|Selfie, the Streets of Glasgow|
I recently read a book by David Gibson titled The Street Photographer’s Manual (Thames & Hudson Publishing, 2011). Gibson is a practicing photographer and tutor who has led workshops in London, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Singapore, and other major cities. He is one of the founding members of "In-Public," the first international collective of street photographers. As I read the book which describes the history and process of street photography, introduces respected modern street photographers, and presents projects or challenges to learn various techniques useful in street photography, I started looking at the attempts I’ve made over the years at the genre.
This post will explain what street photography is and will share what I hope are some of my better examples.
First, what is “street photography?” Gibson’s definition takes up his four page introduction and never comes to a precise definition. Instead, the definition sort of comes to, “You’ll know it when you see it.” Street photography as I see it is made up of grabbed or found shots of people or things in various locations, mostly urban. Some street photography may have some planning to it, such as street portraits, but is never staged or set-up photography. Most of the subjects don’t know they are being photographed and the photographer tries not to intrude upon the subject. The best street photographs tell a story, but the story may not be evident at first glance. As I said, you’ll know it when you see it.
Second, Gibson divides street photography by suggesting assignments for practicing the genre. These assignments make good categories for exploring street photography. I have used them to organize some of my own photos which I call street photography.
BUSY. By it’s very nature much of street photography explores or records “busy space”—the marketplace, the business district, large groups. The street photographer must try to pull the story out of the crowd in one image.
|Lined up, but no entry.|
EMPTY. In contrast to the busy street is the “empty street,” but as Gibson notes, “Street photographs that are empty of people, cars, or general clutter are not necessarily empty of mood or interest."
|It's Called a Close|
EVENTS. Events are the staple of the photojournalist, the documentarian, and the snap-shooter, but the challenge for the street photographer is to find the kernel within the whole—photograph the story within the event rather than the event.
|Young dancer at the Blackford Highland Games, Scotland.|
|Parking lot Avebury Stone Circle, England.|
|Officer and protester at the Women's March.|
ORDER. According to Gibson, “Making order out of chaos is an abiding principle of street photography, particularly when confronted with a busy scene.” In my experience, the photograph that highlights order often is a grabbed shot where the real subject comes to light after the fact.
|Girls in the Window|
|The Pub Crowd, Dingle Peninsula, Ireland|
|Faces in the Crowd|
|Japanese Tour Group in the Rain, Edinburgh|
LINING UP. “A strong element of street photography is making things fit…,” says Gibson. I think of it as juxtaposition of elements to make some statement, real or created.
|Mind If I Read Over Your Shoulder?|
|Phone Booth, Port Isaac|
BEHIND. Photographing people face on (portraiture) can be uncomfortable for the photographer as well as for the subject, but shooting from behind allows the photographer more freedom. It’s an easier option, but it often becomes more difficult to tell a story from the backside.
|The Professor, St Andrews|
OBJECTS. Street objects are part of the natural environment of the street, but approached individually “they have character just like people.” (Gibson)
|Street Sign, Santa Fe|
|Mail Boxes, Tucson|
ABSTRACT. The abstract image is often overlooked by casual photographers, but a dedicated street photographer can find interesting abstract images (peeling paint, interplay of shadows, patterns created by images out of focus). In a world of realistic, recognizable images, the abstract image can be very thought provoking.
|Graffiti, Santa Fe|
|Pigeons in the Close|
|There Was a Sign Here Once|
PEOPLE. Aside from the street itself, the most important subject for street photography is people. People doing ordinary things as well as the exceptional. People interacting with each other and with the environment. The stories street photography can tell about people are endless. The last two shots in this series are of a special kind of people, children.
|Old Friends, Budapest|
|Skinny Santa in the Rain, Victoria|
|No Fishing Today, Cromarty Harbour, Scotland|
|Tea Room Conversation, Kirriemuir, Scotland|
|Study in Red and Black, Oxford|
|First Train Ride, Budapest|
|Street Artist, Seattle|
|Man with Bird, Santa Fe|
|The Selfie of a Selfie|
David Gibson sums up his book, The Street Photographer's Manual, like this: "...it's really an exciting time to be a street photographer." I certainly agree.
NEXT: Really, the next post will be from Scotland.