What is Street Photography?

Hello friend! Recently I wrote about the different places that I’ve done street photography but today I want to talk to you about what street photography is. Street photography in its simplest definition is taking photographs of people, typically in a candid manner within a public space. There are lots of different offshoots or subgenres that modern day street photography encompasses such as...

Portrait street photography

Portrait street photography. Typically the photographer will ask the subject to pretend that they aren’t there. This can get some very good results that still appear candid despite the fact that the subject is fully aware of the photographers presence.

Still life street photography

Still life street photography, or rather no-people street photography. This typically involves photographs of architecture and objects where no people are present but the photographer wants to create a sense of humanities presence within the objects photographed. This can be done through techniques such as focusing on the man made scratches on a child’s toy, a room filled with magazines that illustrate the owners personality, etc. A street has been created by and is used by people. Because of this you don’t always need to show people in a photograph of the street to make them think about humanity and what humanity has done.

Photos of family and friends

There’s also a subgenre of street photography that to the best of my knowledge has never really been defined but I guess the best way to put it would be family and friends street photography. This most often falls unders the banner of candid street photography but since I’m in a definition kind of mood I’ll seperate it. This would include images taken without the subjects posing, but the photographer presence is always known to the subjects. There could be tons of different occasions where this kind of photography can take place but the most common would be parties or get-togethers between friends and family. So you may even be a street photographer without even realising it!

Street photography as documentation

Street photography is often times one of the most cherished documents of any group of people or place. Whenever I look at old street photographs of Paris or New York I can’t help but think in the back of my mind that I wish  Halifax or Newfoundland had something similar. There’s very little photographic documentation of these places before the mass invention of consumer cameras. Nobody decided that these places were worth photographing. Or if they did the images tragically weren’t preserved. I know there are historical documents of these places but I haven’t yet been able to find anything that resembles street photography. Something that shows what life was really like, not just people posing in front of their house or a landmark. Although this can be considered street photography it’s a bit of a grey area because the photographers reason for photographing needs to be taken into consideration. What I’m curious to see is how the people acted in the public sphere, how they interacted with each other, what the side streets looked like. I want to see these things because we have no record of them and I want to record them myself because I feel it’s something that often gets overlooked when people go to create official documents of places.

Getting paid for street photography

Street photography almost defies traditional ideas of professionalism. It’s difficult to do professionally because an important aspect of street photography is doing it for the love. Although there are some photographers that have managed to get paid commission for doing their street photography these are people that probably would of done amazing work regardless of the paycheque at the end of the day. Street photography is something that’s most often practiced by amateurs, by regular people in their free time, a project of passion rather than one to create income. I do street photography because it helps me feel fulfilled as a human being. I enjoy it because it keeps my mind sharp, it gives me an excuse to get out to the house and keep myself moving. It reminds me to stay humble in any photographic endeavor. You can only get so many good photographs in a month, but the key is to keep practicing.

Street photography as an art form

Street photography is most often done in order to feed that kind of inner necessity to create. It helps us by providing a reason to feel like we’re contributing to something bigger than ourselves. If we can inspire one more person to see the things around them as beautiful than we have helped the cause. The cause is to help open each others eyes to what’s around us, to help others be more aware of the potential for beauty in the things around us. I know that when I go out with my camera even if I don’t create a good image then I’m still putting in time, and if you keep your eyes open for long enough then it’s only a matter of time before you create a good image. Once present that image to the world then you’re contributing to the cause of street photography. I think all street photographers already know this in some low level way in the back of their minds but street photography is a lot like a religion in the sense that we’re choosing to believe in the beauty of the world around us. Or showing the world as not beautiful which can serve a similar purpose of reminding each other to be grateful of the things that should be remembered.

Street photography for a cause

If street photographers work hard enough then we can potentially help change others opinions of the seemingly mundane, lame clusters of houses, ugly window displays, indifferent crowds of people, etc. If we can help others see these things as more than just what they are but what they can be then we are contributing to the cause. The cause is to help humanity appreciate its short existence on this earth. We only have one life, so we might as well choose to be appreciative with the things around us.