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Submitted on
June 4, 2012
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70 (who?)

The Essence of "Street"

Mon Jun 4, 2012, 12:16 AM


The series of 5 articles about Street Photography made by myraincheck and slightly edited by moi* ends with:


Trying to define a genre of photography like Street, it implies the consciousness that one definition will never be enough, or exhaustive, or able to cover the molteplicity of its possibilities and situations. Nevertheless let's try to comprehend the philosophy behind the passion for 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)

29 by felixlu

dreams by lukasvasilikos

street 439043950435 by ohyouhandsomeDevil

Let's try to set some limits to street photography, even knowing that the edges between street photography and other genres of photography will ALWAYS be thin, vague, and often subjective.


What is the difference between enviromental portrait or spontaneous portrait and street photography?
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.

Together, 2010 by snaplife

ashton sandwich shop by hardtomakeastand



What is the difference between urban scenes and 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_70 by pivan

The Traveler by thelizardking25


Is the human presence always necessary? Well, we can take street photos also without humans in there, simply with animals, or objects. "All good street photographers have an eye for detail, they are often able to pick out a simple object and frame it in a way that imbues it with new significance" (from Street Photography Now).
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.

The bush by cosmin-m

167 by eyalbin


thrown away by hardtomakeastand


What is the difference between street and a pure documentary pj photo?
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.

Pass me that water by StamatisGR

Admiration by sandas04

two angels of the republic by laurent-conduche


Not necessarily. Often a good street photo is the outcome of a wise direction work. Which doesn't mean staging or posing elements, but playing with unaware 'actors' in a candid setting.
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).



Composition and technique help the photographer making the watchers understand what captured his eye and what made him take a photo. Depth of field, composition rules, technique solutions, expressive capacity, personal sensitivity, artisitic vibes are what make a good (street) photo. The research of a neat form and a good composition should always lead our hand. In street photography there is not a neat separation between form and content. The two concepts are complementary.
"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).

half past by SimonSawSunlight

Lift by Treamus

Sarko's love by veftenie


As for the ABILITY to SEE good subjects, it is a natural ability that grows, refines, and improves with time, experience, cultural and human growth of the photographer himself.
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).

Lucifer 2.0 by DRIVINGYOU

suspicious by PatrickWally

............. by Benowski


Associating a title to a photo we add something at the comunicative level to the simple message of the photo. A title is never 'neutral' but it always has an effect, more or less strong, on the observer. A street photography SHOULD BE UNDERSTANDABLE WITHOUT THE TITLE, without interpretative help. The risk is forcing an interpretation of the photo through its title. The risk is to dumb down the meaning of the image and spoiling it.
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.


A big thanks to all those who supported this series of 5 articles by reading them, enjoying them and faving them! We sure had a great time making them!
myraincheck - StamatisGR

Add a Comment:
ryujin2490 Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2013  Professional General Artist
so awesome!
JamminJo Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Added to #DevNews posting on June 15, 2012.
StamatisGR Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2012   Photographer
Thank you for your wonderful support!
JamminJo Featured By Owner Jun 19, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Welcome :)
SUDOR Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2012
Interesting !
StamatisGR Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2012   Photographer
JACAC Featured By Owner Jun 12, 2012
batmantoo Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Thank you Mary and Stam so much for this! :clap:
StamatisGR Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2012   Photographer
batmantoo Featured By Owner Jun 11, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
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