Sunday, 14 September 2014

22: Street photography

Hmmm! The article that the course notes link to “What is street photography” no longer exists – indeed the link diverts to a different website with lots of street photography resources. A fairly cursory glance though suggests there is little agreement about what street photography is, and whether or not it is a separate genre or a sub-genre of documentary. There isn’t even agreement about whether or not it includes landscapes, non-humans etc. Maybe that’s the point of the exercise – it’s difficult to tell.

I can’t help but wonder if it even needs to be urban/sub-urban. Is the essence of street photography that it is taken in these areas, or is it the nature of the subject matter, and the manner in which it is captured? If I take photos of complete strangers walking on mountain paths is that street photography – and if not, why not? I remain perpetually baffled by the metrocentricity of documentary practice as explained in the course notes.

The Street Photography Now project referenced in the notes has at least addressed the uncertainty of my first paragraph since suggested topic #2 covers things with four legs. In fact this topic made it to my short list for the photography part of this exercise – but I’m not pursuing it because I think Elliott Erwitt just about nailed this (Erwitt, 1998), at least as far as dog photography goes – although I guess there’s an opportunity in cat photography.

Having looked at the range of topics I’ve narrowed the choice down to one of five topics:

#4 - "Document some evidence of human ingenuity that would otherwise go unnoticed. Do it without including any humans in the picture" This one gives me plenty of opportunity to indulge my interest in things but maybe I need to demonstrate I’m not a one trick pony.

#8 - "On your knees please... Take a picture from floor level.” – This one has a satisfying level of oddness – I quite like the change in perspective that low-level shooting provides.

#16 - "Wait for the rain, it makes shooting on the street easier and more interesting." – Not much to say about this – I can see that I would be less nervous shooting in the rain as people are generally much more interested in getting out of it.

#22 - "Pick a spot, stay there for an hour and see what unfolds" – this would work nicely at the top of a moderately busy Lake District peak subject to making the argument that street photography is not entirely metrocentric.

#51 – “Buildings are like humans and have their own character.” Too easy in some ways – and too tricky in others. Easy  because it’s effectively landscape photography, tricky because I think the character of buildings is more than just the exterior. Has potential for a humorous interpretation, looking for faces in the building structures.

I think for the sake of this exercise I’m going for #16 or #22 – whichever presents itself as the first opportunity.

Which reminds me – in a burst of enthusiasm at the beginning of this course I actually tried #22 from my apartment balcony while on holiday. Here’s the contact sheet, although I don’t think there’s enough images here to chose 5 worthwhile examples.



Erwitt, E., 1998. Dogs. London: Phaidon Press Ltd.

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