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Old 1 Week Ago   #281
airfrogusmc
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lucas.f/8 View Post
Control freaks will never "get" street photography. Composition & Chaos captured ,is a beautiful thing, a real moment as art. Yes, be prepared to "waste" a lot of film. Some people play Blackjack while others prefer the One Armed Bandit. Both can make you a millionaire.
Speak'n of that a trailer to a good movie and some of the reasons I think many go to the streets. Words by Meyerowitz. Just push the arrow in the middle of where it says no poster.
http://www.traileraddict.com/everybody-street/trailer
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Old 1 Week Ago   #282
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Love that film, I've watched it already 5 times!
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Old 1 Week Ago   #283
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There's a lot of bad everything: Roger quite rightly drew attention to Sturgeon's law – that 95% of everything is crap! However, the OP asked about bad street photography, so that's what I'll comment on...

To paraphrase the OP:

"The vast majority of so-called 'street' photography does ... not exhibit any degree of photographic merit, often they don't have a subject and look like a haphazard, random snap. Poorly framed, out of focus, people looking down at the ground."

(1) This presupposes that a "good" photograph is the opposite to the above: well framed, in focus, etc.
I get that. A photograph, like a painting or any other picture, needs to follow some kind of aesthetic or it's just a random collection of shapes. Photographers obviously have it easier than painters in this regard because a camera can automatically create a representation of reality without input from the photographer. I'm not going to open the can of worms labelled "composition" – but I will point out that we've developed a visual grammar over the centuries that helps us understand and relate to pictures – just as we have syntax in language. It's knowledge of this grammar that's important, not its slavish application.

It's worth noting that just as grammar in language varies between countries and even communities, so too does visual grammar. That's why Japanese street photographs often look so different from Western ones, with the former tending towards symbolism and the abstract as typified by Daido Moriyama.

Anyway, I'm sure we can broadly agree that a "good" photograph is "well composed" if it uses visual grammar.

(2) The above is true if we consider a photograph only from an artistic viewpoint
A lot of photography is taken to meet a Western "pictorial" aesthetic: you can see this approach in nearly every landscape or portrait photo, for example. The Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize gets flak every year because it's looking for a contemporary postmodern take on art rather than the traditional – so you get photographs that people with a preference for pictorial art decry as "boring" or "deadpan" because both the content and visual grammar differ from their expectations.

Anyway, the kind of landscape or portrait photograph that appeals to most people depends mostly on aesthetic qualities borrowed from the look of old European paintings. Usually, its appearance is prized more than what it means or is of. I'm sure we can all picture the kind of thing...

(3) Photographs don't have to be "art" – they can be record shots
A purely documentary photograph is only about information. Perhaps it shows a person's appearance on a driving licence or the cake mum made for little Susie's sixth birthday. Aesthetics are of no importance. A snapshot is all about how well it shows us something – whether its composition is "good" or "bad" is immaterial. You may like well-composed photos better than, say, my mum's awful wonky snapshots – but that purely personal preference has no bearing whatsoever on the success or not of my mum's documentary photography!

If anyone is wondering where photojournalism fits in, I consider it akin to street photography, and to rely equally on content and aesthetics.

(4) Which brings us to street photography
Street photography is exceptionally difficult: way more demanding than, say, a typical landscape photograph. It depends for success on two aspects: documenting information in an aesthetic way. Moreover, what it documents and how are very specific. For exactly why street photography is difficult, see point (5) below.

Anyway, this means that most people are rubbish at street photography. I certainly am! Also, since street photographs are both artistic pictures and social documentary, "bad" street photographs are either all about composition and document very little, or the opposite – they document people or social interaction well but with poor aesthetics. As others in this thread have pointed out, many people are fascinated by what are essentially snapshots taken on the street simply because of the social documentary aspect, so slack is cut for bad street photography because of the subject matter.

I've heard it said too that because street photography can't be controlled like studio photography, "flaws" are acceptable. I don't buy that! I can't imagine Cartier-Bresson or Meyerowitz saying: "But it's an excellent photo of you ignore that annoying arm, and had I been standing a couple of feet over so that bloke didn't have a tree coming out of his head!"

