In a word, street photography is fascinating. As a photographic motivator, it can make you engage more with your environment and can encourage you to get out of your comfort zone, and maybe even talk to people you wouldn’t normally approach. It captures the essence, and is a format open to everyone. Of late, it has discovered a rebirth through social media (in particular Instagram) and smartphones alike, with more and more people uploading locations, people and occasions than ever before.
Even Google Street View has become a medium for artist such as Jon Rafman or Mishka Henner, controversial as their work may be. Street Photography is an aesthetic that has evolved to the point of re-construction as seen from photographers such as Alex Prager or Philip-Lorca diCorcia who embellish reality and introduce artificial light to capture perfect lumination, which some may say defies the point of the exercise in the first place. Even some classic photographs from the past also admit reconstruction such as Robert Doisneau’s Basier de l’Hotel de Ville, (1950, Paris). Whatever your take on it, it’s a genre that will forever be held in regard as a documentation of humanity, and an ever-evolving art form.
When it comes to stock photography, we understand that street imagery is a tricky one, regarding model and location release forms. But, that is what makes it all the more fun. Some of the most creative imagery out there is realised from a need to divert from the obvious and direct approach, and take a fresh look. People can be included, but their identity need not be disclosed. However, always bring a few model (required when models face is visible) and location (some private a public property require forms) release forms with you, should the occasion arise. Asking permission is a polite, respectable approach to street, but it can rob a situation of its authenticity. Try a few different approaches, quick and candid, or intentional and with their permission. Sometimes, the subject’s gaze into the lens is what makes the picture, other times the small underestimated, unguarded nuances are what make it special. Either way, both are great exercises for image making.
If you have a clear aesthetic in mind and struggle to find it out in the real world, re-construction is also a possibility, as mentioned above. Many fashion photographers opt for the street ‘look’ as it is fresh and relatable to their demographic. As a result, this straight documentation style of imagery is very much in vogue, and sought after. As ever, keep your environment in mind, as in this case the background plays as much a part as the subject matter. Lighting also plays an essential role and forms the general atmosphere of the shot. An extra flash light on your subject, along with reflectors will pronounce them from the background, but be careful of the angle of the flash!
Sometimes you may not have a subject in mind, and the act of walking around with your camera will bring your subject to you, through analysing what captures your eye time and time again. Lee Friedlander created series based on his shadow projected onto other people and onto the fabric of the city. He also shot a series of looking at the city through his car dashboard.
The architecture of a city, town or landscape tells its own tale and the absence of people can be to its merit. Steven Shore’s entire photographic career makes references to people through space. Sometimes a reference is more compelling than the people who occupy it, as you find yourself composing the residents in your own mind’s eye. Another legend in the field is William Eggleston. His use of colour and composition brought colour photography into the forefront of the art world, and he is most honourably noted for making the ordinary extraordinary through his lens.
If we haven’t already convinced you to give street photography a try, whether you’re a professional stock photographer or a hobbyist, then we probably never will. For those of you that already do, good for you! For the newcomers, especially those who find themselves stuck for inspiration, now is the time to get out of your comfort zone. Your subjects await you!