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Street Photography

Discussion in 'Talking Pictures' started by Geren, Feb 10, 2020.

  1. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    Ah yes, this old chestnut.

    I spend a lot of time pounding local streets and taking photographs but the resulting images don't often look like the kind of thing I usually see labelled as 'street photography'. Mainly because for me, it's more about getting the feel of this place, trying to capture something of the nature of the town I live in and therefore not dependent on a 'moment'. That's not to say that I don't produce some images that have that element but it's not what I go out looking for so therefore it's generally not what I find. What's your take on Street Photography? Anyone doing a project?




  2. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    You never need a weather vane when you've got seagulls.
    I always think Street is delightful when you have a connection to it, or can see things that attract you into going somewhere else. A mix of architecture and people and their place in it. Very often, my own place is almost deserted, but it says as much as if it was full of people.

    These give us glimpses into your world. I like them!
    ascu75 likes this.
  3. RovingMike

    RovingMike Crucifixion's a doddle...

    Most projects I do usually have a street element, or section to them. For Bishopsgate, I did most of the "Street" at the end, after the Urban, because I needed to re-focus the mind. I'm looking to describe the place, but also to find a cameo within it. I only really use people if I can find a purpose for them beyond animating the urban scene.

    Couple from the back end of Bishopsgate project:

    [​IMG]_8180673 by Mike Longhurst, on Flickr

    [​IMG]_8180653 by Mike Longhurst, on Flickr

    [​IMG]_8180615 by Mike Longhurst, on Flickr

    [​IMG]_8180724mono by Mike Longhurst, on Flickr

    The old guy in Petticoat Lane and baby asleep in Brick Lane in other threads were from that same set.
  4. RovingMike

    RovingMike Crucifixion's a doddle...

  5. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    That line of colourful people being 'eyed' by black and white Dali is wonderful!
    Done_rundleCams and RovingMike like this.
  6. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    A few Stornoway sights.

    After the wedding

    ap street 2.jpg

    ap street 1.jpg
    It snows sometimes.

    ap street 3.jpg
    and sometimes the sun comes out.

    ap street 5.jpg
    A heavy load.
  7. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    I like to record and share images of people I found interesting...

    At work in the street Exmouth P1130650.JPG

    Bicycle with big tyres and trailer in Exeter A65 DSC02564.JPG

    Blind man with friend Sidwell Street Exeter DSC00702.JPG

    Bus driver smiling at colleague DSCF3452.jpg

    Chinese girls laughing at boy in Sidmouth DSC01536.JPG

    Girls dressed as fantasy characters near Exeter bus station P1012211.JPG

    Two young men sharing a joke Exeter bus station DSC00637.JPG
  8. NickM

    NickM Well-Known Member

    Sometimes you just gotta vent.:D

  9. Zou

    Zou Well-Known Member

    Since moving to the semi-rural idyll from Edinburgh my 'street' photographer has almost entirely stopped. Occasional delights (such as a rise of communist feeling) do warrant a picture though:

  10. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    I did some slightly different street photography today courtesy of a very wet bus windscreen...

    Distorted figure through wet windscreen G9 P1013152.JPG

    Out of focus umbrella G9 P1013149.JPG
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  11. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    Image heavy, sorry.

    My personal view is that there are many sub-genres of street photography but they all share one core aspect. The presence of humanity in an environment that is not purely natural. So the classic landscape shot of someone standing in a beautiful landscape is not a street shot, but someone standing on a beach with groyns and stone walls can be. I don't think you need people, but you need the feeling of their presence or their specific absence. Shots can be multiple genres, a portrait can be a street photo, a street photo can be an urban landscape, a landscape can be a portrait, etc. Images have dominant genres I think, and then street (as a dominant genre) has multiple sub-genres or themes within it.

    I think I would probably quibble in a pub over @Geren's third shot, that's landscape for me, but my own description above would have me being a hypocrite because the subject appears to be standing on a man-made wall.

