One thing that always (mostly) works well in Street Photography is capturing moments. No, not the right timing and not the Henry Cartier-Bresson “decisive” moment, but rather a moment where emotions can be read in people’s faces. A moment between two people or a moment when someone realizes something or notices something and you can see it in their face.
These moments can be difficult to catch as they are often fleeting moments. One must be ready, and quick. Or, one must be stealthy and maneuver into place and then get the shot knowing you will only fire one or two off before they notice you and the moment will be gone. They can also be difficult because the perceived moment we see in real life will not always transfer into the final image. Sometimes the lighting will cause problems or perhaps the subjects face will not transfer or display emotions well when captured in camera.
Here are two examples of moments shot this past weekend. The above one is a calm, caring moment between two young people in love. The background and location help set a story for you to read into. In this case I had to do the stealthy thing and be ready as I approached. Amazingly I was able to fire 5 or 6 shots and continued on my way and I’m not sure if they even noticed me.
In this example I was chatting with Ian and the camera was hanging from my neck. On and ready. All of a sudden, this woman started yelling at this man. Keep in mind this is in Chinatown close to the Vancouver East Side. We had seen and heard a lot of people yelling for no reason all day. After a few short yells she grabbed him as it was time for him to take the family photo in front of the pond. They were both so loud and animated at the very beginning. As they were so close it was startling at first but then the “get this shot” got in my head. I quickly fired off two shots before the event was all over.
This is the other kind of moment where something dramatic happens and all you can do is react quickly to catch it. The gestures here play an important role in telling the story.
The exposure was not perfect as I was set to underexpose by one and a half stops as I was working on “shadows”. But, still managed a workable grab. You can never set this kind of stage!!
I just completed a two and a half day workshop with Fuji-X Street Photographer Ian MacDonald. A full day of class split between Friday evening and Sunday afternoon and a full day and a half of walking the streets.
Ian talked about Street Photography, what it is, the art of, skills, techniques, camera settings, how he does things, what to shoot and what to look for. We did some drills and practiced some techniques and had some time to photograph on our on and some one on one time with Ian to get personal help. We also had Q&A session throughout all three days. Sunday afternoon we finished with showing fellow classmates some of our images and having everyone critique and discuss images. It was a fabulous two and a half days of Street Photography immersion, meeting new friends, improving our skills and gaining street confidence. Thanks Ian for the great workshop! Ian’s workshops sell out and he just recently announced a third Vancouver workshop. He also has workshops in Paris and Toronto and has some excellent must read articles on his bog. Check him out at ianmacdonaldphotography.com.
I’ll post a few images of mine from the sessions in the next few days. These here are all of classmates at work!!
The issue with Street Photography is that it is many things to many people. It has varying degrees of uncertainty in its definitions based on the over abundance of bad definitions you can garner off the web. Part of this confusion comes from the ‘history’ of Street Photography. When was the genre started? Is any image that includes a street, ‘Street Photography?’ Or, does it need to have people? Or, is there more to it than that?
Making matters worse is that many people look at Street Photography, not as a ‘genre’, but rather as a ‘way’, a ‘mindset’ as it were. When you approach Street Photography as a mindset, things change drastically. A part of this mindset group is pushing away from Street Photography as a ‘genre.’ This causes further confusion. So, where do we start?
It would seem logical to start with the history of Street Photography except for the fact that historically, no one knows when Street Photography started? As some would suggest it started with the very first photo ever taken, “View from Window at LeGras” (1827) by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (1765 – 1833); others would suggest it started with the very first capture of a person on the Streets with the famous “Boulevard du Temple” (1839) by Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre (1787 – 1851).
Both, depending on your definition, are incorrect examples. Interestingly, many of those that attribute Street Photography as a ‘mindset’ also attribute either (or both) of these images as the first Street Photography images ever taken. And, again, this is plainly wrong.
In looking at either of these images we need to look at ‘intent’. The intent of both of these images, and expected results, were not Street Photography, and neither were they photographed with the mindset of Street Photography. In Niépce’s image he had never accomplished getting a successful image. He was not a photographer doing photography, he was a scientist experimenting with capturing anything. He succeeded and created the now oldest image ever made “View from Window at LeGras.” His intent, was to capture something, anything, in the emulsion on his pewter plate. As his large camera was in his research lab, or studio as it was called, he aimed it out the window where the sun was bright. He knew he needed a lot of light. He knew and understood that the image would require an extremely long exposure. No notes have been found on the exact length of time, but it is proposed to be around eight hours. Note also that as a ‘subject’, he photographed rooftops which could be considered Urban Landscapes, but if you consider Street Photography to be a mindset, Niepce’s mindset was not set on Urban Landscape or Street Photography but rather on the Scientific Research and capturing something, ANYTHING.
If it is the Street Photographers purpose to capture ANYTHING, then yes, I suppose we are ALL Street Photographers.
