Genre: Street Photography
Everyday, Opportunistic, and Spontaneous
The most popular and widely practiced genre of photography is arguably Street Photography. Street photographers walk around with stealthy cameras ready to grab candid and un-posed images. It takes dedication to build up a body of work, and days and days of shooting can yield little in interesting images and then all of sudden, something with punctum pops into the frame.
In the pantheon of photography, street photographers reign. Known as the father of street photography, Henri Cartier Bresson championed the concept of what he described as, “The Decisive Moment”. This can be summed up from Bresson’s own words, “There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera.” Bresson’s concept has aged quite well even considering that HD Video and super fast capture rates has fallen in favor even with the still photographers.
Perhaps Street Photography is so widely practiced because it is so readily available. Simply walk out of any door with your camera ready to go and the world becomes your subject. Practicing street photography can be an exuberant way of displaying photographic style but it’s own ease can be its pitfall too. Photographers run the risk of becoming bored waiting for that “Bresson Moment” to occur and let their guards down and miss the potentially great shot. Street Photography captures fractions of seconds of our society in action and can serve in a documentarian role as well as just making a great photograph. The best street photos are when multiple stories are being told and the entire frame becomes a stage for life unfolding. It is spontaneous, and patience with a camera on a street corner will be rewarded with just the right subject, secondary subjects, and actions occurring with the background you chose.
Another interesting facet of street photography is that it ages well. While a street filled with current cars becomes mundane, the same street filled with 55 Buicks and 57 Chevy’s all of sudden has a nostalgic boost. The same can be said with fashions and evolving cities in the frame, these images get more interesting with time. This is a reward for those who practice the genre of street photography during thier lifetimes.
Skills: Quick Reaction Time
Technique: Zone Focus or Pre Focus
Masters: Robert Frank : Vivian Cherry : Peter Turnley : Harvey Stein : Vivian Maier : Bresson (link above). Yes there are many more, this is broad genre however I picked these to start with for historical reference and also in the case of Peter and Harvey, they are still very active and teach workshops.
Gear: Leica M system, Fujifilm Xpro system, (super high quality and small discrete size) DLSR with fast aperture prime wide lens.
I’ll be honest here, I am challenged by street photography and while I practice it, always armed with a camera when out and about, I find my best work is when I can set the shot up and influence the image. I respect street shooters and for those just looking to get into the genre, I recommend you look at the following photographers
The above is part of a format for presenting the genre’s of photography in my upcoming book, “Finding and Developing Photographic Style”. The idea is the common genre name, followed by three words that sum up the genre, then a moderately in-depth description with photographs to illustrate. As always, I’ll take any feedback.
Wonderful piece David.
Really is quite wonderful how time is not only kind to but enamored by this important genre of imagery.
Thanks Jason, street photography is like a fine wine right?
David, your writing is beautiful. Your book is sure to be a big success. I’d love to see it myself when it’s out.
Why thank you very much Melody. I’ll try not to disappoint. 🙂
*bored, and their* just for the benefit of the book, great article David, can;t wait to read the book 🙂
gah thanks for the catch Ant.
Huge fan of street photography. An amazing post, David. Love your words and photos!
the only thing i would argue with is the “gear”….the ones you mentioned are definitely good choices, but i’ve taken street shots with everything from a lowly oly epic stylus, slr 35mm and rf film cams, dslr’s, digi p&s’s for $100 new up to $600 new, 2 1/4 TLRs, 6×7 mamiya 7, etc. never tried a 4×5 but i imagine i could work with a graflex folder quite well. stealthy is a state of mind, not the size of the camera