The series of 5 articles about Street Photography made by myraincheck and slightly edited by moi* ends with:
WHAT IS STREET PHOTOGRAPHY?
Let's start stating that a street photo is not a photography of streets and it is not necessarily a photo taken in a street. So what does 'street' mean? Street is whatever background or surrounding, not staged, not posed by the photgrapher. And street is whatever photography which captures, explores humanity, the human behaviour, the relationships between individuals and between individuals and their surroundings.
"The essence of street photography is the impulse to take candid pictures in the stream of everyday life" (from Street photography Now).
The ability of the photographer stays in the ability to capture decisive moments, which often are something that only a trained eye is able to see, so that who watches the photo can find in it an unexpected, interesting, aspect, something able to convey a message, a story.
The ability of the photographer stays in the capacity of capturing in the seeming casuality of the action around him special moments. Finding, seeing, capturing, seizing these moments.
"A good street photograph should tease, puzzle, reveal, stun, provoke and thrill in equal measure. They should be light in mood but dense in emotion, hard to read but easy to enjoy. Above all they should have the WTF factor. Life isn't easily interpreted and neither should photographs which are derived from it". (Stephen McLaren)
ENVIROMENTAL PORTRAIT, SPONTANEOUS PORTRAIT OR STREET?
A street photography is not posed. If the portrait is posed it is not street.
A street photography needs a background. A NOT vague or accidental background, but a significant background. In a street photography usually the background adds significant elements that enrich and enhance with meanings and impact the human subject. If the portrait has a vague or accidental background, it is not street, but a spontaneous portrait.
URBAN PHOTOGRAPHY OR STREET PHOTOGRAPHY?
If the human presence has only a compositive role, if the human presence is not the centre of interest, if the human presence is accidental, casual, not significant, we have a urban scene and not a street photo.
STREET WITHOUT PEOPLE: CONCEPTUAL OR STREET?
Though, to be street the image has to suggest, evoke, indirectly represent humanity, through human symbols or artifacts (mannequins, street signs, adverts, graffiti), through animals or objects that play the role of the humans, through the things humans buy, produce, fetishize, consume or discard.
This kind of street photography often plays on the slippage between fantasy and reality.
PHOTOJOURNALISM OR STREET?
In a photojournalism photo the subject is relevant, significant, peculiar, unusual IN ITSELF and is not made unusual or surprising by frame, composition, technique or eye of the photographer.
Also the approach to the subjects is different: " While the photojournalist is working on answering questions of Who, What, When, Where and Why, I am interested in creating more questions" (Gus Powell).
What defines street photography is the 'forma mentis' of the photographer. Street photography is both humble and ambitious. Humble because it captures the everyday situations. Ambitious because it aims to represent life in its multiple manifestations and emotions, joy, sadness, irony, melancholy, absurdity, innocence, grotesque or fun.
IS STREET PHOTOGRAPHY A SNAPSHOT?
Sometimes a street photographer is able to take the photo he had in mind. But street photography is unpredictable and erratic and requires a lot of flexibility and readiness from the photographer, that might have to react fast to situations not to miss a good, unplanned and not foreseen moment.
The decisive moment is more important than composition, in street photography, but let's not forget that a decisive moment plus a good composition can make all the difference.
"At a time when staged narratives and rendered images are popular, I am excited by the fact that life itself offers situations far more strange and beautiful than anything I could set up"(Melanie Einzig).
WHY IS COMPOSITION IMPORTANT?
"Technical virtuosity, original composition, and compelling content are all essential, even if they do not necessarily guarantee a great street photograph" (from Street Photography Now).
WHAT IS A GOOD SUBJECT IN STREET PHOTOGRAPHY?
The subject of a street photo is not necessarily interesting, unusual, unseen in itself, but his strenght comes from the NARRATIVE CONSTRUCTION that the photographer is able to create around the subject. The way the photographer presents it, his original point of view, his capacity to take subjects out of context and juxtapose unrelated objects.
A street photographer is not necessarily objective in front of reality, but he often plays with illusions, as an illusionist or wizard would do in front of a public. Though, the trick has to be at the same time UNDERSTANDABLE. Otherwise there would not be anymore the honesty and truth aspect of the documentary photography.
"Like the rest of the choir here, I also do not do any major post-production or set things up to make a picture, but I feel very strongly that the act of putting four corners around something at a specific moment in time is already a manipulation of real life. We link things and create relationships that only exist because of our decisions" (Gus Powell).
"A great street photograph must elicit more than a quick glance and moment of recognition from the viewer. A sense of mystery and intrigue should remain, and what is withheld is often as important as what is revealed" (Street Photography Now).
IS A TITLE NECESSARY IN STREET PHOTOGRAPHY?
It is a good rule avoiding to suggest, throught the title, the emotional response we expect to trigger in the watcher. No titles like 'indifference', 'loneliness', 'innocence' and so on. So, if it needs a title to be understood, it is not good photo. A title that is obvious is redundant, and a title that suggests a feeling is manipulative. So, no title? Not necessarily. The title is useful as long as it doesn't pollute the content of the image being pretentious, didascalic or forcefully original. A title should leave freedom in the interpretation of the image and at the same time give some kind of info about the photo.