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Monday, 23 August 2021


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Hi, Mike. Thanks for linking to my post and I'll be interested in what other photographers have to say about the "tap on the shoulder" idea.

Here's one from yesterday, because I have to have one being it was a holiday and all. I wanna caption it: "I'm on the call, and I'll be in the office shortly, but I feel like I'm forgetting something."

Loved Kenneth's idea, very fun post. If I take it to heart it will greatly reduce my boring photo production.

Kenneth came up with a very valid guideline. Please, no more people walking by signs- or people just walking for that matter! Yes, there's got to be a moment, coincidence, tragedy, joy, frivolity, consequence that brings about a smile, a nod, an acknowledgement of that which is unique in life- and worth sharing.

I tried yesterday, as on any other day, but in the end just chalked it up as another day when the fish weren't biting (and harder to find in this ever more elusive Covid Era). So I went for the groceries and just managed to juggle the GR with the grocery bags on the way home. Jury's still out though...


Why should your choice of a street photo be decided and judged by what others think of it?

I don't think HCB had a friend to give an opinion when he shot that now famous "Decisive Moment".

Alternatively, a photo about something I need to see. A message, as opposed to something interesting. I’ll come away interested and wiser.

From that Kenneth Wajda essay: "Good editors make the best photographers." Oh yes.

The flip side to this is that not everyone has an eye for framing a scene (otherwise there would be better street photography), so I wouldn’t expect just any friend to recognize a worthy picture opportunity. When I took the Paris picture Mike published years ago (with pigeon), I doubt anyone near me would have understood what the heck I was framing.


I agree that much street photography these days is questionable and boring, but shooting obvious and easily recognizable subject matter can be the same, burning car or not.

While I understand what Kenneth is saying with his article, I don't fully agree with him. Personally I find, even the street photographs that are considered good, quite boring. Peter Turnly was mentioned, and I have looked at a bunch of his pictures. They mostly leaves me cold. I do acknowledge that he is very good at what he does, but it's not for me. On the other hand, I do love the more graphical shots from a city (Also those from Turnly). Buildings, people, animals, light, shadow, water, junk and decay forming patterns and shapes. But most of these shots would not justify a tap on the shoulder if my friend was there in person. They mostly come to life as part of the picture taking process. Revealing what most people would never see if they were there. The car on fire was just too obvious for me. Seen it in the newspaper more times than I can remember.

So, my point is that we all like different things. It may be a bit harsh to dismiss all pictures of a stair with a poster at the top as bad. Most of them probably are, but not because of the subject itself. As can be said about all genres of photography, or art. But I can guarantee that there are a lot of people who likes pictures taken on the street without telling a story about the people pictured there.

As I write this, I have two pictures on the wall in front of me (posters, not originals). Both put there by my wife. One is "Le petite parisien 1952" by Willy Ronis. A fun moment, just like many of the photos of my kids, but really nothing special to me. The other is "A small town in Oregon, Late fall 1959" by G. Lowe. That one I love, but not mainly because of the story. It's the light and tonality that does it for me. My wife though, she loves them both for the story. We're different..

I am not sure Kenneth's definition of "street photography" is inclusive enough. Many of Henri Cartier-Bresson's images would not qualify ( e.g., the jump, the bicyclist in the alley, the girl running up the stairs) because they are "decisive moments" for which a tap on the shoulder would not work. Likewise, many of the images of Saul Leiter, Alex Web, Harry Gruyaert and others do not meet his requirements because their appeal is more graphic or artistic than interpersonal or amusing.

All this shows is that "street photography" defies any tight definition. But I do agree with him that the vast majority of "street" images posted online are painfully uninteresting.

I didn't intentionally go out to make photos and my intake was pretty poor. In the spirit of participation I did take this picture of the Tuileries garden in summer sun, with people going about life in an almost pre-covid way. There's a man in the bottom right of frame who is in the foreground looking on the scene, just enjoying it unfold.

The photo is probably best served in fullres (link here).


I agree there’s too much “empty” street photographs being posted everyday everywhere. I also agree that the approach Kenneth suggests has the potential to give solid results as long as the composition is layered and interesting too (otherwise it risks becoming a unidimensional photo of a single thing).

But I wouldn’t go so far as saying it has to be something blatantly deserving attention, even if that can work like shown on some of the photos of the article (wich I have to say are excellent specimens of street photographs). It sure is a way to approach street photography, but the genre can’t be reduced to just that - after all there’s a lot of “look at that” street photographs around that catch our immediate attention but are like fast food (usually humorous images which don’t give much else after that easy joke or story).

Since it was HCB birthday I was looking at some of my favorite street photographs of his, and a lot of them weren’t “look at that moments”. The visual poetry, interesting composition, the relationship of the elements on the frame and the open meaning, made us not only look but also think about some of his images, made them stay on our minds.

I went out Saturday with every intention of going out on Sunday, but we are in a heat bubble here in Florida, with triple digit "feels like" temperatures, based on the humidity and real temperature. It's just too hot to be out after about 9:00 am. Saturday, I was soaked in perspiration, wringing my shirt out within an hour and I started at 7:30 am.

When I start seeing advertising for pumpkin spice flavored coffee at the major chain donut shop in town, I'll be going out more. By Halloween, it should be down in the high 80s.

I understand what you (and Kenneth) are saying, but is this not a bit short of the mark? There are some street pictures (the best) that on initial sight look like nothing, but as you look more closely, more and more is seen. And there are those moments that would be over long before you had any chance to tap someone of the shoulder. HCB’s book are full of examples, as are many others. How the photographer can see something that will reward deeper introspection, or is still about to happen, is a mystery to me. Trying to unravel that mystery is why I try to produce ‘street photography’.

