Written by: Tiffany Joyce
The buzz and excitement surrounding the discovery of Vivian Maier’s vast collection of photographs has generated a renewed interest in, and curiosity about, street photography.
Street photography reveals a candid look at a city’s population, architecture, and events. It can also be used to deliver a personal, social, political, or environmental message. Photographs are taken on city streets, in parks, along sidewalks, in shops, and from buildings. It becomes a no-holds-barred documentary into the life and times of a specific locale during a specific time-frame, and can be incredibly revealing with respect to the “feel” or “personality” of a particular place. It can generate within the viewer a sense of happiness, outrage, sympathy, and awe. Moments are caught in time – for better or for worse, flattering or condemning. A good street photographer will shoot their chosen subject with a non-judgemental eye, searching for accuracy in representation. The result is a photograph that draws the viewer directly into that place, directly towards that person, or directly into that moment in time.
To become a good street photographer, you must be willing to shoot every day. Shoot often, shoot a lot. Shoot at all times of the day and night, in all kinds of weather. The best shots come from those fleeting moments that occur randomly and without warning, so walk the streets and view your surroundings with a long eye. Observe details and colors, movement and patterns. Look for emotion and the interaction between people. Find a story within the shot and be aware of that story as you are composing the photograph.
The chosen photographic format is a very personal decision for the photographer. Some swear by wide angle lenses that capture an overall scene, whereas others choose a telephoto lens which allows them to get into a person’s space without them even knowing they are being photographed. Many choose a black and white format to portray a sense of drama or isolation, where others treat the color of a city as its own subject.
Whatever your chosen format, the flexibility of street photography makes it one of the most popular genres throughout photographic history. To learn to become an excellent street photographer, observe other people’s work to gain inspiration (I encourage you to view Vivian Maier’s extraordinary work, linked above), and practice as much as you can to gain experience. You will soon find your own rhythm; one that flows with the city as you explore, and reveals a vibrancy unique to your own vision.
Photo credits (in order of appearance):
- “Street Photography in NYC” by Flickr 4 Jazz on Flickr Creative Commons.
- “Another street photography” by Regel Zamora on Flickr Creative Commons.
- “Street Photography Glasgow” by Maria Bowskill on Flickr Creative Commons.
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