Nick Turpin’s statement
“Now I understand that ‘Street Photography’ is just ‘Photography’ in its simplest form…..”
Is probably the least accurate statement I have ever heard when it comes to describing ANY form of photography, let alone, Street Photography. There is nothing about ‘Street Photography’ that is simple or simplistic, or basic in its values, processes, composition, nuances 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 are 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 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, or guessed, 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.
So, 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 ‘avant-garde’ 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 at all but rather have lazily attempted to change definitions to suit themselves. Pushing 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 in 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?
The important point is that ‘you’ should define Street Photography for yourself. But don’t be that lazy photographer. Put some thought into it, research it, think about it again, then decide. Oh, and if along the way you need to tweak your definition, make sure it’s a refinement and not just an easy way to get a photo of your dog on the couch, shown as Street Photography.
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
So we had another great outing on Sunday. The weather co-operated this time keeping everyone dry, if not a little cold. Coffee & doughnuts by the fire were great as usual. Met a few new photographers interested in Street Photography including a Film Shooter with a Nikon F2. That takes dedication and forces you to get the right shots and be more selective. Well done Warren.
Speaking of shooting film, we did see (and photographed) someone walking along Main Street with a Hasselblad over their shoulder. Not too often do you see that nowadays.
Overall a great day with some good shooting opportunities and a few need to return opportunities including a lady that walked out of the Library to feed the birds. After shaking their food tin and calling for some time, a large flock of pigeons came down. Will need to time that better.
• Part-1.3 – Nick Turpin: Street Photography Pie
You can tell by his writing and well thought out points that Nick Turpin believes in his definition of what Street Photography is. His point and arguments are concise as are his replies to comments on his page.
He starts off correctly with his statement of
“redefined the phrase Street Photography to what we recognize today…a documentary form that celebrated the candid public moment. And now whether you like the phrase or not there is unarguably a large and growing international community of photographers for whom it is very important that their approach to making pictures is purely observed, whose intention is to record public life as it is found.”
With the points of “candid public moments” and “to making pictures is purely observed” and “is to record public life as it is found” being key points in explaining what Street Photography is all about. This definition is the root, of what Street Photography is, what its about, and leads us to the Truth and the importance of Truth in Street Photography.
This definition excludes posed portraits, subjects directed by shouted comments or directed by photographic confrontation techniques.
The statement also brings up another very good point; “international community of photographers for whom it is very important that their approach to making pictures is purely observed.” If the root of Street Photography is about Truth and real life, its important that Street Photography hangs on to that. No matter what other genres are trying to claim or what Artists that are trying to push boundaries state, Street Photography is about ‘real life’.
His example of Jeff Walls Mimic 1982 is a great example. If the consumers of the image believe that street photography is real, it should be real. If they think and posed images or directed emotions are acceptable, then Street Photography will become nothing more than ‘fake news.’
Again, his comments are backed up with this comment
“The reason I get up again and again to defend candid Street Photography is because I believe IT REALLY MATTERS HOW PHOTOGRAPHS ARE MADE, it matters because it changes their meaning and historical value.”
If ‘all’ your images are faked or posed, what value to they have? Then you need to think about the integrity of your work, if some of your images are directed, how can viewers NOT question the truth or validity of the remaining images? A reader to his post commented on whether Street Photographers should take an oath like Journalists do and the reader suggests that we shouldn’t need to. I honestly believe that most good Street Photographers have taken an oath to themselves. And, this is why Nick’s statement below is so important and so valid
“it’s why we need the Street Photographers candid approach to be understood and respected.”
If Street Photography turns into nothing more than “Fake Images”, the art of Street Photography will be forever lost.
On this site I post some posed images that are “obviously” posed in that I like to share moments and some of the people I encounter on the streets. But, none of my other images are directed or posed. I do show a few images where I have been caught in the act of taking an image. This is so that I can; further setup the article that I am writing about what Street Photography is and; share with those learning Street Photography that these moments do happen; use then as examples of what maybe or may not be Street Photography (as in the bird down below).