Depends on your definition of street, I suppose. I got some beautiful shots of the lake behind the hotel I work at just before sunrise.

This one for example:

Well I did not take a Street Photograph yesterday. We went for a short hike in a very nice forest on the edge of our town and I got some shots of... forest and trees. However, I think I might like a couple of them, so, I should not complain.

I do very much like Kenneth Wajda's test for a street photograph. It really puts in words what I've been feeling about so many so called "street shots" I see on all the various photo platforms and, of course, it's a test I should start to apply to my own social media posts! I may not like the answers I get when I do that but I think we all know that sometimes a new, critical look at our own work is not a bad thing to do more often than not.

I didn't get out yesterday because of the weather but I took this today (Monday). For me, street photography is often about people, fleeting moments, and gesture.

I'm reminded of Cartier-Bresson's photo of the cyclist cycling round a curve in the street at the bottom of a curved staircase. There's nothing really attention grabbing in the scene, at least for me, but it is a great photo. It's the composition which grabs and holds my attention, a near perfection of form in the mundane.

Gary Winogrand said he photgraphed things in order to see what they looked like in photographs. He had it right. Cartier-Bresson wasn't interested in what was going on in the scene, he was interested in how the photograph would look. He arranged all of the street elements in the frame and it was still uninteresting, then he waited for something to happen within the frame that made the composition arresting. There's absolutely nothing interesting going on in the scene but there's a lot that's interesting in the photograph.

Bad street photographs aren't bad because what the scene shown isn't interesting, there's more than a few great street photographs of mundane scenes. Bad photographs, whether they're street photographs or any other kind of photograph, fail due to photographer failure, not scene or subject failure. The problem always lies with the photographer's own choices, the things which determine what the photograph looks like, and not with what is in front of the lens.

I don't think good photographers are much better than the rest of us at knowing whether or not a scene is interesting. What they're better than us at is knowing what might make an interesting photograph. That's why they get fewer misses and better hits.

I don’t know if the criteria of tapping one’s friend, or wife on the shoulder for positive input should make a picture good, or worth taking.
Sometimes there are elements in the subject, it’s lighting or colors that make it interesting. Every picture I’ve seen by Peter Turnley. I’ve liked and would frame, but I’m sure of all my friends, and family, many would not see what I see. I know I have many pictures that I’ve taken and there’s head scratching!
Also, I have to confess, I just don’t know how to use that code for posting a picture! Do I type the entire line, including the word comment into the comments box? Then how do I summon my picture to appear and be part of my comment?
Fred, ;(who is easily confused!)

To an extent I agree, but not on the entirety of Ken's post. When you tap someone on the shoulder and say, take a look, it works if the matter before your friend takes up his whole field of vision. But as photographers we are trained to look for those things that wouldn't be apparent to everyone. Find those little nanoseconds in time, in this little compressed space that most people would overlook.

Even in landscape photography, which is more contemplative, if you said to many people "look over here," they'd have no idea what attracted you. That, of course, doesn't mean you haven't chosen a intimate part of the landscape that most people would pass right by.

It's true that a lot of "street photography" is boring and seems to have little point. But the "decisive moment" may only be there for an instant. By the time you tap your friend on the shoulder it's gone.

It's one consideration, but there are others', like Gary Winogrand's: “Photography is not about the thing photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed.”

and other quotes from him:


What you might say to a friend who taps you on the shoulder to ask you why the hell you’re taking a picture of that?

“ A picture is about what’s photographed and how that exists in the photograph – so that’s what we’re talking about. What can happen in a frame? Because photographing something changes it.

—Gary Winogrand

Thankfully, I can celebrate 'street photography' almost everyday. Each morning I drive to the East Yorkshire coast, arriving around dawn. Hornsea, Bridlington, Filey, Scarborough and Whitby are all within an hours drive.

I've been photographing the urban landscape here for the past eight years. Away from the promenade with its fair-ground rides and the bright lights lies some of the of the most socially deprived areas in the country.

I seldom photograph people—that's one of the reasons I get up so early. I wander around for an hour, searching for the incongruent and the humorous, though I must confess I can't resist photographing a beautiful sunrise or two.

Anyway, here's a link to a photograph I made yesterday in Bridlington fish-quay, famous for its lobsters and crab. It's a working environment so pedestrians must use the overhead walkway.

Here the forklift driver is delivering crates of fish-heads to the boat to be used as bait in the lobster pots. Maybe its not the best example of my photography as critical viewers will no doubt point out the distortion and the fact you cannot see the drivers head. Or maybe that was my reason for keeping the photograph!


Since a lot of 'Street Photography seeks to isolate and call attention to interesting scenes and juxtapositions and essentially says 'Look at This' Kenneth's measure is certainly one interesting way to think about it. Although it seems a bit dependent on who you happen to be walking with...........literally or figuratively.

It also seems like 'too much thinking' to be done in the moment. Perhaps better used in a later review of the take.

But if it works for you, that is a good thing. It also seems like a good reminder to keep a certain standard.
It does seem to work for Kenneth, because his pictures are good.

So at the very least, it is good food for thought.
Thanks, I enjoyed it.

This happened to me today. On a neighborhood FB group someone posted a photo, not sure why it was there, but it was beautiful.
Deep colors and dark areas balancing them.
The first comment was “ What am I looking at?”
( Can I submit screengrab?)
It’s kind of like the virtuoso violinist in the Metro. No one expects that so they
don’t pay attention.

Taken on the streets of Haarlem, The Netherlands.

Hi Mike,
Here's my contribution to street photography day.


On Whyte Avenue in Edmonton, Alberta.

Best Regards,


I was unable to go out to take photos on Aug 22, but here's one I took on Aug 20: https://www.flickr.com/photos/70838568@N08/51392540757/in/dateposted-public/

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