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Author Topic: What is street photography?  (Read 48260 times)

tom b

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What is street photography?
« on: August 13, 2015, 08:52:51 pm »

Street Photography?

Over the last few decades the phrase ‘Street Photography’ has come to mean a great deal more than simply making exposures in a public place. Photographers like Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand, Lee Friedlander and Joel Meyerowitz have forced a redefinition of the phrase that has many new implications.

Joel Meyerowitz
Primarily Street Photography is not reportage, it is not a series of images displaying, together, the different facets of a subject or issue. For the Street Photographer there is no specific subject matter and only the issue of ‘life’ in general, he does not leave the house in the morning with an agenda and he doesn’t visualise his photographs in advance of taking them. Street Photography is about seeing and reacting, almost by-passing thought altogether.

For many Street Photographers the process does not need ‘unpacking’, It is, for them, a simple ‘Zen’ like experience, they know what it feels like to take a great shot in the same way that the archer knows he has hit the bullseye before the arrow has fully left the bow. As an archer and Street Photographer myself, I can testify that, in either discipline, if I think about the shot too hard, it is gone.

Matt Stuart
If I were pushed to analyse further the characteristics of contemporary Street Photography it would have to include the following: Firstly, a massive emphasis on the careful selection of those elements to include and exclude from the composition and an overwhelming obsession with the moment selected to make the exposure. These two decisions may at first seem obvious and universal to all kinds of photography, but it is with these two tools alone that the Street Photographer finds or creates the meaning in his images. He has no props or lighting, no time for selecting and changing lenses or filters, he has a split second to recognise and react to a happening.

Secondly, a high degree of empathy with the subject matter, Street Photographers often report a loss of ‘self’ when carefully watching the behavior of others, such is their emotional involvement.

Trent Parke
Thirdly, many Street Photographers seem to be preoccupied with scenes that trigger an immediate emotional response, especially humour or a fascination with ambiguous or surreal happenings. A series of street photographs may show a ‘crazy’ world, perhaps ‘dreamlike’. This is, for me, the most fascinating aspect of Street Photography, the fact that these ‘crazy’, ‘unreal’ images were all made in the most ‘everyday’ and ‘real’ location, the street. It was this paradox that fascinated me and kept me shooting in the ‘everyday’ streets of London when many of my colleagues were traveling to the worlds famines and war zones in search of exciting subject matter. Friends that I met for lunch would, just be back from the ‘war in Bosnia’ and I would declare proudly that I was just back from the ‘sales on Oxford Street’.

Nick Turpin 2000

Note, not a mention of ambiguity!

Cheers,
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Tom Brown

Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: What is street photography?
« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2015, 09:06:50 pm »

..

tom b

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Re: What is street photography?
« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2015, 09:40:21 pm »

My Command F, find ambiguous did not pick up ambiguity.
Mea culpa.
Over forty years I've looked at street photographs, I have though of "capturing the moment" and the "ability to see the unusual". Never have I thought of ambiguity! It's an outdated concept.

Cheers,



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Tom Brown

Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: What is street photography?
« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2015, 09:57:30 pm »

My semi-houmorous contribution doesn't actually mean that I support the ambiguity concept as a preeminent criterion in the definition of street photography. I do think that ambiguity is simply one of the many possible facets of it.

mezzoduomo

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Re: What is street photography?
« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2015, 10:06:16 pm »

My semi-houmorous contribution doesn't actually mean that I support the ambiguity concept as a preeminent criterion in the definition of street photography. I do think that ambiguity is simply one of the many possible facets of it.

Eye of the beholder, Slobo...  :D :D :D

'Telling a story', 'ambiguity', 'juxtaposition of objects', 'gesture', etc., etc.  To me these are all goose-chases and rationalizations intended to create something out of nothing. Good pictures are good pictures, but there's so much awful 'street' being proffered right now, and all the semantics and spin just don't redeem it.
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Alan Klein

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Re: What is street photography?
« Reply #5 on: August 13, 2015, 10:21:51 pm »

Street photos seem to be better when they are from past eras.  Why is that?

tom b

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Re: What is street photography?
« Reply #6 on: August 13, 2015, 10:43:56 pm »

Street photos seem to be better when they are from past eras.  Why is that?

In-Public has some great contemporary street photography. no different from the past.

Cheers,

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Tom Brown

mezzoduomo

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Re: What is street photography?
« Reply #7 on: August 14, 2015, 12:11:00 am »

Perhaps because scenes from the past are at least somewhat unlike what one can simply open the door and see on the street (or elsewhere) today. That's a characteristic that adds interest.
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amolitor

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Re: What is street photography?
« Reply #8 on: August 14, 2015, 12:50:02 am »

Editing.
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Otto Phocus

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Re: What is street photography?
« Reply #9 on: August 14, 2015, 07:54:43 am »

Street photography is what the photographer thinks is street photography
Street photography is what the viewer thinks is street photography

It is not necessary for the two to be in agreement.

Does street photography even have to have a street in the scene????  ???
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RSL

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Re: What is street photography?
« Reply #10 on: August 14, 2015, 01:02:13 pm »

Street photos seem to be better when they are from past eras.  Why is that?

That's probably because past street photographers were better than today's crop.
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: What is street photography?
« Reply #11 on: August 14, 2015, 01:11:30 pm »

Eye of the beholder, Slobo...  :D :D :D...

Well, Jeff, pointing out glaring contradictions (e.g., in politicians' or commentators' statements) is a staple of late-night comedy shows, hence the "humorous" part. The "semi" part is there to placate those whose sense of humor was surgically removed at birth ;)

RSL

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Re: What is street photography?
« Reply #12 on: August 14, 2015, 01:24:44 pm »

My semi-houmorous contribution doesn't actually mean that I support the ambiguity concept as a preeminent criterion in the definition of street photography. I do think that ambiguity is simply one of the many possible facets of it.

