Discussion in 'Talking Pictures' started by Geren, Feb 10, 2020.
One last hurrah .... just can't get the grasp of this picture taking thang ...
This is a great discussion. There are so many fantastic shots posted too.
I returned to photographing after years of eshewing it, as adolscent weirdness transformed into parental saturation with the requirement to chronicle every breath of the kids & outing. A crazy moment of joy with my mobile camera, waving at people from a tour bus in Granada and capturing their mostly smiling responses, made me realise just how much I liked seeing the faces of strangers, people from all parts. In the background of some of those shots were also hints at contexts and environments, the social scientist in me was also stirred. I spent that summer snapping everyone and thing!
Years later, and now using a range of film cameras and a digital, I'm still working out my own take on the genre. As with any art form & genre, there is clearly no fixed parameters. Each photographer worth their salt in any genre of the medium must make it their own. As Benchista said, “Good street is great, but as rare as good photography in any genre.”
I really appreciated some words by EightBitTony:
“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.”
However, what he next said I found less agreement with:
“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…”
For me, ‘street photography’ is without suffixes, i.e. SP portraits, it has to be spontaneous. That doesn’t mean prefixes aren’t useful in describing the style of SP, i.e. documentary SP, narrative SP, even abstract SP or portrait SP. But I would still hope to see something that emerged spontaneously from wandering about in environments shaped by people.
At present, I think what interests me the most is capturing the expressions on people’s faces, especially when they are interacting with others or with the environments they find themselves in. I also have a documentary tendency, sometimes this can lead to less engaging photos but I think in years to come a few might provide a useful and appealing record on specific place/time/culture.
I do have a questions for anyone doing street photography: what is your preferred lens.
I've been struggling with this one. I like getting in among the people and then snapping. 35mm is good - (but I need a better one!) But I've also used a handy 50mm that allows me a decent shot from the other side of the road. And I've also used a 85mm (on an apsc) and that is great for picking out people from a distant but the AF is often very hit and miss.
I have a roll to develop where I used a 24mm on an old Olypums OM40. This might be interesting!
A great read with great photos, BI, and I agree with you 100% that capturing expressions of the people, subjects or onlookers, really does
enhance (the) photos
As for a lens for shooting 'street', I realise that the "preferred (?)" lens is a full frame equivalent of a 35mm, but, personally speaking, I have used
lenses ranging from 17mm to 2000mm . Currently, I use my Coolpix P900 (w/ 24-2000), my Pentax mount Tamron 70-200/2.8, DA 50-135/2.8.
FA50/1.7, SMC 135/2.5, SMC 35/2.8 and a Sigma 24/2.8 on my Pentax PZ1P and Pentax K-3
PS: here's an example of some street shot at 1800mm ...
and, not so much street, but, water, at 2000mm
My faves are 24mm and 35mm. 28 gives me context and 35 gives me a more selective view where people are more important.If I use a zoom, it is the 12-60 (24-120) on Olympus.
In the dim and distant 1960s, our headmaster insisted that everyone in the sixth form did a course in psychology. (This only made some kind of sense when we discovered that his PhD thesis had been on the teaching of psychology as a method of improving the learning of older children!)
One bit that has stuck with me, is something that was referred to as the hierarchy of human communication. Put simply, it claimed that humans get the least information from sound alone and the most information from another human's face, stance and context. I long since decided that most of that course was two hours per week of wasted effort but that nugget has tended to influence my views on photography ever since.
Then you're excluding a big bunch of what are traditionally considered street photography classics.
Street photography or portrait? Or Street Photography Portrait?
That may be so. On the other hand, very few of Diane Arbus's pictures appeal to me and that image is a good example of what makes me think of her as a great self publicist rather than a producer of interesting pictures.
But I wonder what happened to that somewhat unusual child.
Doesn't that suggest that the photograph has some power? Remember I am normally a bit unsentimental over human issues but the image makes me wonder "How did life turn out for him?".
It is a powerful image. The grenade is a toy; I know that. He looks a bit underfed.
Today there are underfed children with real grenades all over the world, but especially in the middle east. and North Africa. Perhaps the picture was before its time.
Luckily, you can find out.
According to The Washington Post, Colin does not specifically remember Arbus taking the photo, but that he was likely "imitating a face I'd seen in war movies, which I loved watching at the time." Later, as a teenager, he was angry at Arbus for "making fun of a skinny kid with a sailor suit", though he enjoys the photograph now.