    There are the classic sub-genres, candid portraits, juxtapositions, documentary, surreal, moments, etc. Each of those though can be a blend. I have a love hate relationship with street photography (which is pretty much the root of my love hate relationship with all my photography). Right now, I'm happy with some of the stuff I've done but have absolutely no confidence left to go out and do any more, which is somewhat disheartening. I hope it's a phase, and that I can push through it or somehow defeat it, or at least learn to ignore it, but we'll see.

    I started writing about voyeurism with regards to street photography, but the pure form of that word is always rooted in sexual pleasure, which is too strong a phrase. Intrusive sounds wrong. Invasive sounds harsh as well, but is probably the closest to a non-sexual connotation. So street photography is the most invasive kind of photography (outside of tabloid photo journalism) in many ways. All photography is about capturing something, but street photography is often (but not always) done without consent either before hand or afterwards, and so is I think one of the most challenging genres to handle emotionally.

    People don't think twice about posting a holiday snap of a building which shows other people they don't know, but they would never think of taking photographs of those other people and posting them online with the building as a backdrop, unless you call yourself a street photographer. That challenge is undeniable; documentary, juxtaposition, absurd, or just observational.

    I took up photography to photograph wildlife, and discovered a love of watching people and taking street shots (and urban landscapes, and documentary photographs, etc.) I am, as I've said before, as surprised as anyone by that outcome in some ways, but in other ways perhaps not. I've always been fascinated by the self, by perception, by what we determine reality to be, and I think street photography comes closest to talking about those topics in relation to people than any other form of photography (assuming documentary is a form of street, and not a separate genre, which of course it has every right to be).

    Of course, as @RovingMike will attest a lot of celebrated street photography talks about nothing at all, and is purely superficial. Combinations of lines and colours which make glorious shapes, but which ultimately says little about humanity. The holy grail, I guess, is a photograph that is ascetically clever, while possessing depth and awareness and speaking about humanity.

    I've shared one shot of mine which I like to think comes close. I think it talks about who we are as people, while having a pleasing structure to it.

    [​IMG]Heavy Seas by Tony Evans, on Flickr

    As with every shot we take, it could be better. Many would suggest the long lens (110mm on a crop, so around 175mm at 35mm equivalent) prevents it being a real street photograph. Would he have lain there for me to walk up to him? Would I have had the courage? Would being closer actually make that a more interesting photo? We'll never know, he's gone, that moment is passed never to be repeated in exactly that shape.

    I've taken superficially clever street photographs, not as clever as the popular shots by any means, but things I was proud of and which I waited and worked for.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    I've tried shapes and colour, and I'd like to try more, but feel I'm limited by the urban landscape which I can easily reach (yes, I know how to solve that).

    [​IMG]Red Black Red Black by Tony Evans, on Flickr

    I sometimes keep my eye out for the absurd. Balloons for heads, people carrying picture frames or mirrors, but so far, no joy. I did get this but it doesn't count.

    [​IMG]Unicorn by Tony Evans, on Flickr

    I spent a long time 'photographing interesting people' but it's the least rewarding style of street photography for me, and I eventually got bored of it (my flickr album is full of it from when I started, I won't post any).

    I've shot some moments, but they're hard to define, harder to predict, and harder to catch. Is this a moment?

    [​IMG]Cucumber Cool by Tony Evans, on Flickr

    Is this?

    [​IMG]Momentary by Tony Evans, on Flickr

    And I think lastly, I shoot a little bit of documentary or social history, and try and make the shots engaging and pleasing.

    [​IMG]You Want Fries With That? by Tony Evans, on Flickr

    I started out shooting birds in the garden, and thinking I needed a better camera, and now I lug 2lbs of magnesium around a city centre failing to shoot anything with a lens that cost more than my first car. Life is strange.
  12. Dan S

    Dan S Well-Known Member

    Great post Tony

    I am just not very good at it! I fail to see the good places and can't react quickly enough. I also feel very self conscious. When I watch videos of these guys doing street photography they seem so relaxed and no one seems to notice them, but I take so long with the camera attached to my face that I become obvious and then feel like a stalker.

