What makes a good street photographer & photograph?

Discussion in 'Street' started by MARTIE, Jun 12, 2006.

  1. MARTIE

    MARTIE Member

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    So what is it that epitomizes the archetypal street photographer and photograph?
    Is it the impulse, spontaneity and energy of the moment that the image defines?
    Is it the invisibility of the photographer or indeed their abillity to cajole and strike-up a rapport with the subject?

    Here's one of my sorry attempts!

    Marty
     

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  2. Gary Holliday

    Gary Holliday Member

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    That's a photograph to be proud of, however I hope that boy was disinfected after his encounter with those disease ridden rats all around him!

    A good street photograph should capture a great moment that ordinary non-photographic morons would simply ignore. A street photographer is someone who bothers to carry a camera at all times. :smile:
     
  3. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

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    Someone good at role playing.
     
  4. HerrBremerhaven

    HerrBremerhaven Member

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    Good afternoon Marty,

    I think attitude is important. It is better to have some connection with the individual in the image, rather than a shy disconnect. In my opinion, that enables the viewer to become part of the image. Thought you might like this:

    http://todayspictures.slate.com

    This is Magnum providing different images each day. Largely some famous and well known photographers, lots of veterans of photojournalism, and lots of film users. If you scroll down a little, there is this great photo essay from Bruce Gilden called Fashion Magazine; not really so much fashion as a tongue-in-cheek view from an interesting photographer from Brooklyn.

    It is sometimes stated that the camera points both ways. In other words, your personality can probably come across in your images, when they are successful, depending upon how you define that. While that is not strictly defining street photography, I think it is important to remember that in your approach to imaging; let the viewer get a look at you, not just your subject.

    Ciao!

    Gordon
     
  5. Dave Wooten

    Dave Wooten Subscriber

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    Gordon thanks for that site ... it is a great one, I did not know about it!

    Dave in Vegas
     
  6. Ricardo41

    Ricardo41 Member

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    Your post forcefully reminded me of my own hang-ups and inabilities as a street photographer. Some months ago I was on a documentary shoot in Memphis, TN, in an extremely poor neighborhood, your typical American inner city. While walking through the neglect and destruction, I felt I was in India or Bangladesh. Some areas looked exactly like what you would see in a city like Bombay or Calcutta.

    Shooting was extremely difficult and close to impossible. Any attempt to take pictures would inevitably lead to unwanted attention from the neighborhood drug dealers who populated the street corners and alleys. I personally do not believe in "assaulting" people with a camera. Unfortunately, most of the subjects we approached were not willing to be photographed. I don't blame them.

    The purpose of the trip and shoot was to collect images and video for a research/documentary project on sites of racial violence in TN and neighboring state Mississippi. It took a VERY long time to establish trust and to get people to pose and share their stories and memories.

    Unfortunately, we did not have the time to establish that same level of rapport in Memphis. However, sometimes luck does shine a ray on you: a not too well put together guy approached us as we were packing up our gear, ready to leave. We struck up a conversation, he asked us about our resarch and project. He then gesticulated towards a house across the street, informing us that this was the house of a famous Memphis personality, and would we be interested in meeting the family? We were definitely interested. Politely we knocked on the door, expecting to meet some crack head and his three girlfriends, but were invited to an extremely tidy and clean apartment. The living room was full of memorabilia of the family and the musical legacy they had established in Memphis.

    I wanted to take home an image that would summarize succinctly that legacy, so I asked the young man who was living in the house to go outside with me and have me shoot a picture of him holding up a framed photograph of his famous grandfather.

    The image I shot, without any great artistic flair, does convey the strong, positive family ties that continue to thrive and survive despite the murder and mayhem.

    So, again, rapport is what makes it possible to shoot complete strangers.

    ricardo
     
  7. MARTIE

    MARTIE Member

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    Thanks for the replies and especially I think to Ricardo who has perhaps hit one of the nails on the head with compassion.

    Perhaps we all sometimes forget that were photographing 'real' people and that we should at least try to put the person before the image or before our own, all to often, misguided perceptions/preconceptions.

    Can we avoid our images being too judgemental?

    Marty
     
  8. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    You can change your own attitude towards your photographic subject, and that's your own assignment and perhaps worth a challenge.

    But to change other peoples' multiple unexpected and unpredictable attitudes, I don't know how. Maybe you can show them how to by actually doing it so that they can follow. :smile:

    I think the bottom line is not to just snap away from the scenes you enter with your camera, but communicate well with the people whom you photograph and create a sense of trust among them.
     
  9. Changeling1

    Changeling1 Member

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    Martie,
    Who but a boy around his age would find so much joy in being swarmed by a flock of pigeons. You captured a real moment of human emotion, on the street. Nice.
     
  10. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    I think you would like this recent post on 2point8, "The Phylums of Street Photography."

