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Old May 2, 2013, 10:18 AM   #1
soco
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f/8 and be there. A discussion of Street Photography.

Hi pals!

So, in the hopes that there are enough folks here who enjoy street photography, I thought I'd try to take some of the vibe from a thread I started a few days ago here and generate a thread where we could talk shop about the wonderful world of street photography.

Maybe we can start off roll-call style, and à la manière de "When did you take up photography?" thread, tell each other about how and why we chose or even sometimes enjoy street photography in particular. Any inspirations, particular styles, gear, etc.?

Myself, I am 25, live in arguably the best city for street photography in the world, New York City, and only just began taking photography seriously in the past month or so. As such, I don't yet have any real inspirations or idols, and I almost already hate Henri Cartier-Bresson due to the constant shaft polishing most people give him.

My style (or what I plan on so far) is more so an "alternate perspective" in which I want to try to capture some of NYC's essence from viewpoints that are less often, or even never taken. I think people are just about bored to tears with shots of the same buildings, the same people, the same compositions, just done by a different photographer on a different day with a different camera/lens. I just might find out that what I want to do isn't doable or isn't even interesting, but it's a start.

I love street photography because at its core, it's so chaotic and random, so unique with each click, that no two pictures are truly the same. You can grab a shot of the same sunset nearly 365 times a year and barely distinguish them from one another, but try to overlay the same 365 daily shots of the corner of Trinity & Rector in the downtown financial district and I'll give you $1,000,000 if you get two of the same. Not that this makes them interesting pictures, but you get the idea.

Street photography to me just screams potential. Oddly enough, and even in my own "work" so far, I just don't see it being captured often. I read an article by Yanidel recently that spoke of the current trend in street photography being modern, and content centric. The sort of Winogrand style. I tend to agree with him that it's kind of boring and just winds up looking to me like, "Here's what's in front of me at the moment. This is where I am."

Surely I'll find some unique styles out there as I begin to really scratch the surface.
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Old May 2, 2013, 11:37 AM   #2
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I myself have a few trips planned to various UK and World cities. I'm very much a beginner but looking at some street photography pictures on Flickr, my favourites are those that make a twist on something that is photographed a lot.

For example, one picture I really liked, although I can't seem to find it, was a picture of a Ferris wheel in the middle of a city but photographed in the middle of the street with the camera pointing straight up and a very wide angle lens. The buildings and Ferris wheel acted as a frame for the night sky - made for a very interesting perspective with some grey light trails.

I think for street photography to look good, it has to be truly different and out there and you have to really use your imagination to the furthest extent - especially in the very photographed New York.
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Old May 2, 2013, 11:42 AM   #3
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I dunno, after you have seen one street photo I don't see the point in taking more.



(Sorry, couldn't resist. )
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Old May 2, 2013, 11:44 AM   #4
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I think for street photography to look good, it has to be truly different and out there and you have to really use your imagination to the furthest extent - especially in the very photographed New York.
Exactly. If the art of street photography were able to be accomplished by copying HCB or Frost, we'd all be rich.
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Old May 2, 2013, 12:05 PM   #5
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Hi pals!

...only just began taking photography seriously in the past month or so.

I tend to agree with him that it's kind of boring and just winds up looking to me like, "Here's what's in front of me at the moment. This is where I am."...
So you took up photography last month, and yet you feel qualified to critique the entirety of modern street photography? That cannot be what you mean, right? Right?!!?
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Old May 2, 2013, 12:29 PM   #6
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Your contempt for Henri Cartier-Bresson but praise for Garry Winogrand is peculiar to say the least. It is almost as if you picked two well-known names in the art and decided up front that you would show contempt for one and not the other. If you have contempt for an artist based on the amount of praise they receive then you have a heck of a lot to learn and it will ultimately be your loss.

Notwithstanding, my experience with street photography is limited and more so only because I tend to want to think about the shot far too much. Some of the shots I've taken where I've received more praise than not are the ones taken on the fly without any real thought or motive.
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Old May 2, 2013, 12:38 PM   #7
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So you took up photography last month, and yet you feel qualified to critique the entirety of modern street photography? That cannot be what you mean, right? Right?!!?
Why not? The OP is entitled to his opinion, and a style or particular image that appeals to one person may not appeal to another.

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Originally Posted by jessica. View Post
Your contempt for Henri Cartier-Bresson but praise for Garry Winogrand is peculiar to say the least.
Maybe I misread, but I thought the OP was criticizing the Winogrand style as being boring.
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Old May 2, 2013, 12:44 PM   #8
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Why not? The OP is entitled to his opinion, and a style or particular image that appeals to one person may not appeal to another.
Because while art is subjective, it is no less subject to the arrogance of ignorance than any other discipline.

