Updated: Aug 13
Recently I met a friend for coffee. I had my small Olympus camera with me as I intended to do a bit of street photography while I had the opportunity. My friend expressed surprise that I had taken such a keen interest in street photography given that she knew I was a great fan of landscape photography. Her first question was, ‘why street photography?’ As I gave her my answer she realised that I really do have a passion for street photography and we began to explore the genre. I have encapsulated the main aspects of our discussion in a Q&A format below.
Our conversation has helped me to clarify my thoughts on street photography and why this genre of photography is beginning to appeal to me so much.
Q. Why street photography? I thought you were totally dedicated to landscape photography?
A. I was and when I go out to do landscape photography, I am still totally dedicated to what I’m doing but I think it’s no harm to diversify a little and I must admit that the whole area of street photography is growing on me, despite the fact that I didn’t think it would.
Q. What do you mean?
A. Well, initially I didn’t see the point of it and I found it difficult to find anything interesting, anything worth bringing home, so I dismissed it as a genre.
Q. What changed?
A. A street photography workshop right here in Dublin. I spent an afternoon under the guidance of a good street photographer who gave us pointers and then let us off to see what we could find. It was the first time I captured anything remotely interesting in terms of a street image.
Q. Surely, street photography is just a matter of capturing random people on the streets. I don’t see the appeal of it myself.
A. That’s exactly how I once viewed it too, but it’s not what street photography is meant to be. If you look at the images taken by some of the masters of street photography you’ll see that there’s much more to a street image than there appears to be at first. It’s like looking at the work of a great artist, you have to really look and see. Seeing what’s there, beyond first impressions, is the real secret.
Q. So there are good and not so good street images?
A. Definitely. There are a lot of ingredients that go into the creation of a good street photograph. They have to stand out somehow and the best street photographers know how to create these stand-out images. I can only hope to learn from them.
Q. So what is it that makes a street photograph stand out?
A. I answered this recently in an interview I did for a site called www.composeclick.com.
I think it’s a combination of things – composition, use of light, having an interesting subject, shooting at the right moment. Then there are also a lot of other variables that come into play that help to make a compelling image, one that stands out from the crowd of street images. Things like capturing something funny or unusual, people doing odd things, repetition of colour or pattern, a word play in the street, contrasts such as light and shadow, big and small, or maybe it’s an action or even an expression that stands out. It’s a matter of paying attention and spotting something worth capturing. It’s not always easy to do but that’s part of what makes street photography so compelling.
Q. I know you are interested in mindful photography. Street photography seems to be a little more frantic and not as gentle or easy-going as landscape photography. Would you still see it as a mindful pursuit?
A. Yes, absolutely, but in a different way. When I go out into the street or the park or to a shopping centre with camera in hand I become fully engrossed in what I am doing and I can forget about all the concerns of life for a while. It’s not so much an escape as something that enriches my life, and is therefore conducive to my wellbeing, which is what counts for me. Street photography supports our wellbeing in many ways, both physical and mental.
As well as that it can be fun chasing an image, and having fun is never a bad thing!
A Walk in the Park
Q. Do you think you’ll ever do mostly street photography or will you continue with landscape as well?
A. I don’t see myself specialising in any particular type of photography as it is the variety that keeps me interested. I love to experiment with different genres and discover what I need to do to improve at each of them. Location often dictates the type of photography I do, weather conditions can be a factor, and sometimes I just change genres to increase my motivation. All types of photography bring me joy and fulfilment.
I hope I answered the question, Why Street Photography?
If you are not sure if this type of photography is for you, you might like to read some more of my recent posts on this topic.
As always, thanks for reading. I hope this discussion was useful. If so, please feel free to share it.