Anyway, I think the reasons for mediocre street photography being praised are because it's so tricky coupled with our affinity for seeing pictures of social interaction.

(5) What is "good" street photography?
I'm going with what most people – and Wikipedia – define street photography as: depictions of everyday life in public places made through a specific approach. The aesthetics of street photography owe a lot to Cartier-Bresson and others who pounded the streets during its seminal period from the 1950s to 1970s: Winogrand, Friedlander and Meyerowitz in the US and Ray-Jones and Parr in the UK, among many others. There are variations on this theme: I've already mentioned the abstract symbolism of Japanese street photography as typified by Daida Moriyama. But let's stay with Western street photography.

Cartier-Bresson called his photographs "picture-stories", and said that they were of "the fleeting moment when the apex of the occurring action coincides with the other graphic elements within the frame to create the best possible composition" – his decisive moment. He was very specific about what he meant by "apex". A lot of street photographers are doing street photography wrong! Judging from their photos on the web, many mistakenly think that this apex is the point of maximum "action" – when, say, the girl kisses the boy. A picture has only one frame, so showing an instant other than the "main event" may communicate more clearly what is happening. Let us return to our amorous couple – would a picture of them a moment before the kiss, eyes locked on each other, lips parted, not quite touching, tell us more about their passion than the kiss itself? Or maybe the moment after, longing and desperation apparent as they part, perhaps forever? The street photographer's apex, then, is a moment chosen so that what has already taken place, and what is about to follow, can be most easily understood, and we can see the present, the past and the future.

That's just the "what" – a street photograph also requires perfect aesthetics! Remember, Cartier-Bresson said that the decisive moment was not just the story-telling moment but also the moment when the "best possible composition" occurred. Cartier-Bresson was a painter, so he knew about composition.

This decisive moment may have been a new departure for photography but it has been depicted by painters for centuries. Here's an example: Orpheus and Eurydice by Rubens (about 1636). There is a tale in Greek mythology about the musician Orpheus, who was permitted to take his wife Eurydice back from death and the underworld on one condition: that he walk before her and never look back until reaching the world of the living. But he looked back ... Rubens painted this myth not at the instant when Orpheus turns his head and Eurydice returns to death but before. Rubens’s avoidance of the "obvious" moment imbues the painting with drama and increases the sense of narrative: we see Orpheus and Eurydice leaving Hades and Persephone, but he is grim faced, struggling to keep his eyes off his wife, and we sense things aren't going to end well; in our imagination we embark with him on his journey towards the light, pitying the couple as we anticipate their tragedy.

Painting the decisive moment is one thing, as the artist has full control over what appears on their canvas, photographing it is another: the street photographer not only needs an eye for a picture and technical skill like the painter, they require luck too – to be in the right place at the right time!


Orpheus and Eurydice, Rubens

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Old 1 Week Ago   #284
splitimageview
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Thanks for that well-written post, RichC.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #285
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Great post Rich. Thanks.

After reading your list of necessary elements for a good photo, the first thing that came to mind was the often heard phrase "It's too hard".

Photography, like many other things today, has been "dumbed down", so the mediocre becomes the norm.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #286
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Rich, I think you hit a lot of nails on the head with your post. After that tour de force, I'm reluctant to mention anything except, "Yeah, what he said."

There is another aspect that inspires me. I generally don't do "street photography" in the modern sense because I like to ask permission before I take someone's picture, especially children. Maybe I'm a little old fashioned... maybe I'm a bit of an Oregon liberterian who applies his desire for privacy to others... dunno....

Despite that, I was hugely inspired by Life magazine as a kid. I wonder if folks who do street photography, good or less so, are also inspired by the excellent photojournalism that we saw years ago in large format magazines. I think a lot of people want to see in their own pictures the brilliant images they saw in National Geographic or even just their local newspaper on a Sunday morning. Well, that's my inspiration, and I'm always inspired if I see even a glimmer of that high standard of composition and story telling in my own photos.

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Old 1 Week Ago   #287
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PKR View Post
You mean "the easiest targets" ? The homeless aren't going to chase these "street photographers" down and threaten them with legal trouble. I would challenge one of these photographers to photograph outside of an expensive restaurant or private club in this city. I think the reaction by the subjects would be much different.