Nick Turpin’s Street Photography Pie is a little over simplistic and doesn’t guide the reader that well. The three questions would fit into a flow chart much better. His explanation however is better
“It’s Photography yes, it’s Documentary Photography yes and it’s Candid Photography…yes.”
It’s Photography? Well we use cameras, so it is obviously photography.
Its Documentary? For this let’s take a closer look at what “documentary” means. Definitions for Documentary mostly go along this line; “Presenting facts objectively without editorializing or inserting fictional matter.”
We then need to further break this down and look at “objectively” meaning; “Uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices,” and “editorializing” to mean; “to insert one’s personal opinions into an otherwise objective account.”
So, shouting out ‘Hey, look angry’ would lead to a photo that is NOT OBJECTIVE and one that IS EDITORIALIZED.
And lastly, we need to look up “candid”; meaning several things including “Characterized by openness and sincerity of expression” and meaning “Not posed or rehearsed.”
I think this says it all. This is what I believe street photography to be and I have taken that personal oath to making “candid” image. It’s what I aim for every time I am out shooting.
One last comment about what Street Photography is or isn’t based on Nick Turpin’s article. In the comments below his article he responds to someone and leaves good links to photographer’s sites (and a book) that are clearly NOT Street Photography (or at the very least not great Street Photography).
One reader comments on ‘Boogie’s work’ As being “fairly vacuous and fabricated.” It’s clear going to this link http://boogiephoto.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/nyc that he is correct. He is also correct in pointing out that Boogie’s previous work that put him in the Street Photography Spotlight, is rather good. “Belgrade Belongs to Me” is great work. Some images are obviously staged while others are clearly candid. But take a close look, you’ll find some in between images where we do not know?? Are the images all “truthful?” I think not. And, just because a known Street Photographer takes a photo of a dead bird, it doesn’t mean its Street Photography.
What’s your belief? Should Street Photography be Candid? Is it important? Is it important to you? And, more importantly, is it important to the survival of Street Photography? More to follow in my Street Photography Definition article.
See you on the truthful streets!
There are several things to consider when shooting in bad weather. First, is making sure your equipment survives the bad weather. Come snow, hell or high-water, you want your equipment to be safe. Second, what can you possibly want to shoot in inclement weather? Well, read on . . .
Generally bad weather means rain, or at least it does here on the Wet Coast. But, it can also mean extremely hot (I wish) temperatures or even freezing temperatures. I will post on these as the weather conditions warrant. For now, the forecast is for months of rain!
If it’s raining, you need to think about several things. One, is your camera weather sealed? If it is, you do not have much to worry about, but you should still try to keep excess rain to a minimum. You may even want to test your camera by using it in the rain for a short time. But first, make sure all your caps and covers are firmly in place. Push on all of them to confirm they are snug. Then head out and shoot in the rain. Once you are done, use a good dry towel to dry off the camera very well. Then, open all the doors, hatches, caps, and gismos and have a look to see if any water has gotten into any of the compartments. Soil and other debris can prevent proper sealing. Always keep your camera clean.
If you have a non-weather sealed camera, then you have several options depending on how heavy the rain is. I’ll let you decide which is best for you, but in the end, keep it dry!
You can use dry areas to shoot from, under covers or under awnings or in doorways. These work at keeping you and the camera dry. Hopping from shelter to shelter works well but it can be limiting. You can also shoot from inside your car, either through an open window or a rain drenched windshield.
Wearing a long and slightly oversized jacket or parka allows you to keep the camera safely against your body and out of rains way. This method does force you to bring the camera into the rain for a short time when you need to shoot. This works well in light misty rain. Wearing a ball cap or a broad-brimmed hat will also offer your camera some protection when you bring the camera up to your eye.
Using an umbrella works if you can do one handed shooting while still holding the camera steady. The benefit of using an umbrella is that it will keep you dry better than just a parka.
Other options include purchasing rain gear for your equipment like the OP/TECH USA Rain Sleeves. The problem with these is even the small size are designed for DSLR cameras with a standard zoom lens. Shooting a DSLR with a 50mm lens or with a smaller Mirrorless Camera, these rain covers can be too bulky.
