”Yeah....but is it street photography?

Discussion in 'Street and Documentary' started by saintelmo21, Nov 3, 2013.

  1. Don’t worry this isn’t another tirade...yet.
    I’ve been spending some time on Brad’s CitySnaps blog. And, after reading some of his thoughts on the current attitudes about so-called street photography, I just happened to surf through Banksy’s New York website: http://www.banksyny.com/
    Now, Banksy are street artists of the highest caliber-no doubt about that. Much of their art is transitory in nature, and they have a clever solution to prove authenticity: They post shots of their exhibits in-situ along with the location. That way people know if the street art (the word ’grafitti’ doesn’t really describe it) is really theirs or not.
    But, in addition to being hip, cool, and trendy; Banksy is also rarefied genius, and has many layers of creativity. I feel that quite a few of his authenticity shots were also passably good street photos albiet non-traditional (if there is such a thing as a ’traditional’ street photograph...sounds fairly dull if there is).
    I thought that was really cool....or maybe I’m reading too much into it? Over the last few years on PN, I’ve gone from not knowing what SP was to where I am now....which is knowing, but not being uptight about the limits of genre. I think a good photo is a good photo and genrefication really isn’t necessary.
    Here’s my question: Take a look at Bansky’s website, and weigh in on whether or not you think of it as street photography, and why or why not. Do you think it’s good SP?
    BTW: I refer to Banksy in plural form because it is obvious that it has evolved from an individual into a very strong creative team. They are really talented and quite special.
  2. After watching "Exit Through the Gift Shop" recently I'm inclined to re-dub him Pranksy.
    I wouldn't argue against calling some of those street photography. They're definitely documentary photography of a street art project. Close enough for me.
  3. Labels are often not that important but I do realize that sometimes they can actually be suggestive, so they're not always totally irrelevant.
    I'd say not street. Lean more toward documentary. Something about the whole thing, though, strikes me as performance art.
  4. Performance art, Fred? What do you mean? Do you think it's all rigged somehow?
  5. Not at all. What does being "rigged" have to do with performance art?
    I mean it's a collaborative effort of mediums where the photography becomes part of the street performance, which is a role I see the street art partaking in. In combination with the street art, the photos are dancing in the street. It's a well-conceived staging. It's also keenly self referential. Nothing rigged about it.
    I meant it as a compliment.
  6. He's a graphic artist using the street as his studio, a graffiti contemporary artist with a hint of political/social slant. And it maybe called performance art in the sense that he has to do his art in stealth...
    What makes him a sp, has he actually taken up photography with a camera?
  7. What makes him a sp, has he actually taken up photography with a camera?​
    I was asking what you thought about it. Did you look at their website?
    Thanks, Fred.
  8. I was asking what you thought about it. Did you look at their website?​
    The one you linked above? Yes, I looked, E. Photos of his work is photos of his work, not street photography imo...
  9. And, you don't think any of the shots have value as sp? oops, we were typing at the same time!
  10. E, to me, they are no sp. they are photos of his work. I could perhaps slightly squeeze them in doc maybe, but definitely not sp. Then again, personally, I have a high standard of sp...
  11. "not street photography imo..."​
    Really? None of them? Not this one? Or this one? And this one may seem like a street photography cliche until you realize the context.
    The photos and videos document the project. From that perspective the whole is successful even if none of the individual parts seems to puff its chest out and shout "Man, I am street. I am so street I'm beyond street. Photo.net doesn't even have a font for how street I am. Italics don't begin to describe it. You'd need to see me in my New York font to see how street I am."
  12. Then again, some consider all random
    street pics to be sp. It is just a matter
    of opinion really...
  13. Lex, I didn't see the couple you linked
    for some reason. Are they from E's
  14. And don't get me wrong, lex. I don't
    dislike banksy. Though I don't think his
    photography is good, his art is better
    than 90% of sp out there... Not that
    they can really be compared tho.
  15. That site loads slowly so it's easy to overlook some of the photos.
  16. I think Lex is onto something. There's definitely a danger, when being strict about the confines of any genre, of sticking only to the visual guidelines that have been established before us. What starts to happen is that a lot of so-called street work starts to look boringly the same because it simply adheres to the traditions already explored. That happens in any genre and any medium when there are certain accepted rules within which one must stay in order to be part of the (street) gang. It tends, though, to be antithetical to personal vision, creativity, and human interest. It's probably a point or two in its favor that it's not fully cooperating with the "street" model. A lot of kids on the block are going to join the gang. One or two won't, but might still be in the neighborhood.
  17. I agree. I think having a well perceived concept of what a genre is all about is a good & a bad thing. As an example, there is a
    street pg group on flickr that is heavily curated and applies its selection criteria with an almost religous fervour. The
    upside of this is the quality of the images; many of which are superb. The downside is that it is necessarily restrictive in
    its attitude towards creativity. Try posting a b&w pic for review or, god forbid, an image produced using Art Filters™.
  18. Norman +1, of course. It is true for just about anything...Now, does here anyone think the banksy links are good sp?
  19. >>> The upside of this is the quality of the images; many of which are superb.

