what’s it all about?
by nyc slacker
Welcome to our blog, Street Photography Today!
For those of you who just joined our group, W/NW Street Photography, and all those who are just curious, we will try to explain what street photography today is. Let me tell you one thing right upfront — street photography is not an easy feat. And it is very hard to make a good street photograph. And a brilliant street photograph comes by once a year or so. You think I am exaggerating? Do you know how many rolls of film Garry Winogrand shot in his lifetime? Thousands and thousands. So, where are they? I have only seen about a hundred of his shots. The rest is just crap in B&W. That’s the way it is.
What makes a photograph work then? Why is my photograph of a beggar worse than Winogrand’s? Why, why, why?
Let’s put aside textbooks and listen to our guts for a change. When you say that a photograph made you choke with emotions, that you’ve got that strange feeling of elation, weakness in knees, tight and dry throat and yeah, watery eyes and/or a sudden bowel movement— ain’t this like love? For some of you, the anal retentive types, the sensation will manifest itself not as violently, but it will be naggingly present; like a glass of cold ale on a hot and humid afternoon . . . ain’t that love as well? And aren’t you really saying: I am in love with this photograph. Like it or not but your guts just made an aesthetic judgment . . . they are telling you that the dude who took that shot is fucking brilliant. And if you look carefully, you’ll see what in it and about it made your guts turn.
OK then. Let’s take a speedy look at the issue. The quality of your photographic work is absolutely essential to its success but I won’t be debating why one photograph is better than others. I just want to show you in a nutshell what goes into the making of a good street photograph.
You can find the basic premises of street photography all over the net and, with time, I’ll add links to most relevant sites with articles street photography just remember that you should always have a photograph shot in a public space — that’s a starting and binding point. Here’s the explanation of what public space is (US).
So, what makes a photograph street photography and what is only a snapshot taken on the street?
- by © Kayodic (click on image for large version)
Above is a photograph posted by Kayodic to a thread titled Walk/Don’t Walk. You may like it or not but that is a street photograph and one that does a fantastic job on adhering to the topic. Look at how she tackled the subject — a billboard with lots of cute legs and the two fellas ‘w/o legs’ walking and then look at the crowd of beautiful legs on the far end, not walking– if each element were to be shot as a separate picture, they would be mere snapshots. But put together, they create a new content, juxtaposition, irony — that’s what good street photography is all about. That’s what we want here.
So, a street photograph should have elements that talk to each other. Put together, these elements create a new content, juxtaposition, irony, surprise, humor, — that’s your creative vision, your effort at making the mundane interesting and worthwhile. This becomes especially obvious in our W/NW threads — the topic can be tackled in a myriad of different ways — each of them meaning an individual style, meaning you still have a chance to show us something new, something unique, something we never thought of, never noticed it on our way to work or school. That’s why street photography will never die because I can never see the world the way you see it. You may say this goes for all good photography. You are right. But it is especially important in street. You don’t need to have your personal angle when you shoot head shots, they will be good photographs if you manage to make them a correct and desired rendition of reality. In street photography, you render reality trough your eyes. You make your own reality, you create unfamiliar while still giving your viewer a chance to identify the familiar elements of everyday life. The mirror with your name on it.
Being able to see and pick the right angle always helps — look at this photograph posted by Hugo:
- by © Hugo (click on image for large version)
It is a slightly bizarre shot, is it not? And it probably wouldn’t work as well as it does if it hasn’t been for the angle — the top view angle. So, although that bizarre scene was out there for grabs, the choice of the top angle assured we actually see the strangeness of it. Job well done.
In street photography, you can tackle very ordinary subjects/objects. What is important is your own angle. You can photograph dogs and cats, rats and pigeons — sky’s the limit. But you have to do it the ‘street way’. Here’s the ordinary kitten, as seen by Cyclopsoptic, in a photograph that is very much street photography. Yes, there’s a cat in it but there’s also a puddle of water with a reflection, a curb, a road — all of which skillfully suggests urban(?) life hidden beyond the framed picture. Please, note that subdued light and dark tones play a very important role here — that’ s when technical skill comes in handy and helps to convey the mood.
- by © Cyclopsoptic (click on image for large version)
Photography is always about light. And sometimes the use of light will create tension that changes otherwise mundane content into something unexpected, something new. That’s what we want here. We want to be surprised by your personal vision of the ordinary. We want you to make life worth looking at, exciting, surprising, intelligent, touching, brutal, vulgar … whatever but cheesy Kodak moments. Below are photographs of W/NW Street Photography members showing how to use light creatively.
- by © Wingdingo (click on image for large version)
- by © David Solomons (click on image for large version)