If I told you I read 'Hamlet' for the first time last week, would my opinion of the play be of equal value to that of a Shakespearean scholar who has studied it for decades? Is it remotely possible that I might be missing something that a more nuanced, formal study of the play might reveal? And is it worth studying in that context, or should we all just have our own uneducated opinions and leave it at that?

There's nothing wrong with disliking a particular piece of art (except 'Hamlet', which is above critique). But that opinion should at least be informed.

Quote:
Maybe I misread, but I thought the OP was criticizing the Winogrand style as being boring.
That was my reading, too. The OP, who started taking photography seriously last month, thinks the style of two of the established masters of street photography is boring.
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Old May 2, 2013, 12:46 PM   #9
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So you took up photography last month, and yet you feel qualified to critique the entirety of modern street photography? That cannot be what you mean, right? Right?!!?
I took up photography in January 2013. Does that not mean I'm not allowed to critique those who took it up before me, or are more experienced than me? A critique is an opinion - you don't have to be an expert, or even a photographer, to give your opinion on someone else's work. Therefore, by my definition at least, he has every right to critique every photograph ever taken.
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Old May 2, 2013, 12:48 PM   #10
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I took up photography in January 2013. Does that not mean I'm not allowed to critique those who took it up before me, or are more experienced than me? A critique is an opinion - you don't have to be an expert, or even a photographer, to give your opinion on someone else's work. Therefore, by my definition at least, he has every right to critique every photograph ever taken.
Yes, I agree.

But can you not see that your opinion is not as valid as that of someone who actually knows what they're talking about in a specific genre? Or someone who has at least used a fricken camera for more than six months?

Do you not appreciate that as a newcomer to the field, that maybe, just maybe, you might be ignorant of some salient facts that might affect your like or dislike of a particular photograph or style of photography?

What do you think the purpose of an art history degree is? (besides being a pre-requisite for barista college)
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Old May 2, 2013, 01:02 PM   #11
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If I told you I read 'Hamlet' for the first time last week, would my opinion of the play be of equal value to that of a Shakespearean scholar who has studied it for decades? Is it remotely possible that I might be missing something that a more nuanced, formal study of the play might reveal? And is it worth studying in that context, or should we all just have our own uneducated opinions and leave it at that?

There's nothing wrong with disliking a particular piece of art (except 'Hamlet', which is above critique). But that opinion should at least be informed.
I don't want to distract from original intent of the thread by getting too sidetracked, but I would say that your opinion would be of equal value -- as an opinion -- as anyone else's. If someone reads "Hamlet" one time and decides that it isn't for them, I'm fine with that (great as it may be). Might they be missing out? Absolutely. Might they become more interested or more appreciative if they studied it further? Maybe. But that doesn't mean they can't read it one time and then say, "this doesn't appeal to me because..."

But that's just my opinion.
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Old May 2, 2013, 01:02 PM   #12
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Yes, I agree.

But can you not see that your opinion is not as valid as that of someone who actually knows what they're talking about in a specific genre? Or someone who has at least used a fricken camera for more than six months?

Do you not appreciate that as a newcomer to the field, that maybe, just maybe, you might be ignorant of some salient facts that might affect your like or dislike of a particular photograph or style of photography?

What do you think the purpose of an art history degree is? (besides being a pre-requisite for barista college)
I can understand your viewpoint.

His opinion is valid, but may not be as highly regarded and agreed upon as someone who is a professional photographer with multiple awards and exhibitions.

I can appreciate photos a lot better than when I started, seeing certain nuances and skills that set a photo apart from the rest. No doubt the OP's opinions will change just as mine have.
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Old May 2, 2013, 01:04 PM   #13
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I don't want to distract from original intent of the thread by getting too sidetracked, but I would say that your opinion would be of equal value -- as an opinion -- as anyone else's. If someone reads "Hamlet" one time and decides that it isn't for them, I'm fine with that (great as it may be). Might they be missing out? Absolutely. Might they become more interested or more appreciative if they studied it further? Maybe. But that doesn't mean they can't read it one time and then say, "this doesn't appeal to me because..."

But that's just my opinion.
Of course they can have an opinion. But they should expect to have that opinion ridiculed in a public forum...
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Old May 2, 2013, 01:07 PM   #14
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When looking at historical bodies of work, one important factor to include is exactly the historical nature of the work. One must consider the status of street photography when HCB was active. At that time, he was groundbreaking. The same consideration must be made for Winogrand. Again, he was a groundbreaking photographer in his time. The same for William Klein, Mayerowitz and working in colour, and the list goes on.