A great option is making your own rain sleeve using a plain clear plastic bag. There are countless videos and tutorials on how to make them and properly install them with your camera. Here is a shot of a quick one I made for my camera in two minutes. I would cut the bottom off a bit though. Decide if you want your hands outside the bag, which can be tricky with dials or having your hands inside the bag which means having a large enough bag. Remember that access to the ZOOM is not an issue as you should be using a prime lens or fixing your zoom lens at a specific focal length.
On the right is a plastic bag DIY rain cover that I made in about 90 seconds. There are many videos on how to do this that I was going to share, bud sadly there are not many good ones. I may have to create one. For now, check out a few videos and adapt for your camera.
In the end, keep dry, keep your camera dry, stay warm! Wear appropriate clothing and shoes.
Now that you are ready to brave the weather, what will you shoot? At first its easy to think that wet weather Street Photography is silly as no one will be out. That’s the point though, people have to be out! They must get to work, go to school, eat, buy things, see friends or movies. Bad weather makes for excellent shooting. Things to look for:
Reflections – one of my favorites. Reflections on glass, misted glass, or glass covered with water drops, or even reflections in puddles.
Puddles – besides being a great source of reflections, look for larger puddles in heavy traffic areas. Large puddles at crosswalks will be a barrier for pedestrians that will need to circumvent or better, hop over. Or, if you’re lucky, will walk through when the puddle is deeper that it appears. Curb side puddles can spray pedestrians as the vehicles drive through them. Always a great spot to wait if you see cars spraying sidewalks.
Glass – again, besides reflections, looking through rain drop spotted windows can make for great images. A bonus is you can be in a warm café drinking your favorite beverage while you shoot. Find the right spot and success is yours.
Trickles – if an awning or your umbrella is trickling down in front of you, capturing the trickle, with or without the umbrella in the frame, can add to the bad weather story and can place where the image was shot from.
Umbrellas – bright umbrellas, or multitudes of umbrellas, can help create a great image. Look for them but remember, it about the composition, not just anyone holding an umbrella. Although, the Red Umbrellas are becoming cliché.
Light – is still the magical ingredient in wet weather photography. Look for it. If you can backlight the rain, it will be more visible. Consider shooting into brighter areas including on-coming car headlights.
Eyes – remember that it is still Street Photography that you are doing. Continue to get in close, look to the eyes and expressions. People will often look miserable, or even very happy. Capture those moments.
One last thing to try when shooting Street Photography in the rain is to use your flash. Any flash will do. Do not use your flash to light your scenes or your subjects, but rather on low power settings to light up the rain just in front of the lens. The lit-up rain drops will add to the rain effect.
I always enjoy shooting in the rain. The wet rocks and walkways can be magical. I’ll leave you to look at my wet weather take on the Eifel Tower at the top of this post.
See you on the rainy streets!
Hello everyone. So after last weeks successful rainy day walk that had 8 people show up, I have setup and organized a 2nd intro to Street Photography walk for this Sunday December 3rd. It is Street Photography specific. For those of you that want to learn Street Photography, I have setup a Free On-Line Street Photography class at Learn Street Photography. It is a multi-part class that you can do on your own time. If you are wanting to do it, now is the time. Head over to the Class Material and read the information for Part-01.
If you are new to street and want some quick guidance to get you started, I have posted a 4 Part quick start guide called “First Time Shooting? Part 1-4”. Part 1 can be found at First Time Shooting? This first intro walk is meant to just have you browsing the streets and to get you introduced to Street Photography. We will be doing more walks that will bring you to busier areas, harsher areas, diverging ethnic areas and even some night photography. We will pick locations that are suitable for the different sections to the Free On-line Class.
There is a handout with some homework if you like for after the walk. It is rain or shine! I will post a blog on Wet Weather Shooting before the walk including on how to keep your camera dry!
Our next walk will be in early January. See you on the streets!
You can book at Meetup.com [here].