Street photography is considered as one of the most recent forms of photography and according to some photographs as the most challenging.
Street photography has always been both hard to define as it enters in a different part of the photography genres. Over the past 50 years, street photography has evolved from being mainly focused on the streets and urban art to domestics pictures to become involved nowadays in several sectors. Street photography is now defined as taking pictures of the streets, but also people with a story or a style linked to these streets. Street photography is also the art of capturing people coming from an urban or rural environment in order to record a piece of their life. Street Photography is defined by photographers, more as the process of creating “said images”, which differs from photo documentaries, landscapes or portrait genre.
Street photography according to Serge J-F Levy, “is a way of walking through a space while being constantly aware of momentary changes in the light”. Serge Levy, wrote an essay called Street Photography as Process where he intends to define what represents street photography today.
The Circular met Louis Simon, a young street photographer based in Paris. According to him, “street photography is in constant evolution and development”. He adds that “every street photographs are constantly changing the sector, as now we are everywhere, in fashion events, documentaries, brands, movies”. This ability of “being aware of momentary changes the light” described by Serge Levy completely makes sense to understand the discipline and why street photographs are now working in many different areas.
Some photographs argue that the discipline requires constant awareness of how to arrange and modify the frame of elements present in the streets. Louis explains, “frame composition in street photography is completely different as sometimes you will be forced to add something to the pictures by yourself, an original angle, for instance, shooting a nice outfit seen on the streets through a bicycle wheel”. Perspectives, dimensions and colours are really important according to Louis as “many street photographers prefer the dark part of the cities or shady neighbourhoods to use the different perspective lines of sidewalks and buildings”.
For decades street photography was seen as opportunist, for this aspect of creating pictures out of nowhere, without real meaning, story or journalistic purpose. The scene has completely changed as now street photographs are also participating in documentaries to show the story of unlucky or unfortunate people or simply the reality of people’s lives. Eric Kim went to Japan in 2012, to realise a street photography documentary, showing the beauty of Japan and the reality of the Japanese daily life.
Louis argues that “both aspects of the profession is now completely possible and feasible. I went to South Korea for Fashion Week recently, and I was so fascinated by the cultural choc I witnessed that I took thousands of pictures and I’m currently making a street photography documentary showing not only beautiful clothes but also, the difference between the fashion world and the rest of the cities in South Korea”.
Street photography can capture everything we witness every day but don’t pay attention to, such as “people arguing in the streets, synchronised pedestrian walks, juxtapositions of the seemingly unrelated subject matter”. Serge Levey argues that everything happens in a “millisecond”, street photography according to him is the “choreography of synchronising an impulsive emotional or cerebral response that may transpire over the course of milliseconds with making a photographic exposure”. Intuition and instantaneity are keywords that define street photography today. The profession now is evolving to collaborate with many other different fields of photography, such as mainstream or journalistic photography, documentary and art, fashion, architecture.
If this article has awakened an interest for street photography this documentary by Joel Meyerowitz – successful photograph and film director – provides an insight into this universe.