I never expected this theme to run over three posts, but as I considered my self-posed questions, the stream of consciousness flowed and could so easily have continued to more. But I’m going to close with this post where I find myself wondering if anything I do can be considered “street”.
As someone who finds it exceptionally hard to photograph people, even people I know, street photography, in its widely accepted guise as (mostly) candid observations of people in public situations, is perhaps a challenge too far. So, back to my earlier question: how do you define street photography? Can I remain close to my people-free comfort zone and still be a street photographer? Or must I step outside my comfort zone and take a more people based approach?
In the last post, I began by pondering, “how do you define street photography?” Since then, I’ve considered at length but have only been left with more questions.
I considered whether street photography is an evolution of documentary, but I don’t think it is. Not all street is documentary, and not all documentary is street, they converge and diverge like overlapping oscillatory wave patterns. If I were to photograph people at a demonstration marching through the city, I’d like to think I was making documentary photographs, but if I turned my back on the marchers to find images of people sitting in a pavement café watching the goings-on, then perhaps I might be indulging in some street photography.
Street photography… It’s a genre that’s become very popular. Search “street photography” in youTube and you’ll be spoilt for choice. The good, the bad and the ugly of street photography will be paraded before you to delight and disgust in equal measure, but it’s a genre that I confess to being a little perplexed by. Now, forgive me for lapsing into a middle-aged film-shooter stereotype, but I grew up with film photography. I’ve probably devoured thousands of magazine articles over the years, and have been fascinated by the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Tony Ray-Jones, Elliott Erwitt, Fan Ho, and many others… and I don’t think I ever heard any of them referred to as a “street photographer”. Reportage, yes… Documentary, yes… but street, no… not ever. At least, not until recently, when they may have been retrospectively labelled thus.
“What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare”
With apologies for opening a post with a repeated quote, but I think it’s entirely appropriate.
The last year or so, in an attempt to escape the various lockdowns, we’ve taken to walking. Not just walking, you understand, I mean, we’ve been walking ever since we moved on from the toddling stage, but proper boots-on, follow-a-map type walking.
Without a doubt, when contemplating my favourite camera (of those I currently own), my immediate response is usually: F4… the Nikon F4… without hesitation, but with plenty of repetition… definitely the F4.
I’ve decided it’s time to call an end to the business of picture framing.
I’ve been considering for a couple of years now, as profits have been sliding from black to red. Hard to pinpoint a single reason, and I’m certainly not laying it all at Covid’s door, although that’s undoubtedly had an adverse impact this year. It’s become the classic “rock and a hard place” situation. Not enough work to make it profitable, but having a full-time job too, drumming up more custom would leave me working long, long hours, and I’m afraid I’m no longer young enough for that to be an appealing option.
“What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare”
It seems that for many, time to stand and stare is now plentiful, but maybe there’s precious little to stare at. Social distancing and isolation may be entirely necessary at this time, but it can feel, well, isolating… even for those of us lucky enough to have a garden, standing and staring at the same familiar surroundings as the days draw into weeks can be frustrating to the creative mind.
The internet is awash with articles listing “things to do” during the lock-down to keep busy, creative and prevent the dreaded cabin-fever, so I don’t think I have much to add… I’m sure you’re all intelligent people and have your own ideas on how to pass the time.
I’ve always been pretty firm in my resistance to the
seemingly unstoppable charge of digital photography. The “digital revolution”
has been an inarguable success, but the takeover has not been total. The brave
new digital world has been benevolent enough to leave room for those of us with
gelatine hearts and analogue souls.
A brief search of YouTube finds a huge number of analogue
shooters extolling the virtues of film in all formats.
Personally, I love my old film cameras. They’re tactile.
They look great, and they feel great, and I can choose between multiple formats
dependant on what I want to shoot or how I want to shoot it. It’s great to have
a choice, and that choice extends to film or digital.
Life is busy, and I don’t have as much time as I’d like to devote to personal photography, so when I do, I’ve always thought that I should do what I like to do… not work to someone else’s agenda… shoot for myself alone. But now, I’m beginning to think that rather than providing artistic freedom, that may be an attitude that may begin to stymie creativity. Maybe the “everything in moderation” approach that seems to serve me well in other areas should be applied, and the occasional assignment to a specific brief will help to keep the photography fresh and interesting. So, thanks to those lovely people at the sunny 16 podcast I recently embarked on an assignment on the theme of “day into night”.