On Street Photography

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by OzRay, Sep 6, 2014.

  1. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    Street photography is one of the styles of photography that, for some reason, almost completely eludes me. While there are photographs labelled as street photography that I do like, in the main, it just does not connect in any major way with me. And I'm not a photography snob, as I like all and any style of photography (note not all and sundry Photoshopping), but this is one area that I don't quite understand. I look at street photography completely differently to documentary photography.

    I thought I'd raise this as a discussion point, following a post on TOP about a street photographer that apparently has a big following: http://www.jbuhler.com/ and his Flickr site: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jbuhler/sets/. After going through lots of his albums, I'm still at a loss as to what makes this so very interesting, as hundreds of B&W photos of strangers in non-descript activities doesn't resonate at all with me. And no where does he include any sort of description about the shots, yet he does detail the camera, lens, exposure setting used etc which, to me, is completely irrelevant.

    Then I came across an interesting video clip on street photography that explains one person's view on street photography, but also brings to light an interesting comment about 'the decisive moment': http://petapixel.com/2014/09/06/video-fear-books-asking-take-pictures/. Also mentioned were some books about classic photographers, such as Josef Koudelka; but when I re-acquainted myself with those works, they didn't really come across as the 'street photography' that most seem to associate with in their photography. In fact, most of Koudelka's photography captures people more or less posing for him, an antithesis of 'street photography' theory (from what I've read).

    Is street photography something that you either 'get' or 'don't get' and that there's no in-between?
     
  2. Theo

    Theo Mu-43 Veteran

    318
    Aug 26, 2013
    Canada
    Theo K.
    Have you view Vivian Meier's work? How does her work resonate with you? Many people have pleasant opinion about her work.

    Sent from my Nexus 5 using Mu-43 mobile app
     
  3. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    Yes I have and I like her work, but they are very much posed portraits, not the style that confuses me when it comes to what many today call street photography: https://www.google.com.au/search?q=...fZ8gWn9YHQBA&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAQ&biw=1920&bih=926. I don't like everything that say Vivian Meier has taken, but I like vastly more of Meier's works than what is in say Buhler's portfolio.
     
  4. agentlossing

    agentlossing Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jun 26, 2013
    Andrew Lossing
    Some of Buhler's work grabs me, some doesn't. It's not a straightforward type of street photography, but I think one thing that photographer is after is tying disparate elements together, like the speeding taxi with the woman running.

    Some street stuff is arcane to me, it seems odd to put highly symbolic stuff up against what is way more documentarian, and call them the same genre. Perhaps we shouldn't really use "street" at all, though I get it's all the rage at present. I recall a quote from (the admittedly totalitarian and dystopian government of) The Giver, which I recently saw; "precision of language!" Maybe we need a little totalitarianism ;)
     
  5. phigmov

    phigmov Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 4, 2010
    I like it, although I'm rubbish at it (whatever 'it' might be).

    For me, its all about capturing street life (usually strangers) in a moment in time; extra points for composition, angles, lines, symmetry, humour, juxtaposition and the surreal.

    Some nice samples of modern 'Street' over at Hardcore Street Photography on flickr -

    https://www.flickr.com/groups/onthestreet/pool/

    Their constructive criticism discussion threads are brutal, but when they give props to a good pic you can see their reasoning.
     
  6. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    There are some interesting shots in that link, things that are intriguing, things that are at odds or which make you look more closely to see what's going on. I don't mind such shots, but those that look to me like happy snaps I just pass over quickly. Mind you, that Hardcore Street Photography group seems to include anything and everything in street photography, confusing things even more.
     
  7. biomed

    biomed Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 22, 2013
    Seattle area
    Mike
    This is literally "street photography" -
    12024300864_4608b13aef_c.

    or

    14431370687_73d8aeff69_c.

    Seriously, I have never totally understood the exact definition of "street photography". I think it is a pretty broad term. Most of the little photography I do on the street is what I consider people photography either candid or posed. Here is a definition of street photography that made a bit more sense of the term -

    Street photography is photography that features the human condition within public places and does not necessitate the presence of a street or even the urban environment. The subject of the photograph might be absent of people and can be an object or environment where the image projects a decidedly human character in facsimile or aesthetic.

    Still pretty generic!
     
  8. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    That's an interesting definition, as in another thread some felt that street photography doesn't apply if it the people aren't on a street, in a city or the like. Street portraiture/candids is, more often than not, what I associate with what many call street photography. You also raised another interesting point in that what do you call photographs of streets and components of streets etc? I was about to say urban photography, but then when I had a look at some examples, it often looked like street photography.

    This is an interesting article: http://tupf.ca/what-is-urban-photography/.

    That article kind of lit a light bulb.
     