To draw an analogy, most of us on these forums have grown up with the Beatles. For anyone say into their 50's, the Beatles have always been around, they are normal, as is Elvis, Little Richard etc. This music, these artists are normal for us. Talk to an older generation about the effect these artists had when they were originally releasing material, the ground breaking nature of their music, the cultural effect of the music, the social change it was responsible for, and it's almost incomprehensible for those who have always had this music in the background. The same questions must be asked regarding any discussion about any artists body of work.

HCB was a genius. His use of composition, shapes, forms etc are second to none. When talking about street photography he is a very useful starting point. He may not be as relevant today after the impact of William Klein's New York (which incidentally no publisher wanted to touch back in the 50's!), but he is an essential figure whose work must be examined, studied, appreciated by anyone interested not only in street photography, but many forms of photography and art.
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Old May 2, 2013, 01:10 PM   #15
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I can understand your viewpoint.

His opinion is valid, but may not be as highly regarded and agreed upon as someone who is a professional photographer with multiple awards and exhibitions.

I can appreciate photos a lot better than when I started, seeing certain nuances and skills that set a photo apart from the rest. No doubt the OP's opinions will change just as mine have.
To speak of the 'validity' of opinions, even in a subjective field, is really meaningless. Everyone is, of course, entitled to their opinion.

Why, then, do we care? Why do we heap praise on Shakespeare, or The Beatles, or HCB, or Winogrand, or whomever? Is it merely that the 'popular' opinion of those artists is so universally positive? I don't think so. I really think that the work of artists such as these possesses some kind of objective greatness that can be discovered through focused study.

So while we're all entitled to our opinions, some opinions really are worth more than others.

----------

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When looking at historical bodies of work, one important factor to include is exactly the historical nature of the work. One must consider the status of street photography when HCB was active. At that time, he was groundbreaking. The same consideration must be made for Winogrand. Again, he was a groundbreaking photographer in his time. The same for William Klein, Mayerowitz and working in colour, and the list goes on.

To draw an analogy, most of us on these forums have grown up with the Beatles. For anyone say into their 50's, the Beatles have always been around, they are normal, as is Elvis, Little Richard etc. This music, these artists are normal for us. Talk to an older generation about the effect these artists had when they were originally releasing material, the ground breaking nature of their music, the cultural effect of the music, the social change it was responsible for, and it's almost incomprehensible for those who have always had this music in the background. The same questions must be asked regarding any discussion about any artists body of work.

HCB was a genius. His use of composition, shapes, forms etc are second to none. When talking about street photography he is a very useful starting point. He may not be as relevant today after the impact of William Klein's New York (which incidentally no publisher wanted to touch back in the 50's!), but he is an essential figure whose work must be examined, studied, appreciated by anyone interested not only in street photography, but many forms of photography and art.
Well put.
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Old May 2, 2013, 01:20 PM   #16
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But can you not see that your opinion is not as valid as that of someone who actually knows what they're talking about in a specific genre? Or someone who has at least used a fricken camera for more than six months?
This is the premise that I don't agree with. Why can't someone have an opinion (positive or negative) about a particular piece of art or style of art based on a first impression? It doesn't have to be photography. Does someone have to play piano to not like Beethoven? Do they have to paint to not like Impressionists?

Quote:
Do you not appreciate that as a newcomer to the field, that maybe, just maybe, you might be ignorant of some salient facts that might affect your like or dislike of a particular photograph or style of photography?
What someone learns about an image or style through subsequent study may affect their opinion, but I don't think that makes their original opinion any less valid.
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Old May 2, 2013, 01:23 PM   #17
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I think I'm going to stop talking - before I make a fool of myself, or a flame war, or an argument, or a heated debate, or something along those lines

Back to the original point, my view is simple. Be as creative and out there as you can be. When you see something interesting on the street, try to find what exactly it was you found interesting and then try to convey it in the most creative way you can.

It's all down to three things - practice, location, and imagination.
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Old May 2, 2013, 01:25 PM   #18
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This is the premise that I don't agree with. Why can't someone have an opinion (positive or negative) about a particular piece of art or style of art based on a first impression? It doesn't have to be photography. Does someone have to play piano to not like Beethoven? Do they have to paint to not like Impressionists?
Of course not. Have whatever opinion you want. But can you not see that you will appreciate Symphony No 9 more if you, at least, understand the structure of the symphonic style and the historical and social context in which it was composed? Do think it would help you appreciate it more if you knew how to read music? Or could play violin? Of course it would.

