Street photography is a style of photography that has garnered quite a bit of interest in recent years and has become quite popular amongst a younger generation of photographers as well as an older generation of photographers seeking a new creative outlet. The whole idea of documenting a split second in time and being able to tell a story with human element in a single image is the pure essence of what street photography is to me. As a long time photographer, I’ve always enjoyed this style of photography for several reasons.
Firstly, there’s the human element in the image and while other styles of photography are enjoyable and interesting, in my opinion, there’s nothing more interesting than other human beings. The sociology of personal relationships with friends and loved ones or the day to day interaction with co-workers and even interactions with strangers on our daily journey thru life. Every day brings a new element of interest, surprise and human emotion thru social contact. By photographing strangers unknowingly and in their environment, it also allows me to recreate a memory of where I once was at a specific moment in time and be able to share that story with whoever may be interested. Whether that story is obvious or whether there is an air of mystery that allows the viewer to create their own version of what’s going on within the image. For me, each image is as much a journal of my daily life as it is a story about those that are being photographed. In some ways a diary that can be openly shared with others.
Secondly, there are the challenges that come with street photography. Those challenges are in itself threefold.
- There is the technical side which is all about camera technique as well as using the right camera settings to get the proper exposure, the right depth of field and the proper subject distance in order to capture the scene as your mind had intended.
- Then there is the artistic side of finding the story to capture as well as composing and framing the image in an aesthetic way along with the choice of capturing that moment in color or monochrome. For anyone who has gone to art school or is artistically inclined, composition is a combination of both technical and artistic merit. Technical in the sense that there are rules of composition whether it’s the “rule of thirds”, the “golden ratio”, “leading lines”, “background isolation”, “negative space”, “symmetry”, “implied lines”, “angles” and on and on and on. However, as a photographer and artist, these rules exist only as a tool to be used with artistic freedom.
- Finally, there is the last challenge which to many who are new to this style of photography is the hardest to overcome. That is, getting past the fear of taking pictures of strangers close up due to the unknown consequences or confrontation that you may face if and when you get “caught”. This in itself, comes full circle back to the whole idea of the human element and sociology that’s involved with street photography. How do I interact with the subjects if I do get “caught”? What would be the proper behavior to ease an uncomfortable moment for both the photographer and the subject.