On Eric Kim’s Blog Post: Why Shoot Street Photography?
I do not have much to say about this article except that I believe that it is right bang-on. Perfect. Well said.
I only have two small notes… one in that I have found that Street Photography also makes you a better photographer in general. With ‘ANY’ Genre. And, if you shoot in B&W, the skills required to shoot great B&W imagery will help you create better Color images.
My second note is from his statement
“Street photography gives you the opportunity to make yourself naked in front of others.”
OK, I do NOT recommend that lest you get arrested. I think it may have been a language thing where I assume, he meant to say, “Street photography gives you the opportunity to bare yourself to others.” Of which, I completely agree with.
Seriously, re-read the article. Take in EVERY line, EVERY statement. It’s all true. And, if you ever feel defeated, or need some encouragement or motivation, read it again!!
Here are three more images from the weekend workshop with Ian MacDonald.
The young woman above was sitting at the Vancouver Art Gallery listening to her music, watching some skateboarders. A smile and a wave of my camera was all it took to get a approving nod from her as an OK to take some photos.
The images below were all studies in practicing ‘light’, ‘shadows’ and silhouettes.
In this next image I was capturing shadows cat by people waling in front of the lit pillar. I was having some success but it wasn’t until this cyclist walked by closer to me, out of the light that I captured this. At first glance it appears to be a shadow on the pillar but upon closer inspection you can see the cyclist is just a silhouette. The added bonus here is the mirroring of the two similar cyclists.
The image below from the Waterfront Station had this man on the phone. I liked the lighting but the image was not working. It wasn’t until he leaned over to look out the window that the ‘story’ gets captured. It appears he is looking at the man outside the right most window. This may not be the case at all, but from the viewers perspective, that’s how the story reads. This lends to the importance of the man outside being there. Imagine this image without the man outside. The story changes completely.
There are many things to photograph on the streets. These can become a distraction if you wander around aimlessly. If you choose ‘something’ to photograph ahead of time, like specific subjects, themes, or in this case, lighting, it becomes easier to get images because you are actively searching them out.
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].