Street photography has got to be one of the hardest disciplines in photography. Forget complex studio lighting techniques or advanced composition – all of these things can be taught. Holding a camera, looking a stranger in the eye and taking the picture – there’s no lessons for that. In that moment, invading someones personal space for your own gain. Will they freak out, swear, try and hit you? Who knows. But the struggle for our art is real, the fear is real. Maybe photographers love it for the rush, the fear of being caught?
Garry Winogrand had an interesting approach to street photography. In this video at 4:52 you can see exactly what he does to get close to people. In short, he pretends he’s and idiot. It’s as if this is an attempt to disarm the subject in front of him, a clueless man with a camera is no harm and we can continue with our conversation. His mantra of ‘I know what I’m photographing is interesting, but I haven’t seen the pictures yet’ leaves me conflicted. Of course there will always be an element of chance to street photography, but there is a definite formula for a good photograph. Composition, timing, lighting – one must have these key elements to make an interesting image, maybe I’m being too much of a purist and not embracing the love of chance. I do however like his comment ‘I like to see what things look like photographed’. Through all my reservations about chance, this has always stuck with me. Seeing the world with your eyes will always be completely different to how the photograph represents that moment, the magic of not only street photography, but photography in general, will always exist in that unknown.
Best place to practice street photography – The London Marathon
Every year men and women from all walks of life drag themselves through a grueling 26 mile run – at least that’s what their faces say. This is a perfect opportunity to try out photographing strangers as they are completely distracted. The crowds are dense, the noise booming and their are cameras everywhere – people expect to be photographed. That’s where you come in. Set your shutter speeds fast and get shooting. Every type of facial expression, from desire to fear can be captured in a twenty minute period. Your focusing skills will be tested as well as your ability to adapt with crowds and changing light. Something that was almost unexpected from this experience was how it teaches you to see a scene as a whole. The temptation is to single out an individual from the crowd, but you can train yourself to see the scene as a whole. With people running right in front of you it can also help develop depth within your photographs. Here’s a selection from 2016, some are better than others, but the experience is incredibly valuable.