In Daguerre’s example, he also, was experimenting with his new image capturing process, the Daguerrotype. He also knew that he required long exposures and he assumed he would not capture any people, horses, or carts. And, much like Niepce’s image, it was convenient for him to just point it out the window. He did manage to capture ‘the Street’ but again, his intention was to capture something well. He knew he was going to capture something as he had already done experimental images and he was refining his process. With the second image he took on this particular day he lucked out. A pedestrian gentleman had stopped to get a shoe shine from a street vendor. Because his legs and shoes were stationary for an extended period, his legs were captured, and because of lack of movement they were reasonably sharp and the rest of his body was blurred as the gentleman had moved his upper torso around for the exposure. Again, all for scientific purposes. He had not yet set his mind to ‘art’ or even to Street Photography at this time. Not with exposures of 20 to 30 minutes that it took to properly expose Daguerreotypes in those days.
Anyone that argues that this is Street Photography, including all those that propose it is a mindset, are reducing Street Photography to the simple notion that Street Photography must include a person, on the street. That is all that was accomplished here. Its an ultra long exposure of many people on a street but again the intent, was to capture a scene, so that it could be analyzed afterwards to see how successful the final image was in the way of chemicals used, tonal range, exposure, sharpness and so on. A success no doubt, but NOT street photography by any definition.
So, if these are NOT street photography? Then what images are? What are the first ever ‘intended’ street photographs ever taken? There are several thoughts on this. In Part 02, we’ll examine the works of Charles Nègre and a few others before we move on to other definitions.
See you on the defining streets!
We have just updated the ‘work in progress’ list. We will add many more of the masters to this list of Street Photographers and more Modern-Day Street Photographers also. The goal is to have the 52 most relevant Street Photographer or Artists that have influenced Street Photography. I already have about 8 more masters to add to the list and about 15 more modern day Street Photographers. If you have a favorite you would like to share, or someone you think we may have missed, please let us know.
About the List
The list will eventually have the 10 to 12 most influential photographers every Street Photographer should know based on the photographers relevance and influence to Street Photography.
Then the list will highlight another 40 or so influencers for a total of 52. One a week for a year of studies! These may include modern day photographers that are already making an impact.
The list will include many more as it aims to be a fairly complete list of reference over time.
As we continue to work on the list, we will include short 2 or 3 sentence descriptions of the influences each photographer has made to the world of Street Photography. We may also list a few other relevant links including videos for the top 52.
We try our best to find relevant links but many of the past masters do not have dedicated pages. Perhaps it’s something the Street Photography community could work on. A good example of this is Paul Augustus Martin. Doing a Google search brings up very few results and no direct links to a page. If you know of better sites or links to pages that describe the lives of the photographers, please let us know. Thanks.
The list can be found [here].
Nick Turpin’s statement
“Now I understand that ‘Street Photography’ is just ‘Photography’ in its simplest form…..”
Is probably the single biggest hogwash statement I have ever heard when it comes to describing ANY form of photography. There is nothing about ‘Street Photography’ that is simple or simplistic, or basic in its values, processes, composition, or artistic elements.
His notion that a child spontaneously pushing a button on a camera, perhaps photographing their sibling, or their favorite toy, or unknowingly, whatever is just in front of the camera, is “Street Photography”, is way off mark to the point of being silly.
That would be like suggesting that any beginner using a paintbrush for the very first time is the purest form of painting, even if it’s a purple shade of Benjamin Moore for a small bathroom. Or, that any mindless pen or pencil doodle on a napkin is the purest form of unhindered carnal art.
The base of “Street Photography” is Photography. The camera, is the medium, the tool, much like a painter uses Paint and Brush. To suggest that a child’s first view through a viewfinder is at its base Street Photography is much like suggesting that a child’s first painted “stick person” is the base of “Fine Art Abstract Nudes”. There is NO correlation, one does not lead to the other.
Keep in mind that Street Photography is an art. As such, when looking through the viewfinder the street photographer composes. Even when blindly shooting from the hip, the street photographer looks at backgrounds and makes decisions. This is after looking at the main subject and making decisions on when to shoot the decisive moment. These are NOT mindless, thoughtless snapshots. And, at all times, the Street Photographer thinks about art, creating amazing images. Never an easy task in such a fluid environment.
Another problem with the statement is that the same can be said of almost any art or any photographic genre. The principles of Sports Photography are as pure as are the skills required. Timing is everything. Sports photographers capture “decisive moments” even more so than most street photographers. When working with models in Fashion Photography, or Portraiture, or Wildlife, it’s the same “raw reaction” and “primitive urge to react” to the scene in front of the photographer that is at the heart of what they are doing. So, ALL forms of Photography are0 Fashion Photography, or is that, Wildlife Photography??
I understand the need, or the want, to think of your art form as being the purest art form, but one should toss any of those thoughts aside. Nick’s example of the very first photo ever taken, “View from Window at Le Gras”
Is another fine example that he has not thought through. He gets it wrong right from the get go. The image maker, Nicephore Niepce, was a scientist. His simplest purest thoughts were to achieve making an image, ANY image, and, as his equipment was in his Laboratory, and large, he pointed it out the window. He did this NOT because the view of rooftops was better, but because there was more sunlight out the window than there was in his Laboratory or Workshop. As a scientist he knew and understood that the extra light was required for what he new would be a rather long exposure. His exposure was in the neighborhood of eight hours. You can’t capture life with 8 hour exposures, but you could capture a picture of a street.
