Posted by Glyn Wade
‘Street photography is an art that features the human condition within public places and does not necessitate the presence of a street or even the urban environment. The subject of the photograph might be absent of people and can be object or environment where the image projects a decidedly human character in facsimile or aesthetic. The origin of the term ‘Street’ refers to a time rather than a place, a time when women achieved greater freedom, when workers were rewarded with leisure time and when society left the privacy of their sitting rooms, people engaged with each other and their surroundings more publicly and therein the opportunity for the photographer.
Framing and timing are key aspects of the craft, with the aim of creating images at a decisive or poignant moment. The advent of digital photography, combined with the exponential growth of photo-sharing via the internet, has greatly expanded an awareness of the genre and its practitioners.’ (Wikipedia)
That’s a somewhat contradictory first couple of sentences I’m sure you’ll agree but the key thing to glean from this I think is that it is the timing that is important; capturing a moment. Now of course you could say that all photographs capture a moment (although a future astronomy photography session may prove this wrong!).
‘Street photography is the purest, most spontaneous way to create art with a camera.’ (source www.engadget.com)
A photograph of course could be made up of a long exposure so it’s hardly a moment but a shot of a landscape could be the same time one day to the next (before Phil tells me about the position of the sun during the day or something similar!).
No, street photography is about capturing a moment that would be virtually impossible to capture again such as the look of a window dresser as he watches a passer-by, maybe a dog jumping up at its owner, the look of an angry businessman on his phone….the list goes on.
Antonio Olomos gives his tips on how to be good at this art form thus:
‘Trust your instincts, be brave and alert to every possibility and wear sensible shoes – all that pavement pounding will pay off eventually …’
Apart from hours of foot pounding you need a bit of bravado too as your subjects may not particularly want to be photographed. Olmos says that he always offers his subjects copies of the pictures if they question him but usually people are okay about it.
Now, he probably takes his pictures around cities such as London, Paris and New York where there are plenty of tourists with cameras draped round their necks. Transpose that into Stoke, Longton, Tunstall etc, any town in Staffordshire in fact and the sight of a digital SLR on a busy Saturday afternoon is something of a rarity to say the least. It takes a bit more bravery to snap away at drunks falling out of various locales in Hanley than tourists watching the changing of the guard at Queenie’s house in London!
Most street photographers use discreet cameras but not Olmos who has a full frame DSLR so he’s got some huge kahunas to get away with what he does. He does (and this contradicts a tad the quote I used from him in a previous article…ahem…Mr Olmos….) have a back up of, wait for it, an iphone 4!
The fact that you are capturing a moment doesn’t give you time to set your shot up or mostly even give you time to keep snapping away (although being on continuous shooting may help). You probably won’t even have time, or want, to check your shots. I say ‘or want’ because you may not want to be hanging around after taking a picture so your presence goes almost or totally unnoticed.
Street photography is about anticipation and not pontificating…don’t think about it, get the shot, move on. Shoot in RAW so you can sort out anomalies when you get home and revel in the pictures that work. There may not be many but when they do work, you’ll be so glad you did. The pictures in the article are mine….before I even realised I was doing street photography!
As a street photographer, you need to be quick and completely trust your instincts: do not hesitate for a second. Feel the photograph and react accordingly. If something catches your eye, make sure you follow it up immediately.
This is just a short introduction to the subject of street photography and I hope to go more in depth in future and maybe even try it myself properly (gulp) as well as look at the history and professional exponents of the art.
Some useful links: