What is "Street Photography" ?

Discussion in 'Street and Documentary' started by MrAndMrsIzzy, Aug 14, 2020.

  1. Don't know if this ? has been posted before. If it has please excuse the repetition.
    I posted this question on a different site and got a bunch of different answers and opinions.
    The best one (I thought) was "random photography". Unplanned, un-setup, city street, country road, forest trail, etc.
    Basically any kind of found image (don't know what else to call it) that the photographer thinks would make a good pic.....Izzy
  2. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I was originally taught the term "Street Portraiture" and when someone says "Street Photography" I usually expect it to usually have an human component.

    Within that as a 'definition' - it is a broad scope: from hard core News Reportage to Fun Candids and Social Commentary : one could extend this umbrella to include (ground) War Reportage, and in some discussions, I have.

    My view is that "Street Photography" does not necessarily have to occur on a Street, Road, or Trail, etc - but rather in place where people would and do frequent and go about their individual stuff: so it could be in a Mall, or on a Train, etc.

    My view is, that a photo of a country track, sans people, is not "Street Photography".

    By a similar token, Street Photography, is often well planned in its execution and is neither random nor happenstance.

    Photographs made on a “street”, yet in my view NOT “Street Photography”



    Photographs not made on a “Street” yet in my view both are “Street Photography”



    Last edited: Aug 14, 2020
  3. Street Photography is an open question answered in many different ways.

    A lot of Street Photography is presented in book format or series format, in which case context more than definition will be the driving force behind what subject matters and stylistic approaches are present.

    Perhaps one of the most classic examples of great Street Photography is Robert Frank’s The Americans, not limited to spontaneity, randomness, or the inclusion of people.

    Covered Car, by Robert Frank
    mikemorrell likes this.
  4. 'Street Photography' is probably my favourite photography genre. There are crossovers between Street, Travel and Journalisme. There are (IMHO) also many subjects and styles of 'Street Photography
  5. Basically then (or so it seems), "street photography" is really a matter of personal opinion.
    All that aside. William those two pics you posted (the secret service guys with "secret service" emblazoned on their vest's, and "where'd you park the twins").
    I definitely agree are good examples, even though the twins might've been a setup (as long as it was a spur of the moment setup).....Izzy
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2020
    mikemorrell likes this.
  6. Excuse me while I get some popcorn. I think this is going to take a while....:)
  7. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "Honey, where did you park the twins?", was not a staged shot.

    The photograph was made at SOPAC (Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre, AUS) during an Age Swimming meet: (assumed) Mum and/or Dad are sitting in the Grandstand, via the stairway to Camera Right (where the mat is located): there is no space for the stroller (pram) in the Grandstand and it is not allowed in the aisle of the Grandstand. The twins' stroller was a common sight at that stairway entrance, throughout the meet, it was just as I was going back down to pool deck, after the lunch break, that the Twins were occupants - perhaps they'd had lunch also and were having their afternoon nap.

    The shot was as it appeared, with no outside staging.

    The two Secret Service Officers were located inside the rear of the White House, USA. I suppose one could argue they're 'on the street' but I kind of think they are 'in the back yard': I suppose also one could argue that this image was more staged than the twins, because the two fellows obviously knew that I was there and my intention was to make an image of them accordingly they each made a pose for that image, which is much appreciated and for which I thanked them for that.


    This photograph below was definitively made 'on the street' - similar to the two photo of the Secret Service Officers, I was very clear in my intention to make a photograph, but in contrast to the photo of the Secret Service Officers, the French Military fellow did not assume a "pose" for me nor do he change his gait.



    Personally, I like both the Secret Service and the French Army images - in both I attempted to capture and convey a very similar contextual aspect of these professional men, displayed differently due to the circumstances that they were in at the time.

    In my personal library of Street Portraiture, these two photos sit within my "book" of similar images which I have made.

    samstevens likes this.
  8. Yes, I can see where context adds a dimension.

    I agree that I would easily see both as street photographs. I also agree that a street photograph doesn't necessarily have to be taken on the street. And I agree that not all photos taken on the street are best classified as street photos.

    Classification can be a movable target. Your first photo, for example, depending on how and where I encountered it, could be anything from architectural photography to a portrait of a home to a street photograph. For example, if I encountered it among other shots of the area, in a photo essay that included storefronts, people active on the street, homes, and other assorted photos, I could easily imagine considering it a street photo. If, on the other hand, I encountered it in an essay dedicated strictly to architecture, street photography wouldn't be the first thing to come to mind.

    Let me add two photos to the mix. The first is a staged photo. It was staged to the extent that Scott and I were walking around town with the intent of my photographing him in different environments. Some I would say were more portraits (some environmental portraits), some I came up with were more fine art, and this felt more street to me. We stumbled upon this alleyway on a day in summer when San Francisco was surrounded by raging forest fires that impacted the color of daylight. I imposed a bit more of that on the image in what I thought of as a homage to Edward Hopper. I directed Scott along a path I wanted him to walk and asked him to hold his hat instead of wearing it. I more spontaneously snapped the shutter when I felt the moment was right.


    The second is a shot I took at night in a small, country town in New England. Again, depending on where I encountered this, I think it could easily be considered a street shot or something else. [I haven't yet made a print of this and will likely do a bit of reworking before I do.]

    William Michael likes this.
  9. I should add that, in much of my street work, I find myself drawn to situations (or creating situations) that have an air of theatricality. I like exploring the play between life and theater, a sort of variation on the theme of Big Will's all the world's a stage.
    mikemorrell likes this.
  10. Didn't mean to imply that it was.
  11. Here're a couple of images that I think of as "Street Photography". Actually "local color" is the term I prefer to use. Seems to me it covers a greater multitude of sins (so to speak). It's in two posts (last time I tried to put two images in one post it didn't work out to well). Both were captured in 2001 in Myanmar (Burma) and while they both have people, neither involved anything that even remotely resembled a street. I don't remember if the first one "A Tiskit, A Tasket, A Big Yellow Basket" was captured while we were walking along or riding. For the second "Mammy Yokum Of Myanmar", we were definitely walking.

  12. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    I did a lot of that back in film days, 50 odd years ago. Call it what you will, here is what it looked like then. Nikon F Photomic Tn scans from Tri X, IMG_20160204_0022.jpg IMG_20160204_0033.jpg



    Last edited: Aug 14, 2020
  13. Oh yeh! Especially #4
  14. You might get a book called "Bystander". It provides a history of the development of Street Photography. Not sure if it provides an answer, but it certainly will provide some background. I'd read that, and then come back and ask your question. Here you will get as many different answers as people.
  15. Definitely one from the street

  16. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    William Michael said:
    "Honey, where did you park the twins?", was not a staged shot.

    Relax. You didn't imply anything: I was merely clarifying what was what, nothing more nothing less.

    Good discussion.


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