Quote:
What someone learns about an image or style through subsequent study may affect their opinion, but I don't think that makes their original opinion any less valid.
Sure it does. Their original opinion was based on ignorance.
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Old May 2, 2013, 01:39 PM   #19
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Sure it does. Their original opinion was based on ignorance.
No, the original opinion was based on the impression that the piece of art made on the viewer at the time.

I agree that further study may lead to a greater appreciation (or at least a greater understanding) of the artist/style/etc. being studied, but I don't think art requires a degree or years of study to make an impression on someone.

But we are free to disagree, and like AT06, I will try to get off of my soapbox and allow this thread to get back on track.
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Old May 2, 2013, 01:49 PM   #20
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Why not? The OP is entitled to his opinion, and a style or particular image that appeals to one person may not appeal to another.



Maybe I misread, but I thought the OP was criticizing the Winogrand style as being boring.
Entirely possible I wasn't catching his point except that his contempt for one due to public "shaft polishing" seems like an ignorant way of looking at an artist.
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Old May 2, 2013, 02:21 PM   #21
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An essential book if you can get hold of it:

Bystander. A History of Street Photography by Colin Westerbeck and Joel Meyerowitz
ISBN 0 8212 1755 0

Been out of print for a while and can be pretty expensive, if you see a cheap copy, grab it!
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Old May 2, 2013, 02:27 PM   #22
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i have a feeling the OP has a paper to submit re HCB. lol.jk
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Old May 2, 2013, 02:34 PM   #23
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First, and I hate feeding trolls, but jessica., a lot of what you said was completely unnecessary, regardless of any flair in your vocabulary. I'm not saying if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all, but I am saying your tact wasn't appreciated.

More to the point, it seems I've kicked off such an uproarious debate. Let's explore two questions:

1) If I had put a cute little winkie or an eye-roll after this line...

Quote:
and I almost already hate Henri Cartier-Bresson due to the constant shaft polishing most people give him.
...would this be such an issue?

2) When I referenced Yanidel's article about Winogrand's style, and agreed that it wasn't intriguing, if I had instead said...

Quote:
I tend to agree with him that if it is copied today it's kind of boring and just winds up looking to me like, "Here's what's in front of me at the moment. This is where I am."
...would this be such an issue?

In the end, let's not misinterpret my displeasure with the over-focus (opinion) I've seen on HCB with a lack of respect for his body of work and/or skill as a photographer. I merely meant to suggest that the styles don't carry such an impact today and a new perspective, in my opinion, would be refreshing. Nor should anyone's opinion, even if I did think he sucked and was no better than the kid down the street, be lambasted to such a degree. I agree with MCH-1138 that we are all not only entitled to our opinions, but hold said opinions all in a very unique way.

After all, don't forget that the work many artists create is meant to be appreciated, understood, and cherished by the every-man, the Joe Schmo's of the world, not just his fellow artist.

Please, let's carry on.
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Old May 2, 2013, 02:56 PM   #24
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You should reconsider your notion about HCB. Just because he gets lots of praise doesn't mean you automatically dismiss him. There's a reason why he's praised. The man has things going on in his photos that I can only dream of. He was truly gifted and one of a kind. Your post shows you are simply not seasoned enough to see. That's fine, but you will gain an appreciation for his work as you go on. Reminds me when I first found out about William Eggleston. I understand now that Eggleston was genius. But your entitled to your opinion.

I think you are a long way from having a style. You're still worried about your gear. I'm long passed the gear phase. I can turn out a photo with my D800 or my iPhone (as shown below). I've taking photos with a 28, 35, and 50mm. Film, digital, mobile. Black & white and color. I've experimented a lot with different formats and cameras.

You should check out the in-Public site and Nick Turpin's blog. Yanidel is a below average photographer, in my opinion (don't get me started on his drab color that he purposely desaturates and his f/1.0 aperture is rather silly), you can find better blogs/people to follow - people that's don't even write blogs.

from an iPhone:


from a D800:
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Old May 2, 2013, 03:09 PM   #25
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i have always found street photography to meaningless technically. Where as some photography is about technique/settings/medium, street photography is almost always about the subject and the moment. But just like any photograph the image will not be very good if the photographer has no interest in what they are capturing.

I see a lot of people call themselves street photographers because they are TRYING to be street photographers. So they reveiw the big names and then copy their technique. "Oh he used this and that and shot at this time, im gonna do that too." thats ********. There is more of a soul and feeling that goes into street photography than anything else.

I personally have horrible street photography. I love to take pictures of people but find that being a large fellow I dont tend to be able to take a photo without affecting the scene. For example the cook in the above shot. She may not have even known you were there. But being a large guy, she would have known I was there and would have possibly shyed or acted differently.
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