The View From Here

Quiet Contemplation

I can’t think of a still photography genre better than street photography to try to capture the cultural aspects of a community. Actual photojournalism ranks pretty high, and so does lifestyle photography but there’s something unrefined and honest about street shooting that shows what a community is worth in the broader scheme of a region, nation, continent or planet. Like photojournalists, street shooters look for unguarded occasions. There is a considerable amount of risk in this but the payoff can be substantial. The onlooker may be just a common voyeur, which isn’t always a bad thing, or a single sole that will be able to come up with an ingenious solution to a problem identified through the photographer’s imagery.

Practically anyone with a camera can photograph the physical aspects of a community. That’s the easy part. The challenge for an urban photographer is to be able to show how that community as a whole or even in parts actually feels, barely survives or thrives. You can literally find thousands of amateur and pro shooters, even people with nothing more than a camera phone, who have become very skilled at imaging the intimate guts of some of the world’s most famous or infamous cities but how many shooters actually take on towns that most people are so ready to forget, and try with all their might to get others’ curiosities peaked about those unpopular localities.

Since the resurgence in the popularity of street photography, millions of people have learned what it is and developed a pretty fair understanding of how it’s done.  Thousands of them, amateurs and professional photographers alike, have begun to sip from this enchanted spring of artistic and social inspiration and expression.

There is now an overwhelming amount of free and costly, reliable and semi-reliable sources for learning how to shoot up a city.  Still, amateurs and pros that continually look for ways to refine their approach and technique.  I think that’s logical.  Street photography is one of those disciplines in which you can never truly say that you’re a “master”, although some do and others have been given the title.  There is always room for more exploration and experimentation.

In listening to myself and other street photographers develop and express our artistic goals, I find that one of our biggest concerns; if not the biggest, is trying to ensure that our making, not taking, pictures satisfactorily represents the dynamics and moments of urban, suburban and even rural city life.  As I’ve been very sensitive to this concern, I will use this blog to convey a series of relativist art theories on a way, certainly not the way, to think as a street photographer in order for us to make real improvement in our images.  I call this series “The Unrepentant Flâneur’s Guide to Street Photography”.

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