The photographic landscape has been changing, and I’m feeling a bit disoriented.
I try to not think of things categorically, but it seems to be a human trait- What do you photograph”, or “What kind of photographer are you”. I don’t do landscapes, and I don’t do portraits. Because I am a trained photographer, I like to think my Travel photos are (technically) a bit better than average, but my Family pics are just as goofy as everybody else.
But when I am consciously trying to make a picture, I think of them as Observations- a Point of View that hovers between Documentary and Journalism -what Walker Evans called Descriptive Photography.
A few years back I read an article about a Street Photography book that had this Matt Stuart photo on the cover
I looked into Matt, and he appeared to be a guy who walks around with both a camera and a particular view of the World, and is pretty good at using one to capture his impression of the other.
About the same time, along with the rest of the World, I discovered Vivian Maier, one thing led to another, and this whole “Street Photography” thing started to take off for me, with Cartier-Bresson, Winogrand and others. Street photographers are folks who carry camera around with them to record the World as they see it. Street Photography seemed to be a non-categoric Category, one that felt good to be in-it was observational, and you couldn’t predefine the image.
I hung around Street Photography for a few years, scoured Web Sites and got a sense of who was doing what. The discussions were what could be expected- approach, attitude, privacy, and so on. Fortunately, for a field that is gear obsessed, Street shooter conversations about equipment were minimal. Photography for these folks it is about the intersection of place and time (or timing)-not gear, and not prescribed rules.
I recently read a quote that expressed this quite well. I apologize for not including my source, I don’t recall it-
“I don’t know whether this truncated elephant with arm unmanned was a one-shot or a whole roll. I just know it was right. And it illustrates what goes on in the photographer’s mind when he’s being totally unconcerned about composition, almost. He’s being almost totally concerned about subject. What comes through is the subject. What comes through the subject is the way of seeing.” —Jonathan Brand wrote these comments on composition and subject in his Popular Photography Critic’s Choice column about Garry Winogrand’s photograph of an elephant’s trunk, exhibited at the 1964 Museum of Modern Art show The Photographer’s Eye.
I decided that I was a street Photographer.
I entered a few competitions-
Streetfoto San Francisco International Street Photography
LACD Street Shooting Around the World
Meanwhile, I was noticing a trend towards formalizing Street Photography into a genre. Many street photographers who were gathering around the Internet water cooler started forming groups, or collectives. This seemed a good thing because their purpose was to critique and help curate each other’s work.
Others created self-promoting websites that seem to have evolved into large mirrors of their own self worth. There started to be Fanboys who wallowed in didactic conversations.There was some talk of Gear-“you have to use 28 or 35mm, you have to get up close”.
There were Rules.
Street Photography turned into a category.