I have been seeing a lot of re-tweets on Twitter from photographers going all gooey-eyed about other photographers’ street photography. I always follow the links on these tweets to take a look for myself.
Often I am not in the least bit impressed by what I see. I feel I am looking at the Emperor’s clothes – they don’t exist, but no-one seems to have the guts to say so.
There seems to be – over the last few years – a trend towards utter lack of good composition, a disregard for the substance and meaning of the subject, and a view that poor timing when pressing the button doesn’t matter in the least.
On that last point, I am left with the sense that this lowering of standards is, in part, due to a delusion that capturing ‘any’ moment is all that counts rather than capturing ‘the’ moment. What amazes me is that some of these photographers actually make a living from this third-rate photography. If these photographers were just keen amateurs then I could forgive them. But many are not. They call themselves professionals – and that’s when I think it’s time someone actually said something.
A great deal of modern street photography is third rate dross.
There, someone’s said it at last!
I will try to illustrate my point by showing two of my street photographs that never saw the light of day. They were both taken on commission with The Sunday Times. One in Paris, the other in Cadiz.
I never printed them or put them with the collection of work presented to the newspaper because I did not feel they came up to scratch.
The timing of the Cadiz shot is just a little out – the man has moved a fraction too far to the right. My fault.
Result – dump both images. These pictures were overs – not fit for purpose. It’s that approach that keeps up standards.
Oh, and while I’m having a good old rant, I read today that one ‘street photographer’ advice was not to photograph ‘down-and-outs’ because if you do you will be taking advantage of misfortune and leaving yourself open to accusations of being too ‘arty’.
What a complete load of dribble. Street photographers should never turn away from any subject that is visually interesting.
And photographing just anybody, simply because they happen to be in the street is not enough. There should always be either – a strong visual reason for taking the picture, or the image with tell a story. Hopefully your pictures will always fit both criteria. In other words, it will have meaning.
If you would really like to learn the art of good street photography, get yourself along to Menorca in September – there are two places left on the Photography Holiday. I will show you exactly how to achieve really high standards.