I don't get street photography. Please explain

Started May 3, 2013 | Discussions thread
One River
Regular MemberPosts: 341
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Re: If you don't get, that's OK by me
In reply to fad, May 4, 2013

fad wrote:

Street photography is hard to do well, and not so easy for many people to understand.   That's OK.

It is the form of photography that is unique to the camera.  Other genres are derivative from manual techniques.  Some people think that what photography is is defined by SP, the instantaneous capture of a unique moment of time as it passes.

SP does not derive from social photography.  It's origins lie in Surrealism, certain French poets and the privileged position given to the observer in the esthetics of Denis Diderot.  Atget's photos that evoke the poetry of street scenes in the old corners of Paris are an important precursor.

SPers try to be surreptitious, rely upon chance and the rapid evaluation of photographic opportunities, not document anything, but to put a poetic face on contemporary life, to show and suggest the beauty that is in our public social interactions.  They do this with no control over lighting, color, background of subjects in a constantly changing and unpredictable situation.

A SP genius, Robert Doisneau, summed it up:  "If I knew how to take good pictures, I would do it every time."   It is a process of continual failure and loss, to get a few images that give goosebumps.

Fascinating post, thank you.

I'm not saying any kind of photography, done well, is easy.  It is all crazy difficult.   But I don't recommend anyone take up SP unless they are willing to endure years of failure and very difficult work and self-examination.  It's not for everyone.

Here is where we run into trouble. Perhaps for real street photographers, this is the case. But I see lots of truly lazy street photography too. As in hipsters that take bad pictures and couch the badness of the pictures as "art" that peasants like many of us do not understand.

I agree that there is something beautiful about street work (as posted earlier, a great example from the NEX forum). But there seems to be a fair amount of mediocrity in the genre too, which is true of all genres.

And if you don't get it, don't even try.   Not everyone gets the poetry of the street.  Pay attention to what you were born to respond to.  Historically, the poetry of the country, starting with Theocritus in Syracuse, has been a passion for sophisticated city dwellers.   The other way around doesn't seem to work.   Bumpkins, for some reason, never learn to dig the city.

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Frank
shot in downtown Manhattan.
http://sidewalkshadows.com/blog/ (street photos)

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