I have been trying to make photographs for a long time, and when discussing it with others, they frequently ask, “what kind of photographer are you?”.
I never had a good answer.
“I don’t put my work into a category”, is sort of the answer, but this sounds too much like the affected response from an art student.
However, I actually never could fit it into a category*-I just photograph what I like, what I think would make a good picture. In trying, some categories were eliminated- I seldom shoot landscapes or nature, and am terrible at portraits and products.
A few years ago, in an article I read, someone used the phrase “street photographer”, and it kind of rang my bell. As I started reading more about this “category”, I saw a reflection of my own work-juxtapositions, visual puns, and interesting patterns, mostly in the man made environment. The image was what was most important, the technical matters (to me) less so. I mean, if you are standing on the sidewalk, and saw three chickens, a horse with a purple tail, some bicyclists, and a Peacock approaching, you would think, “Damn, I need a picture of that!”.
So, I started calling myself a “Street Photographer”, and did my best to see who else was doing so.
Like most things online, all I needed was a search term, and then the world of Street Photography was like peeling an onion-peeling back one layer revealed another.
But following these online discussions frequently turn into opinionfests with the opinionor pontificating on the true Street** path. It seems to me that we are trying too hard to categorize it, to make rules.
“Those people” are trying to write the Street Photography rule book-
“In order to be ‘Street”, there must be a person in the picture”.
“In order to show how well you compose the shot, you need to print the full frame, cropping is just an excuse for sloppy composition”. This one is a film leftover, where we frequently included sprocket holes and/or the printing frame outline.
Naturally, there are gear arguments-
” (D)SLR-they are too conspicuous, when using them, you can’t be candid”.
“Zoom lenses are a crutch you have to use wide angle lenses so you can get in close. ”
And of course, there are the double edged arguments regarding cell phones-
The purists, idealists, and gearheads turn their noses up at them, while the those who are less encumbered, see it as the perfect Street camera because it is the one that you always have with you.
It follows this definition with, “The subject of the photograph might be absent of people and can be an object or environment where the image projects a decidedly human character in facsimile or aesthetic.”
To me, nothing more needs to be said.
To me, the image is everything, the method of getting that image is secondary, and all the rest is just “Street Photography For Dummies”.
LET ME SEE THAT TOOTSIE ROLL Copyright 2016 Jimmy Reina
*”Category” is the generic word. Aficionados and Cognoscenti use the term “genre”. Everything sounds better in French.
** “Street” is hip shorthand for “Street Photography”. “Are you shooting ‘Street’? I have been shooting ‘Street’ for almost two years”.
The image at the top of this post is part of a diorama in the wonderful and amazing
Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
All material copyright 2014, Jimmy Reina.