She catches me in a moment of exasperation. It's true, I was exasperated. My parents had divorced and there was a general feeling of loneliness, a sense of being abandoned. I was just exploding. She saw that and it's like...commiseration. She captured the loneliness of everyone. It's all people who want to connect but don't know how to connect. And I think that's how she felt about herself. She felt damaged and she hoped that by wallowing in that feeling, through photography, she could transcend herself.
— Colin Wood
Certainly. It has the power to make me turn the page.
When you say spontaneous I'm guessing you referring to the subject? The action of taking a photograph is always spontaneous, even if as a landscape photographer we have been sitting in the same spot for hours, there will either be that moment whatever the genre when everything you visualised occurs and you make the photograph, or not and you go home empty handed.
Looking at the image by Diane Arbus that is spontaneous moment caught on film, creating a memorable image. Although it was taken as part of a portrait session it meets the definition of street?
It also show that how we edit our photographs is important - if you look at the contact sheet (on the wikipedia page) the subject would probably have preferred tone/poses of the other images taken at the same time, but none have the power of the image Arbus chose for her portfolio. Interestingly, Arbus never managed to make a living as a photographer with her pictures usually selling for less than $100 when she was alive.
For a successful street photography image, whoever prefix or suffix (like wildlife photography) IMO you need patience, (which is why I'm no good at it) and the ability to capture a spontaneous moment occurring in front of the camera. For the viewer to appreciate the image, either the wit or the shock, they need to understand why you took that image at the precise moment, and why was it unique from a moment before it or a moment after it? If there is no 'decisive moment' then the image will not stand out from the tsunami of sameness that we now are subjected to daily on Instagram etc. Whilst we can look back at the masters, I think the current work of Matt Stuart (http://www.mattstuart.com/photography The 'All that life' gallery) is a great example of modern street photography. When I look at his images I know (99% of the time) exactly why he took the picture at the moment he did, appreciate his patience, his skill and his eye for detail whilst still enjoying the end result. They don't challenge the viewer like Joel Mayerowitz images but sometimes it's good to kick back and enjoy something more fun and gentle.
So you rate yours as better?
You could be pushing on an open door there Mike.
I'm not sure about the science but the inspiration of this psychology is great! It does feel true when I see some of the best of street photography. Thanks!
I absolutely don't think Arbus's photo is SP. At best you could say it's portrait photography in a street/park. In fact, you can see that she took at least 12 shots of poor Colin and then selected this to publish. I'm not knocking its photographic quality - or that of any other photographer who sets up, stages, interacts with strangers, actors or models in the street to make a photo. Each can be judged on its own merits as 'art' but for me it wouldn't fit into a genre collection named 'Street photography'.
Nah. Being nasty to Mike is anti-social. I leave that sort of behaviour to him.
Yes, spontaneous from the subject's perspective - meaning that they were not in communication with the photographer, or ideally knowing a photo was being taken of them. This wasn't the case for the shot of Colin, hench was it cannot in my books count as SP. I could be photographing fashion models on the street and ask them to act natural but it don't make it SP.
However, you do raise that very interesting point about decision to push the button. There is a deliberate act there. And which shot I decide to post/publish is also deliberate. In this, I don't want to appear critical of Arbus. I would have selected the same shot of Colin. It's the most interesting, the image most likely to intrigue the viewer. But I fear we'd go down a rabbit hole if we asked of a photographer that they were sure they'd know why they were taking that image at that precise moment? As with all art, there are truths captured that not even the artist, poet, novelist, film maker, photograph may be fully cognisant of when they create (and select for publication). They might just a feeling there's something there worth sharing. In SP, this something is whatever just happened to be captured spontaneously in a place influenced by humans.
Without a contact sheet, how can you tell, and if you can't tell, is it street photography or not?
Are these street photography?
Camera Shy by Tony Evans, on Flickr
Faces of Pride #3 by Tony Evans, on Flickr
Smoqued by Tony Evans, on Flickr
How about this?
Blowing Kisses by Tony Evans, on Flickr
They don't look like SP to me. Documenting a festival or capturing someone, a stranger even, posing for you may be good photography (documentary, reportage, portrait) but it ain't SP. And true, many so-called SP photographers set up shots and it's impossible to tell but that's a different issue, about artistic integrity.
As I also said, please, I don't mind what people call SP. I'm just trying to work out my own engagement with the genre.
Separate names with a comma.