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Author Topic: Street photography without people  (Read 3101 times)

John R

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Street photography without people
« on: July 12, 2020, 11:44:02 pm »

Was wondering what people think about this guy's take on one aspect of Street photography. Especially Russ.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fn3xh1F1Tf0

Of course he does what we would normally regard as street photography, or the way Russ describes it, as something that is about the human condition with ambiguity. I will have to investigate Freg Herzog who is Canadian and unheralded. At least to me. Looks very interesting and appealing to me.

JR
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Eric Myrvaagnes

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Re: Street photography without people
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2020, 12:44:59 pm »

Years ago I put together a series of photographs of road tar patches on pavement, that I sometimes refer to as "Real Street."
They have no people in any of them, but some certainly can be read as commenting on the "human condition." Here are three of them.
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RSL

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Re: Street photography without people
« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2020, 02:35:40 pm »

Yes, guys, street photography is very badly named. I suspect it's named that way because when Kertesz, Chim, Doisneau, Ronis, Brassai, Cartier-Bresson, etc., started doing it, lenses and film were slow enough that you almost had to be on the street to get results. But if you know anything about street photography you realize it has nothing to do with streets and everything to do with people. It's a record of what we're like now and what we were like then. Read The Decisive Moment (originally Images à la Sauvette) and you'll see what I mean. The first part of that book is a definitive exposition of what street photography is all about.
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Allen Bourgeois

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Re: Street photography without people
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2020, 06:25:58 pm »

Love this interview with Winogrand. He shares his views on term street photography. 0:52 in
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RM9KcYEYXs
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John R

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Re: Street photography without people
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2020, 12:00:36 am »

I gather from Russ and Allen that the kind of work Fred Herzog produced would not be considered as the kind of "Street" (or People if you prefer) photography that you guys enjoy? And if not, what kind of photography shall we call what Fred did? The guy moderating these videos calls Fred Herzog a "colorist." within the framework of street photography. I guess because color was something new at the time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6qv9o-Syuo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E14KXmaUNgs

Another photographer I saw on Youtube was Stephen Shore. Not sure I like his work, but he certainly is very thoughtful and articulate in how he takes images and considers photography. He appears to design his images with an intention in mind.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T029CTSO0IE

JR
« Last Edit: July 14, 2020, 12:22:46 am by John R »
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RSL

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Re: Street photography without people
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2020, 09:16:18 am »

John, it's not a question of what anyone "prefers" or "enjoys." It's a question of what the street photography genre's definition includes. The people I mentioned in my earlier reply gave us that definition long ago. To say that street photography includes streets is like saying that portraiture includes buildings. You can say that if you want, but your opinion doesn't change the definition.
« Last Edit: July 14, 2020, 11:54:20 am by RSL »
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RSL

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Re: Street photography without people
« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2020, 10:30:29 am »

But I need to add that there are situations that tell us a great deal about people, or a person, without the people or the person being in the picture. One that comes to mind is Kertész's "Chez Mondrian," q.v.
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Eric Myrvaagnes

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Re: Street photography without people
« Reply #7 on: July 14, 2020, 12:20:38 pm »

I agree with Russ that the term "Street Photography" was defined by Kertesz, C-B, et al.
These days I think of that category as "Classic Street Photography."

There are a few practitioners of the category today, but I don't think any of them are in a league with the crew that Russ named.

My own term "Real Street" is intended to be a joke. Perhaps I should use a smiley whenever I use it.   :-\
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John R

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Re: Street photography without people
« Reply #8 on: July 15, 2020, 01:32:35 pm »

I started this thread because, as Eric says, few people practice "Classic Street Photography." Yet the majority of what is online is just street, shadows and light, juxtaposing of subjects, etc. So I found it confusing when someone says that it is not real street photography. I like both and would venture to say we will see less and less of that kind of "Classic Street Photography." The world is so different now and fewer people tolerate being photographed in such close proximity as many of those classical photographers did. I have to say that Fred Herzog's photography does express a human presence and culture, not just juxtaposing subjects and elements of a scene. That's why I like it so much.

JR
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RSL

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Re: Street photography without people
« Reply #9 on: July 15, 2020, 03:06:46 pm »

Nothing new, John. People never would tolerate the kind of intrusive photography that some think is street photography. To do street photography properly you have to learn from "The Shadow." Since you're N/A old, I don't know whether or not you could have listened to The Shadow on the radio. He debuted in 1931 (when I was 1) but went on for decades after that. The Shadow could "cloud men's minds," which is what you've got to do if you're going to do the kind of photography that shows human interaction without the intervention of a photographer going snap, snap. It's not always true, but in most cases if the subjects are aware you're shooting it's not good street. Which is not to say you should be sneaky, but it is to say you need to become a cipher who's so unobtrusive as to be effectively invisible. If it's properly done, the resulting pictures make it look easy, but it's a long way from easy as most people who try it soon find out. To me it's the most satisfying kind of photography there is. http://www.russ-lewis.com/street/index.html
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Eric Myrvaagnes

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Re: Street photography without people
« Reply #10 on: July 15, 2020, 06:26:57 pm »

It's not always true, but in most cases if the subjects are aware you're shooting it's not good street. Which is not to say you should be sneaky, but it is to say you need to become a cipher who's so unobtrusive as to be effectively invisible. If it's properly done, the resulting pictures make it look easy, but it's a long way from easy as most people who try it soon find out.
Absolutely right!
"The Shadow knows!!!"