    Photos do seem to add something with people in them though, it must be part of our human response to see people and that makes us feel comfortable. Also people have complexities that inanimate objects dont have, they are interacting with their surroundings and that provides a story, or some intrigue.

    I can however, also feel overwhelmed by street photography. If the person in the photo isn't interacting in some way, whether directly, or compositionally I feel it can be rather bland. This is what end up with and why I am no good at it.

    How do you overcome the self conscious side of street photography?
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  13. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    Keep doing it!
  14. Fishboy

    Fishboy Well-Known Member

    I suspect it varies from person to person.

    I know one person who just walks up to people and asks if he can take their picture, and I know another who has his phone linked to a camera over his shoulder and uses the phone to control the camera so he can take pictures while looking in a seemingly different direction!

    For me, I felt really uncomfortable trying to take street stuff with a little Fuji X-Pro1 - something akin to a stalker. One day I found myself trying it with a full frame Nikon and felt better, but still not great. Finally I used a huge, medium format camera and felt no concern whatsoever!

    I suppose that for me, the next step is to set up a 5x4 large format camera on a tripod in the middle of Manchester and see how I do - based on the fact that my confidence and comfort seems to increase with the size of the camera I expect to be so laid back that I fall asleep!

    I suppose that the bottom line is to do as Kath suggests and keep trying it (in different ways) until you find what works for you.

    Cheers, Jeff
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  15. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    How you feel is projected on to others. If you feel out of place, feel self conscious, feel like you're intruding, you'll behave like that, people will react, and it'll form a self feeding cycle. I pretend I'm a tourist, I wear something that I wouldn't normally wear when just walking around, I put myself in the mental space of 'I'm out and about doing something I'm allowed to do'. I don't alway suceeed.

    There's plenty to be said for observational, documentary, point-in-time shots of people doing ordinary stuff. Despite the billions of pictures taken each day, the number of them which are simply 'here's a street in my city with people in it' are probably still quite low vs. here's my face or here are my friends. I've got thousands of shots of ordinary life, and as I said, when I started I took photographs of people I thought were interesting. Some of them are still interesting people but they're not necessarily interesting photographs. It doesn't mean it isn't worth doing, because the more you watch people, the more you point the camera at them, the easier it becomes and the better you become and recognising situations that are interesting vs. just interesting faces.

    There's no one answer to that. Everyone differs. What works for one may not work for another. My only advice is, find what helps you and do that, which is no advice at all.
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  16. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    I was raised on photo magazine articles about candid photography so my preference is not to be spotted. Sometimes though, being seen can improve the shot...

    Men in queue at Exeter Bus Station G9 P1013138.JPG

    Woman with phone P1130336.JPG
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  17. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member


    I'm not supposed to link to my website because I use it for commercial purposes but I did a project called Connections as part of my HNC a few years back. It meant photographing people in trains and train stations (and tube stations as above). To begin with I did feel self conscious but the more I did it the less it bothered me. I also found that having a project made me feel as if I had a legitimate reason to be doing it - purely psychological but it works for me. I've never tried to hide what I'm doing and sometimes I like it when I get a reaction and someone notices. Sometimes candid is better. Sometimes I speak to people and ask if I can take their picture. It all depends on the moment and the intention.

    @EightBitTony - the man's standing on what's locally known as the poo pipe. Very much manmade, but I take your point!
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  18. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    The more you feel like a photographer rather than a snooper, the better you'll feel. I feel better behind a DSLR than I do behind something smaller for similar reasons.
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  19. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    First, _love_ that shot.

    Yes, the 'why am I taking this' matters hugely for me. If I don't have a reason then I find it harder to justify and 'sticking it on instagram' feels more intrusive than 'making a body of work for a project'.

    Yeh, my main point being that even my own personal definition doesn't survive 30 seconds of scrutiny by me!
  20. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    I've never found it "hard to justify" my photography. These days it's a hobby but that doesn't mean my activities need other peoples' validation.

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