In Defense of Street Photography
I recently came upon a very interesting blog by a British photographer. His name is Colin Pantall and he has this really interesting series of posts called “How Not To Photograph”. They are extremely entertaining and insightful. Although they all have the ring of truth there was one posting yesterday which I identified with and felt I had to respond to. I left an inane comment but thought I might expand on my defense of Street Photography here.
Colin’s main point was that photographers who work in the street are lazy and do not want to interact with humanity. They stand on a street corner and passively wait for interesting things to happen in front of their lens. He has a point and I certainly fit into this category at one time (and sometimes now) but Street Photography for me is more of a creative act. There is so much going on that the photographer has to impose his sense of order. He has to impose himself upon the world. The photographer interprets, takes away and adds to the scene by where, when and how he positions himself and the camera and of course, when he presses the shutter. If the photographer is really creative there is a whole universe of what I call Camera Vision at his disposal, focal length, depth of field, exposure time that he can apply to his canvas.
In my comment to Mr. Pantall I also said that a good photographer is always thinking about what he is doing and why and how he can expand upon the work of others. A good artist always tries to expand the limits of his art. As an example I offer the photograph below (see also the previous postings where I discuss my 42nd Street project). A street photograph does not have to be sharply focussed and centered on people. The picture could be about color, about the relationship of people and nature (even in an urban environment), about where ideas come from. A street photograph can be transcendent and beautiful. Now of course I am not the first to realize all of what I just said, certainly Joel Meyerowitz, William Eggleston and Paul Graham are all masters of what I am attempting to do. But I thought it worth mentioning once again.