I have attempted "Classic Street Photography" at least a hundred times (out of my untold thousands of images.) I think I have two or three at most that work at all.
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Allen Bourgeois

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Re: Street photography without people
« Reply #11 on: July 15, 2020, 08:28:14 pm »

I personally agree with what Adams said many decades ago.

"Let us hope that categories will be less rigid in the future: there has been to much of placing photography into little niches-commercial, pictorial, documentary, and creative (a dismal term). Definitions of this kind are inessential and stupid; good photography remains good photography no matter what we name it. I would like to think of just "photography"; of each and every photograph containing the best qualities in proper degree to achieve its purpose. We have been slaves to categories and each has served as a kind of concentration camp for the spirit. The function of a photograph may be of the simplest practical nature, or it may relate to a most personal and abstract emotion; the sincerity of the intention and honesty of spirit of the photographer can make any expression, no matter how "practical", valid and beautiful." Ansel Adams 1943

With all the categorizing today it looks like his hopes did not happen.  ;)
« Last Edit: July 16, 2020, 07:20:00 am by Allen Bourgeois »
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KLaban

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Re: Street photography without people
« Reply #12 on: July 16, 2020, 03:33:57 am »

I personally agree with what Adams said many decades ago.

"Let us hope that categories will be less rigid in the future: there has been to much of pacing photography into little niches-commercial, pictorial, documentary, and creative (a dismal term). Definitions of this kind are inessential and stupid; good photography remains good photography no matter what we name it. I would like to think of just "photography"; of each and every photograph containing the best qualities in proper degree to achieve its purpose. We have been slaves to categories and each has served as a kind of concentration camp for the spirit. The function of a photograph may be of the simplest practical nature, or it may relate to a most personal and abstract emotion; the sincerity of the intention and honesty of spirit of the photographer can make any expression, no matter how "practical", valid and beautiful." Ansel Adams 1943

With all the categorizing today it looks like his hopes did not happen.  ;)

Thanks for the Adams quote. I will save it for posterity.

RSL

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Re: Street photography without people
« Reply #13 on: July 16, 2020, 08:03:28 am »

Ansel was a great photographer but he was anything but a street photographer.
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Alan Klein

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Re: Street photography without people
« Reply #14 on: July 16, 2020, 09:32:03 am »

I was in NYC last week.  There weren't too many people to include in the street shots I took.  But I think the shots qualify for "Street" anyway.


Don't crowd me
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This Side Up - Park bench to Park Avenue
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KLaban

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Re: Street photography without people
« Reply #15 on: July 16, 2020, 09:41:50 am »

Ansel was a great photographer but he was anything but a street photographer.

Russ, neither Adams nor anyone here is claiming he was.

Allen Bourgeois

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Re: Street photography without people
« Reply #16 on: July 16, 2020, 10:52:55 am »

Ansel was a great photographer but he was anything but a street photographer.

Yes he was but his point is the label doesn't and shouldn't matter. A good photograph is a good photograph. And he loved good photography period. HE was even a fan of Arbus. I think as Wonigrand stated it is a stupid label (street photography).
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Allen Bourgeois

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Re: Street photography without people
« Reply #17 on: July 16, 2020, 10:54:42 am »

I was in NYC last week.  There weren't too many people to include in the street shots I took.  But I think the shots qualify for "Street" anyway.


Don't crowd me
by Alan Klein, on Flickr



This Side Up - Park bench to Park Avenue
by Alan Klein, on Flickr

I think they are photographs and documents of our times and a label doesn't and shouldn't matter.
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RSL

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Re: Street photography without people
« Reply #18 on: July 16, 2020, 10:55:44 am »

Russ, neither Adams nor anyone here is claiming he was.

I see that, Keith, and I'm sure Ansel would be the first to admit it, though my favorite Ansel picture is the woman he shot behind the screen door. But I guess my question is: why are we bringing Ansel into a discussion about street photography?
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RSL

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Re: Street photography without people
« Reply #19 on: July 16, 2020, 11:09:51 am »

Yes he was but his point is the label doesn't and shouldn't matter. A good photograph is a good photograph. And he loved good photography period. HE was even a fan of Arbus. I think as Wonigrand stated it is a stupid label (street photography).

Absolutely, Alan. And I'm sure we should stop calling Monet an "impressionist." After all, the genre of his work doesn't and shouldn't matter. If you read my first response on this thread you saw that I agree with Garry. "Street photography" is a stupid name for the kind of photography that records and relates to later generations the attitudes and fashions of their forbears. The advantage of any genre is that when you set up a show (physical, web-based, etc.) you can indicate to possible visitors an idea of whether or not the trip will be worthwhile. In an earlier post I included a link to some of my own street photography. It'd have been pretty ridiculous if I'd included a bunch of landscape in that collection. You know you're probably not going to see the equivalent of Ansel's Half Dome in a street collection, and you're not going to see Robert Frank's stuff in a landscape show. Convenient.
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