I love photography. I only have about two years of experience, but I can tell you that I love it. More specifically, I love street photography. Let me tell you something about Street Photography.
Today I’m pleased to introduce to you the first of the promised guest posts I’ve been talking about. This one takes a look at street photography, something I don’t have much experience in myself but non the less an interesting topic. The author is [Gm], a blogger from Indonesia (where I’m currently enjoying a well deserved holiday) who at the moment lives in Japan. I now give [Gm] the word and suggest that you all have a look at his blog (which is updated daily) once you’ve read his article and left a comment.
First of all, what is Street Photography?
It’s hard to define something that is very flexible. To my broad definition: Street Photography is something that you capture in public, candidly, and that tells a story. Street Photography should not be mistaken with Street Portrait, which is only one part of Street Photography. In that sense, Street Photography is not always about facial expression and beautiful strangers. Sure, gorgeous ladies and handsome men would make a great subject. But then, it would be hard to differentiate between a Street Photographer and a pervert (or voyeur). Street Photography is also about geometry, shape, gesture, shadows and light, juxtaposition, etc. It is about how people react with the environment – or sometimes it’s not about people at all!
Street Photography is freedom: freedom to capture, freedom to define, freedom to assess. For me, personally, Street Photography is capturing the mundane to create interesting story. I say “create” because I’m the one telling the story (through my photo), and it is based on my personal interpretation. I could be wrong. No, I am probably wrong.
Street Photography is about capturing the moment; it’s not about creating or making a picture. Ansel Adams’ famous line “You don’t take a photograph, you make it” doesn’t really apply here. Street Photography has to deal with a lot of uncontrollable factors. You can’t control the light, you can’t control the pose, you can’t control the fleeting seconds – you can only capture them as they go. The good news is, you can play with light, you can anticipate a pose, and you can get lucky to get the decisive moment.
Of course, you will need to be prepared (e.g. camera settings, pointing the camera in the right direction, having the guts to actually take the shot, etc) in anticipating the moment. But, in the end, it’s always about luck – lucky to be there at the right moment.
Now, why I like Street Photography?
Well, the biggest reason is because it happens everywhere, all the time. You don’t have to travel to a special place, you don’t have to wait for a special time (like the golden hour) and you don’t need any special tools (special lens, special camera, special flash, etc). You just need a camera – any camera – then go out and shoot. Of course, better gear will give better results, but it is never mandatory (for photography in general) to have special tools. And you know what the best part is? Even if you go to the same place, at the same time (of different days) over and over, the scene will be different. You will find a different scene, you will find different people, you will find different points of interest. You know that you can’t turn back time, right?
The second reason: it’s easy and fun :-). Well, it is easy to make street photograph, but I have to say that it’s not that easy to make a good one – but still, everything is possible.
What do I think is the biggest challenge in Street Photography?
Technique? No, technique can be learned. Practice makes perfect.
Observant eyes? No, that can also be learned and practiced.
Luck? Not really. You can’t learn that, but you can pray to get lucky :-).
Guts? Yes, this is the one. I think guts is the biggest problem. A lot of people (including me) are not always comfortable in taking photos of strangers. Some feel shy, some feel guilty – like they are doing something wrong.
Well, is it wrong?
I can’t say this for everybody, but in most countries, it is completely legal for you to take photos of anybody as long as they are in public. However, publishing them (on print or online) is another story. In the end, it’s better to check the local Law and Regulations before engaging Street Photography.
Why do I still feel guilty, even when I know I wasn’t doing anything wrong?
After only 1.5 years of doing this, I still feel bad or guilty sometimes. I feel a little awkward to the least. It’s must be the common sense talking. Despite that I have the right (under law) to take photos of anybody in public, they also have the right to not being photographed – especially when they are in bad or embarrassing moments. In this case, your ethics will be the judge. It is your decision whether you are going to take the photo or not. It is your decision whether you are going to publish the photo or not. My personal rule is simple; I won’t publish a photo of someone in embarrassing, ugly or bad moments. Funny and laughable photos are fine – degrading are not.
Anyway, I hope you can enjoy Street Photography as much as I can. I don’t think our host here (Rifqi) is a fan of Street Photography, but I surely hope he is willing to give it a shot :D… at least he is willing to give me a shot in writing a post about Street Photography on his blog. That’s a good start :-P.
So, what are you waiting for? Go out and have some fun with Street Photography!