Street Photography

I think I’m in love.

No, not with the woman in this photograph.

With street photography.

While I had been shooting some version of street photography since I started a couple of years ago, I found myself really exploring it this weekend as a specific genre and discipline.

It started innocently enough, as all love affairs do.

I was browsing the photography section of a bookstore downtown, looking for inspiration. While I love the work of celebrity photographers like Herb Ritts and Richard Avedon, I’ve only done a few portraits. I was already familiar with Henri Cartier-Bresson and loved poring over the reprint of The Decisive Moment. At $150, it was a bit steep for that day, but I will likely pick it up for my birthday or for Christmas.

On the same shelf, I came across David Gibson‘s The Street Photographer’s Manual. I took a chance and purchased it, and headed home to read and take in hundreds of amazing street photography images. Gibson also recommended checking out Magnum Photos and In-Public. From there, the love affair grew stronger when I came across this image by New York photographer Aaron Berger:

Ice Cream by Aaron Berger

An incredibly simple image, but so ridiculously funny and fascinating.

Who are these guys? Why are they each holding two ice cream cones? Why are they so serious? Where are they off to? Will they get there before their ice cream melts?

This instant emotional connection between the image and the viewer made me realize that THIS is what I want people to feel when they look at my work.

Most people think street photography consists of  randomly taking photos of  people walking around on a city street. I’ve certainly done that when I first got my point and shoot camera. Sadly, the end result is often, well… a picture of someone walking down a street. But I’ve learned good street photography is so much more than that. And to be really good at it takes a lot of skill, patience and a fair amount of luck.

Not everyone agrees completely on what constitutes a street photograph, but there does seem to be a consensus that it is usually a candid moment in a public space. Not all street photos include people and some also argue that posed street portraits also qualify as street photography.

If you’re interested, I encourage you to visit the In-Public website to see some amazing work.

Over the next few days, I dedicated myself to reading more about this genre and went out to shoot with a new purpose.

The image of the woman in the hat at the top of this page was taken at Bay and Bloor. I first noticed her when she was walking down a side street. You can’t see it, but she was carrying a teddy-bear purse and what looked like teddy bear slippers to me. Clearly, she was a very interesting person and if there was a reason to be taking photos of people on the street, she was it.

I snuck in a few shots from a distance, but as luck would have it, she was walking in the same direction as me.

I decided to take a chance and got as close to her as I could to snap this image. The look on her face is pretty much how she was in person. She had a purpose, and was clearly in her own world. The lighting worked perfectly for me on that corner – the busy-ness of the intersection is in shadow, while the sun is shining on her.

I’m looking forward to working more in this genre.