S T R E E T
P H O T O G R A P H Y
I suppose there are as many definitions of street photography as there are photographers who practice it. Since I have been shooting street photography for thirty-six years now (since I was fifteen) I, too, have my own well-developed idea of what it is.
So, here, in this web site, I wish to put forth my own ideas on what it is and what it isn’t.
The easiest way to start will be to define some rules.
My 10 rules:
1. Street Photography is not necessarily photos taken in the streets.
Yes, I know, the name implies that we are talking about photographs and the streets, but the concept, the real concept in my mind, is not the literal interpretation.
2. Street photography is real life.
It is not posed, not staged, not made up, but rather captured by an independent observer. This is not to say that the observer, or photographer, hasn't somehow influenced the scene—this may happen too and is often unavoidable, but still, the intent and desire of the photographer is to capture reality, not invent it. A street photographer is a writer of fact, not fiction.
This doesn't mean that the facts cannot be expressed as poetry.
3. Street photography is different from documentary photography.
Both forms of photography share many of the same characteristics, but they are not the same. Documentary photographers begin with an idea, a concept, that they wish to express, and this idea is the guiding hand of the photographs they take. Street photography is not thought out before-hand. Street photography is not trying to tell a wider story. And this leads to rule four.
4. Street photography is based nearly always on the single photograph.
One moment told in one single photograph. Of course, certain scenes work as a series, and like film, some scenes are more powerful or illustrative as a sequence of images. But in general, street photography is mostly an entire story told in a single photograph. And in this, too, street photography is different from documentary photography, which almost always requires a set of photographs to convey their message.
5. Street photography is about human life. Or animal life. Or even plant life.
But it is about life, in one form or another. This doesn't mean to say that the photographs must have a living creature in them to work. Many of the best street photographs only have signs of humanity in them. (Sometimes literally signs, created by humans).