    The author breaks them down broadly:
    • The Juxtaposition
    • The Moving Masses
    • The Street Portrait
    • Abstract
    • The Perfect Peopled Moment
    • The Triple Crown

    [​IMG]


    Personally, I like to think of three broad divisions: "tough" street photography versus "classic" SP and newer SP. I associate "tough" SP (coined by Meyerowitz/Winograpnd) with its period of beatniks and rapidity. Classic is de Cordova and a lot of Doineau and HCB. Since then have been divergences into LF (Wall, Shore) or inessential photo (Tillmans) or mock SP (Nikki Lee).... though there's still some great classic-style work being done (e.g., Sylvia Plachy or Boris Mikhailov, albeit with a more po-mo, jaundiced eye)

    [​IMG]

    I'll stick with the style I like, Daddy-oh. I've gotten comfortable with the idea that a lot of people can't dig the tilt or the clipped figure. It's their own limited bag.

    [​IMG]
     
  11. MARTIE

    MARTIE Member

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    Thanks for the contribution and link Bjorke, an interesting read for sure.

    Marty
     
  12. kjsphoto

    kjsphoto Subscriber

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    Learning the rules of composition then applying them to capture the drama and power of a scene just as Rembrandt painted his masterpieces or Henri Cartier-Bresson captured his images with excellent composition to create powerful and meaning full images. It is now just about popping the shutter and hyping that something will appear.
     
  13. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    Speak for yourself!

    Funny how some hypeful poppers sure seem to get a lot more good pix than others.
     
  14. kjsphoto

    kjsphoto Subscriber

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    That was a typo, it was suppose to be;
    It is not just about popping the shutter and hoping that something will appear.

    NOT

    It is now. Man I hate typing...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 16, 2006
  15. chiller

    chiller Member

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    Seems to me some people can type and other people can take photographs in either colour or black and white.

    I'm glad kjsphoto to say you fall into the "take photographs" category.

    Maybe a loupe to examine your screen :smile:
     
  16. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    I find street photography to be a deceptively difficult area of picture making, and I mean in both excution and definition, as well as criteria for judging it. It is a subjective thing in many ways - but lets not use that as an easy way out (no here has, so far).
    It (street shooting) is dotted with traps and pitfalls - from actual, present danger to ones person, through those threatening the artistic integrity. The line between documentation and exploitation. The often seen lack of that all important compassion. Hell, the pictures that are not meant to be compassionate - is a condemning image a bad street photo? There are things out there, everywhere, deserving nothing but contempt, too!
    On the other hand, I have seen so many takes on street photography, so far ranging in their unique apporach, that I believe the lack of exploitation and ability to contain meaning into the image which is technically competent are the only two absolute must-have's.

    Peter.
     
  17. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    [​IMG]
    Out-of-focus, probably underexposed, cloyingly exploitative and cute.

    There are no must-haves, their continual reinvention is crucial to the nature of SP
     
  18. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Thank you for posting this, Kevin... one of the all time great street photographs ever made... and an extraodinary record of the way people (and children) lived.

    I mean... you just don't see kids these days carrying two bottles of wine home from the store, anymore... at least not around here!! :D

    And it shows a great sense of humour!
     
  19. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    Bjorke,

    I agree, it leaves something to be desired in terms of sharpness - but I still think it fits my description: it was as good as it could have been for the great master to manage to capture it just exactly like that. And I do NOT see the exploitation of the subject by the photographer at all. Sure, there are not musts - let me rephrase it then: I do not enjoy images that cross those boundries. For me then, its a must have. And I would say that it is my personal stance on it that photographers should NEVER exploit.

    You do what you will.

    Peter.
     
  20. gerryyaum

    gerryyaum Subscriber

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    wonderful story Ricardo, thanks for posting it, I enjoyed reading it. Rapport is very very important I agree!

    www.gerryyaum.com
    www.gerryyaum.blogspot.com
     
  21. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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    Balls. You've got to have them in street photography. Especially now since everyone will think you're a terrorist.

    Regards, Art.
     
  22. stradibarrius

    stradibarrius Member

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    I always feel like I am exploiting someone else misfortune for those hardcore street shots. The "happy" shots not so much????
     
  23. fotopom

    fotopom Member

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    I look for the things that create emotion, the guy grabbing the crouch of a statue, the lonely smoker sat in the alley... these things cannot be planned, sometimes you can take your time to compose your shot, sometimes you have to shoot with what you have got and compose on the run, I still find those fleeting moments the hardest to take trusting my settings and not fussing with the camera... most of all street photography should be addictive and fun!

    Dan
     
  24. Colin Corneau

    Colin Corneau Subscriber

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    Actually I think the tilted horizon 'thing' is a cliché that shows either a laziness or a complete lack of creativity. Good shots *can* have a bit of it...but a lot of shooters somehow think that alone bestows worth on an image.

    Wake up call: no, it don't. It's technique, not substance.