“I walked all day, with a tense spirit, searching the streets for the chance to take photographs of the world in it’s candid state; as if they were flagrant crimes”
Street photography is a sport, a delicious and sudden improvisation filled with adrenaline. It is also creative trainig.
What is Street Photography? The first necessary clarification is a risky tasK; as son as you define the rules of a creative discipline 20 guys come around breaking them, creatively.
Nevertheless there are things that are and things that are not Street Photography and they must be pointed out: not for the sake of dogmatism but to perfect and (if you wish) to question the discipline.
Three are the classic requirements: the steet, spontaneity and people.
The street is free and open to everyone 24 hours a day, every day: this is the most democratic photographic genre but there are reasons beyond convenience that make the street essential.
The law in most western countries forbids publishing other people’s image in photographs without consent if they were shot in private places but asking for consent ruins most scenes. Luckily the same laws that protect press freedom shelter the street photographer: markets, squares, mass events, public transportation and streets (of course) are our playground.
Chaos is the second reason. The infinite changes of people and things in the streets create aesthetic, emotional and symbolic lectures that spring out of a delicious visual crossword puzzle, which takes us to the second requirement:
There are two fundamental photographic schools: the one that seeks to capture the unaltered reality and the one that seeks to create, produce or design an image.
The designed photograph: posing the subject, accessorizing and lighting him turns the person into a character and it’s complex reality into a simple idea. The natural chaotic flow of appearances that gives us the chance to capture something authentic gets destroyed.
The street photographer stalks the chance to discover a pristine truth that vanishes if it is touched. He pursues pleasure: the exaltation that overflows when the photographer finds himself stealing a precise moment on which geometry and people converge to symbolize, in a glance, the interior and exterior world of the humanity and it’s circumstances.
Why is it that not all photographs made in the street are street photographs? Because the streets are the chance, not the theme of this photographic genre; people is the theme.
“Their yearning for joy and happiness or their ferocity manifest through small details, infinitely novel, that surprise for their uniqueness but also for their familiarity; as if they were result of a memory.”
How many different pictures can be made of the Egyptian pyramids? If you insist in the web browser you can see all the different kinds of pyramid pictures in a day. ¿How many different things can these images tell us or make us feel? A few.
You could photograph the same city streets a whole life and never exhaust the topic of people.
Exceptions make the rule
There are many ways to understand the human theme and some exceptions to the rule can help us to shake the dogmatism away: there are photographers who capture people in their authentic expression using flashes, asking them to pose or not photographing them at all.
Hard and straight street photography is however a well established photographic genre and never more democratic than today: it only takes a smartphone and a bit of insolence to commence oneself photographing a stranger walking on the front sidewalk. It takes much more however to perfect the art of turning coincidences into poems.
Street photography is one of the more difficult genres to master: training the instinct, creating a style and developing a theme demand wearing out many shoe pairs.