I agree, Slobodan. One of the other facets has to be a story. But if the story is complete; if it gives you "closure," then it doesn't make you ask a question. We get all hung up on the word "ambiguity," but definitions of ambiguity are these, or their equivalents: "An expression whose meaning cannot be determined from its context," or "Unclearness by virtue of having more than one meaning." Unless the picture contains one of these conditions I wouldn't call it a street photograph because it doesn't raise a question. There's a sliding scale involved when it comes to ambiguity.

Beyond that, I don't think you really can define street photography with words. You have to become familiar with the work of the people who established the genre to understand what it is.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2015, 01:28:36 pm by RSL »
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Chairman Bill

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Re: What is street photography?
« Reply #13 on: August 14, 2015, 01:38:57 pm »

The HCB photo of the man jumping over the large puddle (Behind the Gare St. Lazare) - it's 'street', right? But I see a number of elements that make it an interesting photo. There's the reflection, undisturbed because his foot hasn't hit the water yet. There's the further reflection in the form of the advertising hording, with the dancer. Those elements alone make it a good photograph. But we've got the line of roofs & the railings of the fence, also reflected, and hinted at again in the ladder in the puddle. But there's huge contrast between that angularity & the curves of the foreground objects (I've no idea what they are) also sitting in the puddle, but these echo the shapes around the dancers on the advertising boards. There's even a structure on the roof that mirrors the ladder in the puddle. It's fascinating to read the photo - there's simply so much there. But I don't see any ambiguity. None at all. Zilch. Nada. Not a sausage. Bugger all. Just saying.

MattBurt

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Re: What is street photography?
« Reply #14 on: August 14, 2015, 01:41:02 pm »

Street photos seem to be better when they are from past eras.  Why is that?

We can go just outside and see what this era looks like. Past eras and more interesting to me because we cannot do that. It also gives a connection to the past if you can empathize or identify with the scenario.
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Petrus

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Re: What is street photography?
« Reply #15 on: August 14, 2015, 02:14:06 pm »

The HCB photo of the man jumping over the large puddle (Behind the Gare St. Lazare) - it's 'street', right?

Do I remember correctly that a contact sheet to that photo has been published? Or photos, because a whole roll was shot to get the right image, man jumping a dozen times.
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Isaac

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Re: What is street photography?
« Reply #16 on: August 14, 2015, 02:22:48 pm »

Do I remember correctly that a contact sheet to that photo has been published? Or photos, because a whole roll was shot to get the right image, man jumping a dozen times.

fwiw

Quote
…“I did remember that I saw his contact sheet of this picture (means Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare), I am so surprised that people these days doubt that picture is a “Set Up Picture”, I know it is NOT because I read the contact sheet from Henri Cartier-Bresson for that picture.” David Hurn told me that Henri Cartier Bresson was actually stand in a same place and waiting people to jump over the water, he captured every best moment and choose the “Best of the Best” moment to become this most famous picture - “Behind the Gare St. Lazare”.

Quote
Everyone thought his was a pure chance, a piece of luck. Once again, it was but only to a certain degree. The contact sheet showed us that HCB had tried some 10 times to obtain that shot. With other cyclists, passers-by, pedestrians and such. He then chose the best one out of all those other ones and it became this incredibly famous image. [Th]e rest of them never saw the light of day.
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RSL

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Re: What is street photography?
« Reply #17 on: August 14, 2015, 03:50:31 pm »

But I don't see any ambiguity. None at all. Zilch. Nada. Not a sausage. Bugger all. Just saying.

"But why has the man walked toward the flood on the little ladder? Since it's obvious he's not dressed for wading why is he jumping into the water? There's another man in the picture, slouching behind a fence. What's he doing there? Why is the partially destroyed poster on that desolate fence?"

Hi Bill, I guess you're telling me it all makes sense to you, but to me this is a perfect example of "An expression whose meaning cannot be determined from its context." Maybe you can explain it to me. "An expression whose meaning cannot be determined from its context" is the definition of ambiguity.

And Isaac's right. It was luck, but he made a lot of shots to get to the luck. As HCB pointed out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4qZ3Z8shZE&feature=related, "It's always luck. You just have to be receptive. That's all."
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spidermike

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Re: What is street photography?
« Reply #18 on: August 14, 2015, 03:59:36 pm »

Hi Bill, I guess you're telling me it all makes sense to you, but to me this is a perfect example of "An expression whose meaning cannot be determined from its context." Maybe you can explain it to me. "An expression whose meaning cannot be determined from its context" is the definition of ambiguity.


An alternative rendering is that you find an ambiguity and that makes the image more special for you. Whether those ambiguities (as you call them) are the reason the picture is famous is a different matter. Personally I have never looked at the image in the way you describe yet I still think 'it works'.



https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-1010/art-between-wars/intl-avant-garde/v/cartier-bresson-behind-the-gare-saint-lazare-paris-1932

Interestingly this analysis mentions nothing of the 'ambiguities' you mention and talks about classic photographic elements of geometry, reflections, and that catching split second timings such as this was, at the time, rare.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2015, 04:05:35 pm by spidermike »
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: What is street photography?
« Reply #19 on: August 14, 2015, 04:09:38 pm »

"But why has the man walked toward the flood on the little ladder? Since it's obvious he's not dressed for wading why is he jumping into the water? There's another man in the picture, slouching behind a fence. What's he doing there? Why is the partially destroyed poster on that desolate fence?"

Actually, who cares why? I certainly don't.

Quote
..."An expression whose meaning cannot be determined from its context" is the definition of ambiguity...

If I can't determine meaning, I call it...bs then ;)

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