    I find that to be true there for a very narrow range of photographs within "sp," - a lot of visual pun photos,
    and layered color pix in nice light. It is rare, though, coming away from that site with a feeling of the
    street or connection with subjects. OTOH, that's just what *I* happen to be looking for and am interested in, and may not be
    important to others. It's all good.

    >>> The downside is that it is necessarily restrictive in its attitude towards creativity.

    My feelings as well...
  20. "Now, does here anyone think the banksy links are good sp?"
    That seems a question framed for debate and might help one avoid the material itself.
    A different question to ask is, "What do you think about the banksy stuff?" That's already been answered but more could certainly be said. Any thoughts on the work itself, Leslie?
  21. >>> Now, does here anyone think the banksy links are good sp?
    That's a much more interesting question (with my emphasis on "good"), than "are the photos sp?" And that's not restricted to just the photos of Banksy's art...
  22. Well, Fred, this is a street photography thread and forum. But to answer you...Personally, I haven't gone thru his work comprehensively, though I like many while disliking others...

    If you want to discuss certain specific pieces, go ahead...
  23. I usually stay away from purists and would-be purists on any forums, but
    in regard to this post I don't honestly know that I can say anything more or less than
  24. Meh sums it up pretty well, JDM.
  25. Honestly, the "mehs" are relatively insignificant to me, whether uttered by me or others. What is compelling is that it has the nature of a conceived project, shows dedication to it, and does push some boundaries, like it or not. I'd rather be in the presence of this kind of "meh" work than yet another stunningly converted, "what beautiful tones!", "nice shot, dude" photo on top of a pile of its lookalike brethren, even if it has all the hallmark signs of accepted greatness as opposed to what might be meh. It's why taste can be so problematic at times, problematic enough that Picasso quipped about taste being "the enemy of creativity."
  26. FWIW, "meh" for me doesn't translate to death of creativity. Like I said, some are good while his other works aren't all that. While I do admire his work/project ethic, his stuff is way over (monetary) valued, like most "high" art...
  27. This just in from the Since You Asked Dept.", Banksy photos posted on Banksy's website = self promotion of the art. That translates to street artist, not necessarily street photographer.
  28. No where does Bansksy claim to be a street photographer. I haven't tried to designate him as a street photographer. He is definitely advertising his street art on his website....but, if you put up crappy photos of your product, how well does it sell? The more craftsmanship he puts into his advertising photos/videos which are, by the nature of his artwork, in a 'street' environment; the more attention it gets....An interesting example is the toothless thug and his homies attempting to charge people to take photos and look at the beaver painting. It is candid street videography and very funny in a pathetic way. I find it artistic, about as non-traditional as you can get, and effective. I would go take a look at the beaver painting...but I wouldn't pay $20 to see it!
    Nicely put, Lex.
  29. I didn't mean "meh" on the art involved, only on the question of whether it is "street photography" or not.
    Am I ignorant or apathetic about this?
    I don't know and I don't care.
  30. JDM, righto. Totally misread you. I see now that you were talking about the question, not the work in question.
    As to your photo . . . photo of a street, maybe even landscape, processed differently could be surrealist. Not, IMO, street photography.
  31. Ok. I think some of them can function as urban street photographs, but I don't think that is their intent. This gets into post-modern thought which gets way too wordy. But his photos to me, seem more to be signifiers (or I guess he calls them authenticators). Its not so much about the photo, its is all about the concept or idea. The photo just becomes part of the art exhibit. I tend to in my middle aged befuddled mind, still think of "street photography and documentary" to be modernist, that is subject/object with the photograph itself being significant. I think he uses photographs in a different way.
  32. Um, that picture posting was a visual rhetorical device, not an actual question, as I'm sure you all recognized :)
    Any of you from Classic Manual Cameras forum will also see another reason I posted it. :)
  33. You mean a ?
  34. Life is too short to debate questions such as "is it street photography?" or "is it art?".
    It is what it is. It's a photograph of something, framed in a particular way, lit in a particular way. It either interests/moves/inspires you, or it doesn't. If it doesn't, find something that does.