One of his readers rightly states that by defining Street Photography as he does merely simplifies Street Photography down to “nothing”. If Street Photography ‘is’ Photography, every form of, genre of, artistic abstract of photography, then any image taken by a monkey, or chicken, is Street Photography. I think not. Street Photography is so much more than merely pointing a camera with no purpose and pushing a button.
He further tries to correct his statement by defending himself when he accuses a reader of “misreading him.” The readers have not misread him, they have read him very well. It is Nick that has not described his intents very well.
In reading this, and other similarly bad examples given by different Street Photographers, I have pondered why they make these statements? What drives them. I think there are several things to look at that may lead to answers. Another reader of Nicks suggested the “elitism” is partly to blame. This is very true of Street Photography. How can an average Street Photographer, or even a top notch Street Photographer, distinguish themselves from the rest of the world doing Street Photography? In this day and age, it is no easy task.
Well, they start off by laying claim to their art as being the purest form of Photography, even to the point of saying;
“Street Photography is the Prime Mover, the evolutionary inheritance of all Photography.”
This partly comes from other things artists do when trying to differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack, they push boundaries. I think that many photographers have lost sight of the boundaries. Pushing boundaries means amongst other things;
“To take undue risks, esp. through overconfidence, thus risking failure.”
It is the pushing of artistic boundaries within the context, NOT changing the context, to suit your artistic needs. It’s the “Fake News” of photography. Deciding that photos of dogs posed on a chair in a studio is Street Photography, does not make it Street Photography, no matter how many times you say it, who you can convince to say it for you, or how famous you are. Now, its possible that your very naïve clients may agree with you and buy your dog images as Street Photography, but its still not Street Photography.
Many Street Photographers have tried pushing the boundaries of the definition of what Street Photography is versus pushing themselves to push the boundaries of their own Street Photography Art. In the way of pushing the definition, they have failed miserably. Many that have taken this route have NOT pushed the boundaries of their art but rather have lazily attempted to change definitions to suit themselves. Bushing a boundary in a BLUE school is NOT going RED. Those are the Boundaries Broken, much like shooting Fine Art Nudes on a couch in a Studio is NOT Street Photography, it is a change n context. If you believe that Street Photography can be posed, not candid, doing nude fine art on the streets could perhaps be considered Street Photography.
If you believe, like I do, that Street Photography should be ‘candid’ and should capture and be about life on the ‘streets’, then pushing boundaries should stay within this context. A great example of a photographer pushing boundaries is Alexey Titarenko. His long exposures the blur the life component of Street Photography still capture the sense of ‘life’. It could easily be argued that his images ‘enhance’ life as the amalgamated blurs of lives in his images show the bland everyday mundane repetitive nature of everyday life.
If on the other hand you are ok with ‘directing’ or ‘interacting’ with subjects, you could argue that bumping into them to capture their expressions and interactions with the rude person that just bumped into them, is pushing the boundaries. Is it everyday life? Did you capture a real moment? If you captured their reaction ‘before’ they realised they were being photographed, it would still be ‘candid’, perhaps ‘rude’, and if done on purpose could potentially be considered assault, but it would be ‘candid’ Street Photography. This would also be pushing the boundaries.
The point is that it becomes very important to define “What Street Photography is to you?”. What’s your definition? When you start pushing your own boundaries, are your images still in keeping with your definition? If you believe that ‘posed’ images of people on the streets is Street Photography as it captures ‘a person’ on the streets, does photographing them in a pool still count as Street Photography? What about photographing them in a studio? Where do you draw the line?
See you on the confused streets!
Saturday February 17th & Sunday 18th, 2017.
A comprehensive two-day workshop that will look at Composition and how its understanding leads to Personal Style.
This workshop will examine much more than the ten basic rules of composition including:
1. The Science and Psychology of Imagery
2. The Importance of Subject Matter
3. Elements of Composition
4. Medium Specific (In-Camera Controls)
5. Placement/Point of Focus
6. Division of Space including Negative Space
8. Balance (including how to recognize balance)
9. Notions and Devices
10. Breaking the Rules
And will further define and explore Style:
11. What is Style
12. Artistic & Photographic Style
13. Defining your Style
14. How to refine your Style
Although this is a Photography workshop, it is perfect for most artists including Painters and Illustrators. Based on class composition, Jean-Francois will discuss some other Mediums when appropriate.
This two-day workshop is $179.00 per person. Breakfast (Muffins, Donuts, Fruit) is included both days and Tea and Coffee will be provided throughout the day. Students to provide their own lunches. We will break for 1 Hour for lunch each day. There are several local food vendors nearby in Ladner where classes are being held.
Classes will run from 9:30am to 4:30pm on Saturday and Sunday in Ladner, BC. Lunch will be from (approx.) 12:00 to 1:00 each day. There will be Q&A time throughout the class and from 4:30 to 5:00 each day.
Please contact email@example.com