Let me say right up front that I don’t dislike street photography. It’s not my thing and I rarely shoot “street” but I do recognize good street when I see it.
For the most part I find much of what is presented as street photography to be boring snapshots… usually in black and white. Apparently proper street work has to be in black and white. Much of it is usually out of focus or exhibits some degree of motion blur. (Make HCB proud.)
Here’s one I took a couple of years ago using the Leica M8 during the State Fair of Texas. Yep, it’s in Black & White… but no motion blur.. Damn! I am a failure!….. And while I do like this photograph I don’t really think of it as street photography.
The premis of street photography, as I understand it, is to tell a story in one single photograph. With street photography you have to be sneaky or blend in so well with the surroundings that potential subjects will not notice you and go about their business as if you were not there. You are the epitome of the “stealth photographer”….. but then…..
Some street photographers are so in the face of their subjects that I would call them street nuisances. I’m serious, I’ve seen videos of some of these guys working and if I were one of their subjects I think I’d use a stun gun to deal with them. If one of those aggressive street photographers got in my face they would have a serious problem.
We do have this thing called personal space. We cherish it and don’t really want anyone to encroach on it.. whether it’s some a photographer 2 feet away with an M9 or another photographer 20 yards away with a telephoto lens. I really don’t want to be photographed without my knowledge. I don’t want my personal space invaded and I think most people feel the same way. This is one of the reasons I don’t enjoy doing street photography. I don’t wish to do to others what I don’t want done to me. Yeah, I know all about the law saying that if you are in public with no reasonable expectation of privacy that you are fair game for any bozo with a camera. That really doesn’t make it right though does it?
Yes, there is plenty of government surveillance what with CCTV systems, traffic cameras, Etc.. but all of those devices are pretty much passive systems. The street photographer, on the other hand, is not. He is out there, hunting…. just trying to capture you doing nothing more than you being you but without your knowledge. Something about that bothers me.
Like I said, I enjoy good street photography when I see it.. I suppose this makes me a hypocrite. There’s a lot of photography claiming to be street photography these days but to me, much of it just comes across as being bad B&W snapshots of some poor individual who didn’t know they were being photographed…. just like all those people in the photo I posted above. Not a one of them knew I stole their soul and a moment of their privacy.