I lead a roundtable discussion for the Film Photographers Association in November. The topic was “Street Photography.” We discussed the nature of street photography, notable street photographers, and related subjects, mainly following the outline below. I am presenting the outline, a few short notes, and a selection of my photographs to provide illustrations for the discussion, which I hope may continue here. Share your thoughts, whether you were at the meeting or not, it will be good to hear additional ideas.
(I forgot to mention at the meeting that Martin Munkacsi was the inspiration for Henri Cartier Bresson to pick up photography. On the right is the photograph that kicked him in the gut and made him commit his life to photography and become a legend. Apparently, upon seeing this photograph, he immediately went out and purchased a camera, probably his first Leica.)
Street Photography Conversation Outline
- What is “street photography?”
- How does it differ from “documentary photography?”
- Street photography is always about “life as lived” where documentary photography presents anything
- Street photography is responsive, reactive where documentary photography is contemplative, planned
- Street photography records public life documentary photography may need the cooperation of the subject
- Who are the street photographers you are familiar with? What is their style?
- What is “decisive moment” which has become a misunderstood cliché?
- Images à la sauvette has become “decisive moment” when the book was published in the USA. The first simply means “images on the run” where “decisive moment” has taken a different meaning
- Decisive moment has come to mean “knowing when to photograph”
- In reality, it means something external to the photographer, when the confluence of elements create a striking photograph
- Eugene Atget was probably the first “street photographer” as he literally strolled the streets of Paris
- Street photography has some common thread with the surrealist movement
- They revel in presenting the “common, simple, ordinary”
- Atget, Bresson, Kertesz were all embraced by the surrealists
- Even today, when you view street photographs you are witnessing the ordinary life as it unfolds but an interesting moment was arrested to be shared with you
- There was actually a “profession” of “Street Photographer”
- Where the strolling photographer took pictures of people and
- Delivered prints for a fee
- This became very common in some parts with the advent of Polaroid photography
- Totally disappeared with the digital photography
- What are the satisfying elements of street photography?
- For the photographer
- For the viewer
- Notable street photographers
Henry Cartier Bresson
Henry Cartier Bresson