Note: This post was originally written by Ahg, who is a young and talented street photographer from the Philippines. He originally wrote this post on his Tumblr, and he was generous enough to let me host it on my blog. I made a few edits here and there, but mostly it is untouched. I hope you guys enjoy it and please leave a comment below and let us know what you think
*Author’s note: The following are my reflections and realizations as to why I enjoy street photography. These are from the 2 years of experience I had with film photography and my undying passion for the street because there is perhaps no other genre of photography that captivated me and made me grow as a photographer. I am writing this as a reminder of why I do street and to urge others to give street photography a try.
1. It stems from a simple idea: I would go out today and shoot.
A street photographer does not need expensive lighting, tripods, or a shot list. The main motivation for street is to just go out and capture what the world gives you regardless of the location, the lighting, or the circumstance. The street photographer’s domain is not necessarily the steet, it could be anything outside. The street photographer will work with what has been given to him. There are ideal conditions but the street photographer would not let those circumstances hinder his vision. All that the street photographer needed is an impassioned eye, an unobtrusive camera loaded with film, and good shoes.
2. It will open your eyes.
Not in the microscopic level but in the level that even if you do not have a camera with you, you see photographs. The boring will look interesting and the mundane will seem important. Seeing something when others see nothing is what a street photographer posses. When a street photographer presses the shutter, he knows that the moment he snapped, everything fell into place from the subject’s movement or the light that hits it is the decisive moment.
3. It will make you more human.
No one should NEVER and I mean NEVER take a picture of an impoverished person. It is not because of safety reasons but because a street photographer never exploits his subject. The street is not a zoo. It is a place where husbands go to their wives, where lovers often times meet, and where families enjoy each other’s compnay. The street photographer sees to it that he shoots humanity and not its failures.
4. It is a personal endeavor.
One cannot gain profit from being street photographer. A photographer who knows how to shoot glamour or fashion will always have projects thrown to him but as said in Street Photography: Documenting the Human Condition, “A street photographer sees photos everywhere and is compelled to take photographs from a place deep within themselves as one who concerns with the fruit and not the flower”. No one will stop the photographer from taking photos and nobody will tell him to start. It is all in the photographer’s discretion if he wants to start documenting the human condition.
5. You will find your own style.
Bruce Gilden does it in your face, Joel Meyerowitz strive to be undetected, while Gary Winogrand just quickly trips the shutter! There are no simple or hard and fast rules. A street photographer will find his style as he goes. Techniques can be learned anywhere. You can ask more experienced photographers, you can consult a book, or the fastest way is to do an online search. The difficult thing to learn is discipline. Not everyone can go upfront like Bruce Gilden, not everyone would agree to shoot street in color like Meyerowitz, and most especially not everyone can expose at least three rolls of film in a single day like Winogrand. Street photography isn’t absent from rules it does however follow a tradition. It is upto the street photographer to craft his own rules without straying away from tradition.
What makes street photography unique is the mere fact that in order to be good at doing street you have to go out of your comfort zone. You can not and must not rely on burst shooting, Automatic Focus, Zoom Lenses, and automatic exposure, you can not just have some strobes or a expensive lighting rig set up, and most especially, *murderous Post Processing does not have a place in street photography. A Street Photographer relies on his skill, a little bit of luck, and his eye to create his art.
It will take him time, resources, and sweat to master his craft but once he gets to a level where he becomes satisfied with his photos, that is where the actual quest of the street photographer begins.
[*When a photo is post processd in such a way that people’s skin looks like leather or when Unsharpen Mask tool and additional filters are used. If post processing is indeed needed, it should be minimal and does not distract.]
Why do you shoot street photography? Leave a comment below and let us know your opinion!