An opinion piece in the NY Daily News recently caused quite a stir after referring to street photography as “gender-based violence.” The author shares her encounters with street photographers, two of which ended in her calling the police. She even proposes a law that would “protect women against all nonconsensual, exploitative photography and videography.” As you can imagine, her opinion wasn’t appreciated by street photographers or anyone who appreciates this photography genre.
It goes without saying that if you want to get better at something you have to practice. Simple, right? The thing is, that unlike more structured pursuits such as sports or music, the idea of practicing street photography seems a bit hard to wrap one’s head around. But before we get into that, we should establish the best methodology for practice in in general.
How many people remember my interview with Eric Kim? This was a huge deal for me! I remember when I first started shooting street, his blog was one of the first that I came by. It was filled with so much information, but what was more interesting to me were the interviews he did with other street photographers. These interviews helped me discover so many photographers, Brian Day, Damian Vignol, Josh White… I could name so many. I just remember thinking, my work is going to be next to theirs… again it was just really exciting for me.
Street Photographers are not known for their reserve. We are happy to give advice on gear, framing and technique. But I believe the best photographers are those who also seek advice and look to learn from others. But not all advice is equal, and some ideas are outdated, narrow minded, or just plan wrong. In this article I am going to go question some of the advice that has almost become folklore in Street Photography, and pose the question, is it time to move on?
One of the best exercises for street photography I ever adopted was to focus my internal monologue into a process of constantly describing what I am seeing. I have always been introspective about the way I work, when it comes to what influences my overarching approach, what draws my eye moment to moment, and what I look for while curating.
I think the question of whether something is or is not art is a bit disingenuous, and can be used more as a tool for gatekeeping than true analysis or critique. There is no objective standard for what makes something enjoyable as a piece of art, whether that is a photograph, music, sculpture, or a blade of grass in a field. However when it comes to the deliberate creation of an artefact I think that the intention of the creator is very powerful, and can offer some strong insight into the way that work can be interpreted.
I believe we all hate it when we get stuck in a creative rut. But hey, it happens, and there are ways to overcome it. One of the ways to get out of it is to try a different genre, and that’s exactly what Manny Ortiz did. The portrait photographer hit the streets and tried something new – street photography. It didn’t go quite as he expected, but he learned a lesson that will be valuable to all of you who are currently experiencing the creative block.
Street Photography is hard to do well. Really hard. Even if you are great, most of your shots will not be.
The internet is filled with boring street photography. The biggest problem is people thinking any photo taken on the street is now Street Photography. There is so much more to Street Photography than that so how do you capture more in your Street Photography?
One way to strive for great Street Photography is by avoiding some of the habits of boring Street Photography.
Here are 7 of the Most Common Habits of Boring Street Photography:
As a street photographer, I accept that I have a bias towards the kind of work and criticisms I prefer to seek out as an audience to the work of others – although there are examples of landscape or portraiture that I do enjoy it is street photography and photojournalism that take up the majority of my interest.
I know that photographers and the photography community, in general, is a passionate one and that there is no shortage of critiques available for any work or opinion that creators choose to share. However despite knowing that there is criticism in every area of the art I still feel that some of the criticisms leveled against street photography as a genre as well as specific examples of street photographs are harsher than any I’ve seen in, for example, landscape, or portraiture.