  9. alex66

    alex66 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    715
    Jul 23, 2010
    Some classical style street photography is interesting, points where the photographer has caught an interesting happening or has hid some interesting light and so on. However there does seem to be a lot of what can only be called drek, people walking down the street or someone eating a mars bar on a bench. I have tried street photography, but I do not have anything interesting or new to add to the form or more bluntly I felt my output was super drek. I see my self as an Urban Landscape photographer anyhow and these get used for children's books ultimately. I can look at some street work people like Meyerowitz and Gilden are quite interesting, though I am amazed the later has not been battered. The form of photography I just don't seem to enjoy is Landscapes, it leaves me cold, even Ansel Adams though I see the quality in his work. I struggle with the definition of street photography too as it seems one person will include urban landscapes and others will go mad at you for doing so, I prefer to use the term Urban for people less work, gets it away from 'street' :biggrin:
     
  10. Street photography is a very useful form of photography/documentary in a historical context. In amongst recording who won what war, who assassinated who, who cut down the rainforest, etc, is what daily life looked like. Even in the here and now it makes it easy to see the differences brought about by geographical, cultural and financial divides.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  11. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    For me, the link from the Toronto urban photography festival went a long way to explaining what's maybe happened with 'street photography' and how it's perhaps transformed from how it was perceived 40+ years ago.
     
  12. RichardB

    RichardB Snapshooter

    443
    Nov 19, 2012
    Maryland, US
    Richard
    I looked at Buhler's street photo albums I & II on flickr and I thought they were far better than the random candids I often see under the street label. Buhler's shots have interesting juxtapositions, or candid expressions that say something about the human interaction that is going on. I don't fret about whether the "say something" that could be made explicit, though I have no doubt that a critic or an academic could explicate them. I just get a sense from them of some emotional context, which lesser photographers do not convey.
     
  13. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    I don't wish to disparage Buhler's work, as clearly many like what he does, but to me most just look like happy snaps of travels and functions/events that he's attended (overall I don't think many are very good at all and I went through his entire gallery). I get the feeling that Buhler more or less machine guns (maybe automatic pistols) everything he sees and then selects what he thinks are useable.

    Whereas, Maier's work, to me, shows deep empathy and respect towards her subjects, and each shot appears to be deliberate and thought out, with some purpose in mind. Maier's work does not send me a message that she was taking photographs just to demonstrate that 'I woz here', which is the impression that I get from most of Buhler's work.

    And to be honest, while I don't 'get' street photography, I believe that there are infinitely better photographs displayed on this forum than what Buhler puts on Flickr.
     
  14. agentlossing

    agentlossing Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jun 26, 2013
    Andrew Lossing

    I think that's largely the ease with which modern enthusiasts can create and disseminate their stuff, you and only you are doing the culling. The classical street photographers are those who've stood the test of time and whose work still speaks to people.

    Street photography because of its serendipitous nature is easy enough to generate, but the vast majority of it is crap, missed moments or moments that weren't what the photographer hoped they'd be or maybe just the product of a bored or novice or uncreative mind, frankly. Back in the day when galleries, not Flickr, were how work was seen you just couldn't afford that lack of craftsmanship, of professionalism.
     
  15. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Don
    Much of what is being captured in images today, like street photography, will be of more interest in the future than it is to us now.

    A lot of what to us is boring, relatively unexciting "street photography", created today, will be of great interest to people 75 or 100 years from now... if for no other reason than to portray the "feel" of human life and culture in the late 1900's and early 2000's. People in 2100, if our human culture has not been nearly destroyed by then, will be fascinated by our vehicles, clothing, our appliances, hobbies, and activities.

    This world, in 2100, will be a dramatically different place than it is today... probably far different than we imagine it will be.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  16. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    I can imagine all those selfies causing wonderment and debate amongst social analysts and others in 100 years time. :biggrin:

    But on another note, since so many 'street photographers' are trying to emulate the likes of Maier et al photographs, will people in 100 years think they've discovered photographs from 200 years ago. :confused:
     
  17. While they provide some useful insights, I think that the author of that article has simply performed some neo-research and concluded that the few famous proponents of street photography in years past were 100% representative of the genre during their time. The increased democratization of photography in recent years means that it is accessible to more people, the change in camera technology means that new styles and techniques have emerged, and the ease of publishing your work on line means that there is an infinitely larger database of modern street photography on which to draw.
     
  18. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Barry
    Hi,

    Many of her shots weren't posed.
    Btw, The two recent documentaries on her were both interesting.

    Barry



    Sent from my iPad using Mu-43
     
  19. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    Despite the basis of the article, the thrust of what it's saying resonates with me and kind of supports what perplexes me about much of so-called street photography. I think photography was (democratised?) made available to the masses when Kodak brought out the Box Brownie. Also, I'm not so sure about new styles and techniques; there's nothing today that hasn't been photographed likely well before the introduction of the Box Brownie and most certainly after that. The only thing that is really has changed is the distribution of photographs.
     
  20. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    By 'posed', I meant that the subject was well aware of the photographer and accepting of what they were doing. Street photography seems to be mainly about surreptitious photography of people going about their daily business.