The Process of Street Photography - Part III: The Arc of Street Photography

November 28, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

2013-08-23 SF-_8240043-Edit2013-08-23 SF-_8240043-EditOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here are four snippets from http://street-photography-manifesto.tumblr.com/ that put some conceptual fences around street photography as an art.

“It is a branch of realistic fine-art photography that records unposed scenes in public places (streets, parks, restaurants, stores, museums, libraries, airports; train, bus, and subway stations, etc.)

The primary subject is people, at rest or in motion, alone or with others, going about the every-day activities of life …..............

The emphasis is not on the subject’s personal identity, as in portraiture. And unlike photojournalism, there is no news here, rather, the commonplace; although, the line between photojournalism and street photography is often blurry. Many of the best street photographers were photojournalists.

The primary emphasis is on capturing a fleeting composition, a temporary arrangement of lines, forms, textures, and tones—balanced within a rigid frame. …...........details are (often, ed) subordinate to the artistic elements; whereas, in strict documentary photography, content is more important than artistry. In street photography, the image can be sharp or blurred and impressionistic. “

Larry E. Fink

“Cartier-Bresson’s approach to photographing people in daily life situations consisted of very careful and precise framing and compositions that were used to setup the capture of a ‘decisive moment’. That moment alone could bring full meaning to the image, a split second earlier or a split second later could not achieve the same meaning. HCB professed that for him photography meant recognizing when those moments were about to happen before they did so that he could line up his vision, his mind and his heart all on the same axis. Then and only then could his photograph be more than just a snapshot or a mere document.

Street Photography is not portraiture, it is not still life and neither does it concern itself with urban landscape. Street Photography is instinctual, un-premeditated, reactive and spontaneous, it is un-posed and untagged and most importantly it is candid. Candid in this context literally means it is done in such a way that the subjects are not aware they are being photographed at the exact moment the image is being captured. The subjects are always people (who are strangers) and the the theme focuses around human moments - not ‘humanistic’ moments.

Street Photography is expressed through unexpected and unpredictable actions that lead to a ‘Decisive Moment’, a poetic moment, a poignant instant. Documentary photography on the other hand, is expressed through the objective presentation of facts for an ongoing activity or situation over a finite period of time which can run from as short as a single day or as long as over a number of years.

Street Photography is completely subjective whereas documentary photography must by definition be objective. One creates a reality the other attempts to present reality. Street Photography is all about realising “a truth” compared to Documentary photography which is all about making us aware of “The Truth”.

Street photographers wander the streets watching, observing, hoping that something will occur before them. They have no preference of whom to photograph and since Street Photography is reactive and spontaneous, there is little to no time afforded to think or intellectualize.”

Evangelo Costadimas

"Street Photography' is not Urban Landscape, it is not Environmental Portraiture (nor 'street portraits') and it is most definitely not Still Life.

On the contrary, Street Photography is about people, it is candid and it is about life.

When we say candid, we mean the subjects are not aware of being photographed right at the instant the shutter is tripped. They may well become aware of it a split second later, for example if camera flash was used, but at the moment of capture, they were still in their natural state, unaware that they were being photographed. Street Photographs must therefore always contain people.

But Street Photography is a lot more than just candid. Street Photography is an instinctual reactive response to the unpredictability of every day life as observed in public places. It captures human or poignant moments. It creates juxtapositions from unrelated elements or creates relationships between people who do not know each other, simply by using the camera’s framing."

No author mentioned

"More than anything Street Photography is an attitude, it is an openness to being amazed by what comes your way, it is unlearning the habit of categorizing and dismissing the everyday as being ‘just the everyday’ and beginning to recognize that extraordinary, beautiful and subtle stories are occurring in front of you everyday of your life if you can see them"

Nick Turpin

The Three Ms of Street Photography

Lots of styles, many niches, actually a un-ordered spectrum from slice of life to capturing an amazing globally meaningful moment but they all share different amounts of the 3 Ms – mood, meaning, mystery. Most street photography is not 'digested', it is not served to the viewer blatantly like a sign that says something. Street photography requires, or should require, something of the viewer, some empathy, some intellectual energy to disentangle and understand the mystery, the questions posed.

Some purists insist on only B&W, discarding 'distracting' color; some go further and refuse to crop, saying that cropping means that your framing is lazy. I believe, and practice, that I will go to almost any lengths to show people what I want them to see, what I have seen. I use color, if it works, I crop if I have to because the situation didn't allow me the time and room to frame perfectly.

I think that what street photography should attempt to be, should be, is a real expression of what the photographers sees and 'feels.' Photographers sometimes attempt to fake the ability to capture that expression by the way that image is treated, making their images B&W, processing them heavily, adding grain, leaning heavily on an artificial surplus of 'mood' to make up for an absence of 'meaning' or 'mystery.' I am repelled by that kind fakery that substitute processing for reality. 

Street photography is difficult and draining because success is so, so rare.

How to we do that all thinking and composing in an instant?

You don't. - and in the next section I'll try to demonstrate the process in several ways.

The Process of Street Photography - Part IV - Examples and Analysis

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Back to the first part

 

 

 

 


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