There is an aggression implicit in every use of the camera." This is especially true for street photography, despite the usage of pictures by the state and corporate officials.)
This shyness is never to be fully vanquished. And so, I think, this type of photography, is an endless walk around the center of my consciousness, never arriving.

And then, there is this meditative component, at its best when it happens that I get the famous flow. Then, not only the camera is transparent, but my surrounding and finally myself as well. Which doesn't automatically translate into good photos (ones that I like), but that is not the only purpose.

So far about the individual and social aspects, but then I also think about street photography's place within the world of (visual) art.
What I just don't get is the broad consensus, that street photographs must tell a story. I don't think so, and I even think that maybe street photography is the ultimate visual realization of the (post-)modern attitude. To quote the Satan in Flaubert's Tentation: "There is no purpose."

IS THERE ANY DIGITAL CAMERA (including Leica) that can actually do what the cheapest film cameras could?
Early seventies - I was a street photographer in Manhattan (I thought I was just strolling and taking pictures of people). My "Marlboro pack sized" Rollei .. 40mm lens on a wrist strap, pre-focused to provide (dof) a sharp image from 4 to 15(?) feet, estimated (f8 1/250 sec.) exposure dialed in, lift right hand pointed toward subject and shoot. Either smile & wave or run.

All of the above can happen with numerous digital cams - except the last and most crucial bit. Instant shutter response. Apparently (please jump in here - everyone) every digital (battery powered) camera goes to sleep and requires a wake-up before shooting. That's 3-8 seconds - gone.
I'm looking for knowledge from TOP's readers .. what are your experiences?

I'll have an unpopular view, but I think Winogrand definitely and to some extent Friedlander are the cause of the endless parade of boring internet street shots. Because when the boring pictures from these guys are celebrated as art, for some reason other people begin to think, hey anybody can do this.


Random pictures of people walking- the same pictures you can take day in and day out at the same location- sans any sense of composition, and just using photographic cliches of juxtaposing ironic street signs, are simply banal.

(No, I don't have to be a good photographer myself in order to have an opinion)

Something done with originality, with a unique eye, like Erwitt or Bresson or Maier can make your skin tingle.

But random shots that say nothing with strangers as subjects- and at that harmless strangers such as kids or old ladies or bums- and in the cliche city of NY where nobody pays attention to you anyway- are cheap and easy, and eventually a turn off.

Gabe you can set the sleep time (time before sleep) in settings usually, and you can keep the camera active and ready with the occasional half press.

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