Street Photography Now

Street Photography Now, Sophie Howarth and Stephen McLaren, Thames & Hudson 2010.

I got this book as a Christmas present, one that was on my list of books to get.

Chapter 1 considers the genre of street photography. Photography is ubiquitous now. The  advent of cheap good quality cameras and mobile phones with the ability to take perfectly acceptable images has given a vast majority of the population the means to capture daily life on the streets. But the book argues “the photographers who consistently produce interesting well-composed street pictures do not do so by chance———. What the strongest photographers possess , in addition to patience and persistence, is the ability to edit” pg 11. An interesting thought but also a true one, editing and choosing just one frame from perhaps hundreds  takes a great deal of thought , each one might have its merits but its the ability to choose the right one and being able to make the right decision is difficult, something I have personally found quite hard sometimes during the course. Libel laws and changing attitudes have created growing suspicion towards photographers making street photography as a genre more difficult, you need thick skin! Interestingly “shyness is a common characteristic among street photographers” pg 13. I am shy and find shooting on the streets a real challenge but  I think the physical barrier of a camera between  subject and photographer helps overcome this, in addition to being able to communicate with non-threatening body language “a moment of eye contact or a smile can signal permission to shoot” pg14. Street photography far from being a chance encounter is much more than that.

Chapter 2 Still life street photography. This chapter looks at “images that poetically document the things we buy , sell , fetishize , consume or discard” pg60. I had not really considered some of my own images taken of similar subject matter as  being street photography, but I love taking these sort of images. An example below taken by me in Brighton.

I adore taking photographs of dummies, mannequins etc and also read in this chapter about the link between surrealism and
street photography, “the surrealists————particularly loved mannequins–playful, occasionally grotesque , stand-ins for the human body–which seemed to hover between the material and the dream world” pg 64. My use of mannequins for assignment 3 was not altogether successful as my tutor felt my images were more about the object than the place. However I have developed a growing interest in surrealism and having read about this link will continue to explore it further. My examples below.

Chapter 3 Considers Cities.

Chapter 4 Looks at set-up street photography.Can such set-ups be considered candid street photography? This chapter argues this is not a new concept “one does not have to delve very deep into the history of the genre to discover just how many famous street photographs were staged, including most of Brassais Paris by Night and Bill Brandt’s A Night In London  to give two well known examples” pg 179,furthermore “the candid camera is the greatest liar in the photographic family” pg 180.Composition, focus, and  framing all contribute to the final outcome, the photographer alone chooses and the frame only represents a fraction in time, what happened before or after not known.

Chapter 5 is a discussion between photographers about street photography now.

From the book it is hard to single out any one particular image from the eclectic selection included in the book , but one photographer, Alexey Titarenko,  intrigued me. His long exposures were not quickly framed spontaneous images but carefully planned  to “convey the power and unbridled movement of an urban crown in flux” pg 199.  Furthermore his photography enabled
him to “evade censorship” pg 199 in communist Russia.


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