Category: Street Photography Theory

Street Photography & Integrity

  So much photography these days is put to work to sell us something, commonly products or services, maybe ideas or beliefs or appealing to us to give to a cause. Sometimes the photography is working hard to sell us the photographer, his/her uniqueness as an image maker or innovation with ideas. In most of these cases the image itself is worked hard, often worked too hard. It is saturated, it's contrast is adjusted, it's sky is darkened, it's colour balance made more filmic and finally every ounce of sharpness squeezed out of it's pixels before it explodes momentarily into the public arena in a blinding blaze of likes. We are all targeted all the time, they want our money and billions are spent on clever visual messages with the sole aim of extracting the money from our pockets. At the cinema before the film they target my children, in the urinals during the intermission I am offered Viagra while [...]
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Photography and Public Transport

  The most common misunderstanding about Street Photography is to assume that it is about a location, the 'Street', when it is really a particular 'approach' to picture making in any place that the public gather. It is not surprising then that Street Photographers make great pictures in art galleries and museums, on beaches, in parks, malls, arcades and on trains and buses. For the last three winters I have taken advantage of the dark evenings to photograph discretely into the top deck of London Buses, the pictures reveal intimate moments of commuters journeys between work and home, a strange lost time that they fill by reading, sleeping, staring, thinking and engaged with their tablets and phones. People in transit tend to adopt a small temporary territory, their seat, their bit of window, their half of the arm rest and they diligently ignore those around them in the hope of being themselves ignored. Words are not spoken, eye contact is [...]
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Public Space Private Space

    "The public realm should be public. It’s where people of all backgrounds, ages and interests can mix and get a shared sense of belonging and ownership. For London to become a more sustainable city we must expect higher densities of development. But we must not allow this to increase exclusion and inequality, as it risks compromising the democratic principle of open and easy access for all"   Nicky Gavron, Chair of the London Assemblies Planning and Housing Committee report Public life in private hands Managing London's public space May 2011     Photographers among other users are increasingly encountering large parts of London and other cities that are 'no go areas'. Our public city streets are slowly but surely being handed over to private developers who take responsibility for maintaining them but also policing the behaviour of the public that they rely on using them. Starting with the development of Canary Wharf in 1988 whole chunks of our city [...]
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Street Photography: Feel the Force

  Street Photography is an Attitude   More than anything Street Photography is an attitude, it is an openness to being amazed by what comes your way, it is unlearning the habit of categorising and dismissing the everyday as being 'just the everyday' and beginning to recognise that extraordinary, beautiful and subtle stories are occurring in front of you everyday of your life if you can see them. I actually think you can be a Street Photographer without a camera and without making photographs, it is really just the more insecure Street Photographers like myself that actually have to record and show off their ability to 'see'. How many other forms of photography essentially have 'wonder' at their heart? That's what makes Street Photography almost a spiritual process for many because it is so personal and so akin to a kind of photographic enlightenment. Street Photography helps me understand the nature of my society and my place in it, I [...]
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Street Photography Pie

I take a lot of flack online for attempting to maintain a fairly rigid definition of Street Photography, I know a lot of people, including some very notable ones don't even like the phrase 'Street Photography' but I think that horse has really bolted decades ago. Street Photographers were once men that would take your picture for payment on the sidewalk, that definition changed very quickly when the first role of 35mm film was put in a Leica camera by Oskar Barnack around 1913. It was really the photographers that took up those small portable cameras over the next 60 years that inadvertently redefined the phrase Street Photography to what we recognise today...a documentary form that celebrated the candid public moment. And now wether you like the phrase or not there is unarguably a large and growing international community of photographers for whom it is very important that their approach to making pictures is purely observed, whose intention is to [...]
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STREET 2012 by James Nares.

NYC based artist James Nares film 'STREET' is an unscripted 61-minute high definition video filmed over one week in September 2011 from Battery Park to the furthest reaches of Upper Broadway, and West Side to East Side. The film shows ordinary street life dramatically slowed down by the high speed camera which reveals the subtle gestures and nuances of human movement, behaviour and interaction on the streets of a busy metropolis. I see the film as fitting in half way between the fast pace of reality and the frozen moment of the street photograph, half way between the overwhelming un edited stream of real life and the highly edited most poignant image that we street photographers strive for casinoluck.ca. Watch the film and then think for a moment how much easier it would be to steal moments in a world that run at half speed.   James Nares: "STREET" from Paul Kasmin Gallery on Vimeo.   Here you can see James talking [...]
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Making Street Photography Pay.

One of my Commercial Portfolios of Street Photographs.    I have often stated that I consider Street Photography to be the least commercial form of image making and yet I have made a good living for over twenty years from having a portfolio of Street Photographs. I thought I would explain a little about how I have managed to translate what I do on the streets into a commercially applicable form. The main issue with Street Photography is that it deals with the 'real' and very little commissioned photography portrays reality in the raw. Most commercial photography deals in retouched fantasy or specifically polishes reality to make it into an aspirational 'super reality'. The commercial photographer typically employs the dark arts of photography and post production to make the world look more colourful, more beautiful, brighter and purchasable.   Where can we fit into this as Street Photographers?   I won't lie to you, very few of us do fit [...]
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Undefining Street Photography

In the interviews and seminars that I do two questions continually arise... 1- Can you define Street Photography for us? 2- Does Street Photography have a future?   In the past I have tried to explain the place of Street Photography within the documentary tradition, I have talked about Street Photography as an approach, an attitude rather than a place where the pictures are made, I've talked about the minimal equipment required to shoot on the streets and the lack of interaction between the photographer and subject. To the second question I have talked about society and culture continually changing and therefore the subject matter of Street Photography continually being renewed and refreshed and relevant. Finally I have arrived at the realisation that I have been coming at these questions from completely the wrong angle, I have been playing the interviewers game, I have been going along with the notion that 'Street Photography' is a ring fenced region of some [...]
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