  35. Brad - a lot of visual pun photos, and layered color pix in nice light
    ;-) This really nails the prevailing aesthetic of the group Norman mentioned (I assume we're all talking about the same group). I was just there the other day and was struck by the preponderance of just those sorts of photos that Brad mentioned. The light is usually that patchy late afternoon type, reflected off the glass of a nearby building, while much of the rest of the street remains in shadow.
    Banksy's photos -- To answer the OP, yes, I think some of them would qualify as sp (Lex made some interesting selections in that regard). To Fred's question, I'm not sure what I think of "Banksy" overall. I've seen it for years, it's interesting, but whatever quirky anarchic appeal it once had has long since disappeared into a "ho-hum, there's another one" feeling.
  36. Steve, what "group" so you think Brad is talking about? I applied what he said to a good deal* of today's street photography on the whole.
    A good deal. Definitely not all. And certainly not the better street stuff I see.
  37. Why think of it as "street photography," or "SP"-- a term by the way I've never seen other than here. How
    about just "photography"- whatever the subject- a medium that someone uses to record their wonderment with the
    world? Then interpret that as good or bad, useful or not, meaningful or unworthy, compelling or not, lasting or
    trivial---- and focus on that?
  38. IMO, street photography has got to tell a story. Something that only happens once, and then forever is gone- something captured in a split second. IMO, a photo of a street does not equal street photography, because there is no story, no moment in time, no action really.
  39. And if that Street was a victim of hurricane Sandy? The first rule is that there are no rules, the photo is interesting, or it isn't.
  40. No. Not street photography. It's just copyright protection for street artists and grafitti vandals. Banksy is a business now.
  41. look at Bansky’s website, and weigh in on whether or not you think of it as street photography, and why or why not. Do you think it’s good SP?​
    Heh, I clicked on the URL to start it loading, read this entire thread, and only then looked at the website. I fully expected something boring, and far from Street. I expect something along the lines of when people post portraits taken on the streets, or as others here suggested about pictures of streets.
    Before anything more, let me explain that I've been doing unconventional Street Photography for decades, and have a very well formed concept of the philosophy involved. I don't take offense at those who narrowly define Street (as perhaps Joel Meyerowitz sometimes has done) but I virtually agree in every way, and then go a bit further too, than Garry Winogrand. I like the way the London Festival of Photography tends to define it, which is to say very broadly.
    Street Photography is a portrait of life. It is not about an object, but about the relationship between humanity and our surrroundings. Most of the foundations for Street were based in urban settings, and literally in the streets, but that need not be. There need not even be a person in the picture, nor a street for that matter.
    With that in mind these are some fantastic examples of (slightly unconventional) Street Photography. Part of what makes them so good is that while it is commonly thought that pictures of people on the street who are unaware they are being photographed are the "ideal" Street shot, these photographs are of the relationship of the photographer to surroundings and it is the photographer that seems unaware of the enormity of what each photograph is capturing (not that it wasn't absolutely noticed and it certainly is the reason for exhibiting the images on a web page). That in a way is a bit hilarious as a takeoff from Meyerowitz and others who relate Street as much to the emotional state of the photographer as to the resulting images. Meyerowitz associates that with the electricity of the life of people on the Street, with emphasis on the people rather than the surroundings; the Bansky photographs associate totally with the emotional impact of the surroundings on the photographer and totally absent other people.
    It may not be "conventional", and it might break some new ground and push a few limits a little farther than had been done before... but folks, that is fabulous Street Photography.
  42. I agree with Floyd . . . to a point. Photographing anything - people, grafitti, scrap, architecture, social points, political points, funny points, dramatic points and so on - that we happen to come across while exploring the streets of a city is all street photography.