What do you think?

I looked at your posted photos. Seems you have a Dog in The Hunt. Justify it anyway you like. I see the behavior of many of these "photographers" ugly. I think being easily published in social media has spawned this behavior. Today, anyone with a camera is a "Photographer". I worked for years before being nationally published. Today its a click away..
No..but I had one chase me with a knife. He was so drunk he fell over after about 50 feet. Rather be sued anyday!
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On first 10,000 Photos.
Old 1 Week Ago   #288
vladimir
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On first 10,000 Photos.

Quote:
Originally Posted by splitimageview View Post
The vast majority of so-called 'street' photography does nothing for me.

Most simply do not exhibit any degree of photographic merit, often they don't have a subject and look like a haphazard, random snap. Poorly framed, out of focus, people looking down at the ground, it's kinda like watching a sitcom that's just not funny. Just want to change the channel...

Very rarely there are those photos that *do* hold interest, instantly grabbing the viewer's attention and having photographic merit, but the only thing that the latter have in common with the former is that they were, well, taken on some street somewhere.

It appears that most such photographs are posted/shared just *because* they are street, regardless (in spite?) of whether they have photographic merit.

Does anyone else feel similarly?
Most of these photographers are obvioustly on theirs first 10k photos as HCB said.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #289
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vladimir View Post
Most of these photographers are obvioustly on theirs first 10k photos as HCB said.
Hah! Bang on!
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Old 1 Week Ago   #290
mdarnton
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lucas.f/8 View Post
Control freaks will never "get" street photography.
HCB is rolling over in his grave re: this comment.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #291
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"The vast majority of so-called 'street' photography does nothing for me."

Who actually cares? You don't have to get it. Stop trying to hammer the round world into your square peg reality.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #292
mdarnton
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Or, alternately, there's no there there.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #293
splitimageview
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BuzzyOne View Post
"The vast majority of so-called 'street' photography does nothing for me."

Who actually cares? You don't have to get it. Stop trying to hammer the round world into your square peg reality.
Might want to actually read the thread before making a baseless comment, but thanks anyway.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #294
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http://thedreamwithinpictures.com/bl...artier-bresson
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Old 1 Week Ago   #295
airfrogusmc
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A few words by some of the greats and a little video by one of the greats.
https://vimeo.com/116692462 It's short and really worth a watch.

And some words by some of the greats.

"When subject matter is forced to fit into preconceived patterns, there can be no freshness of vision. Following rules of composition can only lead to a tedious repetition of pictorial cliches." - Edward Weston

"There are no rules and regulations for perfect composition. If there were we would be able to put all the information into a computer and would come out with a masterpiece. We know that's impossible. You have to compose by the seat of your pants." - Arnold Newman

"There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs." - Ansel Adams

"And in not learning the rules, I was free. I always say, you're either defined by the medium or you redefine the medium in terms of your needs." - Duane Michals

"There are no shortcuts, no rules." - Paul Strand

"Photography is not a sport. It has no rules. Everything must be dared and tried!" - Bill Brandt

"I came from the outside, the rules of photography didn't interest me... "-William Klein

" ...... a photograph can look any way. Or, there's no way a photograph has to look (beyond being an illusion of a literal description). Or, there are no external or abstract or preconceived rules of design that can apply to still photographs. " Garry Winogrand

and maybe my favorite which gets directly to this thread
" ......so called “composition” becomes a personal thing, to be developed along with technique, as a personal way of seeing." - Edward Weston
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Old 1 Week Ago   #296
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The street work I do is for one purpose alone: to creatively remember where my life was in 2017.

Perhaps in 2077, someone might enjoy the photographs again.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #297
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Am wondering if you do not care for something why be concerned? I like looking at others' work, no matter the subject. If its not what I care for or understand I turn the page. Some of my photos are shot just for me, they probably only have meaning to me. I post very few, mainly to my children, not because of fear they won't be well received or understood. More than likely if there was street life closer to me it would be enjoyable.

Others may know more. This post is not directed toward anyone, just my thoughts on the subject matter.

David
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