    The 'problem' with Banksy's site is that it's not populated with photos of anything other than the street painting and street sculpture and street installations that he creates for himself (or that he organizes with the help of a team of acolytes, sycophants, helpers, etc.). Banksy is a business every bit as much as he is a person. The photos on his site are only of his own work. He documents his own work so that he can blog about it, generate invitations for the creation of new installations, and generally promote his own interests and fortunes. Good on 'ya, mate! Banksy doesn't photographically document anyone else's work (except to riff on it), and that makes him a street artist not a street photographer.
    IMO, none of the photos on the Banksy web site are particularly interesting, in and of themselves, because Banksy (or whomever is doing the photography for his site) is trying to feature his street art only. He's not trying to convince viewers that he is a photographer too.
    My favourite photo on the Banksy site is the one of the small collection of quick canvases he painted, signed and sold for $60 each in a pop-up kiosk in New York. In the middle of the display there was a separate sign which read "This Is Not a Photo Opportunity" and clearly indicates to me that for all his touted street cred and sarcastic criticism of others, Banksy has learned the value of copyright retention and the fact that his signature on small pieces of throwaway artwork (that he can now do in his sleep most likely) is actually worth $60 a pop (or more). There's so much wrong with Banksy now that wasn't wrong with him ten years ago.
    Anyway, he is not a street photographer.
  43. Photographing anything - people, grafitti, scrap, architecture, social points, political points, funny points, dramatic points and so on - that we happen to come across while exploring the streets of a city is all street photography.​
    That is not true though! Street Photography doesn't even have to physically be on the street, and being on a street does not make it Street Photography. The classic example is the distinction between a Portrait of a person taken on the street, and a Street Photograph that includes the same person. Two very different photographic genres, each showing the same object but with an intentionally different subject. The Portait is composed to describe the person while the Street image is composed to describe the person's relationship with the surroundings. (Granted that it can be a very fuzzy line, where large components of both exist in the same photography.)
    But even worse is the concept that you've clearly subscribed to where the reasons for taking a photograph are significant in defining it as Street Photography. Your entire list of what is wrong with the Banksy site is unrelated to Street Photography, and specifically the strange concept that since it documents only Banksy work the photography is not Street Photography. There simply is no such set of connects within any valid definition of Street Photography!
    Granted that what you've listed may be the reasons you personally don't like the photographs, and you are entitled to like or dislike any photograph for any reason. But you probably should never decide that your taste is what globally defines any genre of photography!
    Street photography is about the relationship between man and our environment. A portrait of a person, nor of a street scene as such, is not Street. The photograph has to show something about the relationship, not just a person or just the environment.
    The Banksy photographs are unconvention in not showing any people at all. They are not the only such Street Photography, but it isn't typical. But my goodness do they ever show the relationship of people to their surroundings! None of them are absent that crutial aspect. They show how people interelate, through their surroundings, to each other.
    You may not like that, or not like the way it is done... but that is a question of taste. You might also object to the quality of the photography or the value of it, on technical or artistic grounds. But that is not a question of which genre it is or if it is art, just a question of how good or bad it is.
  44. "In the middle of the display there was a separate sign which read "This Is Not a Photo Opportunity" and clearly indicates to me that for all his touted street cred and sarcastic criticism of others, Banksy has learned the value of copyright retention..."​
    I assumed that sign was intended to be ironic. Goes to show how different our perceptions can be about the entire subject of street photography, documentary photography, culture jamming and just about everything, even when we use the same words.
  45. The photo showed that is clear was a photo op! How sarcastic could the possibly get!

    Incidentally, absent that sign that picture just about couldn't be called Street Photography. But with that sign it is.

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