What is Street Photography?

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I like to think street photography is more than just guys jumping over puddles. One of the most famous “street photographs” taken by a photographer who never even called himself a “street photographer.” © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

I want to write regarding a subject which is highly debated online: “What is street photography?”

There are countless forum threads, Facebook discussions, blogs, and Flickr boards which argue what street photography is and what street photography isn’t.

I have thought about the question: “What is street photography?” for a long time– and my thoughts and views have changed and evolved over the years.

I don’t have all the answers to defining what street photography is (or isn’t) but I will attempt to come to some sort of logical conclusion on what street photography means to me. Consider this article as part of a self-reflective essay for me to better understand my own personal views. And I also hope that you can take some of my thoughts and incorporate it into your own personal views– and reach your own conclusions for yourself.

What street photography isn’t

I believe that often the best way to define something is by defining what something isn’t. For example, we don’t know what makes us happy (but we damn well know what makes us unhappy). This includes the morning commute, an overly-demanding boss, problems with the spouse, and pursuing a career we aren’t passionate about. So in a simple sense, to pursue happiness is the avoidance of unhappiness.

So to start off a discussion and brainstorm what street photography means to me– I will start off by saying what personally isn’t street photography to me by exploring some two popular genres of photography which directly contract what I feel is the soul of street photography:

1. Landscape photography

If I see a photo of a tree, water, and a sunset– I don’t consider it street photography.

Why not? I would not consider landscape photography street photography as nature is the primary subject.

Therefore I feel there needs to be an “urban” element that ties into street photography.

2. Studio photography

I would also not consider studio photography street photography. The nature of studio photography is to have everything staged and pre-conceived, and a bit on the artificial side.

Consider the model, makeup, hair, background, how it is shot indoors– all in control of the photographer, makeup artist, lighting assistant, etc.

Therefore I feel that street photography needs an element of spontaneity and uncertainty rather than the predictable/manipulative nature of studio photography.

To transition, I will write out some certain misconceptions I feel exist when it comes to street photography:

It has to be candid

I think this is the most controversial point I will bring up in this article. I personally don’t think that street photography has to be candid. I think that the best street photographs are the candid ones– but I don’t think that it needs to be a necessary element.

For example, consider the following street photographs that weren’t photographed candidly:

a) William Klein: Kid with gun

1x1.trans 10 Lessons William Klein Has Taught Me About Street Photography

© William Klein

This photograph is one of William Klein’s most iconic photographs– the kid with the gun pointing his gun straight at the photographer, with a menacing look full of anger.

The photo looks candid enough– but the contact print that William Klein shares shows that in the next frame, the kids are laughing and completely aware of the photographer.

1x1.trans 10 Lessons William Klein Has Taught Me About Street Photography

Note the second frame down, the kids just joking with one another and laughing.

Not only that, but William Klein has shared that when he saw the kids playing with the toy guns, he yelled to one kid, “Look tough” which prompted the kid to turn around and point his gun straight at Klein.

William Klein has been challenged on his approach of “provoking” his subjects. After all, how can the photo be “genuine” if he is simply telling his subjects what to do?

To paraphrase, Klein responded by saying that although it was he who provoked his subjects to play up a certain reaction or expression– it was his subjects who ultimately reacted the way they did.

For example, when he told the kid to “look tough”– the kid could have interpreted that a hundred different ways. He could have simply stood with the gun by his side, pointed the gun at the air, etc. However– he decided to point the gun straight at Klein with a sinister look. This is possibly a reaction that Klein even himself couldn’t have expected.

Also when looking at the photograph itself– it doesn’t look staged or posed. It looks authentic. The kid’s expressions look visceral and bleeding with realism.

Therefore I feel that for myself personally, I care less if a photograph is staged or not– but whether it elicits some sort of reaction in my gut and heart. Who cares if a street photograph is posed or candid– if it doesn’t stir something in my soul?

b) William Klein: Kid & Family

1x1.trans 10 Lessons William Klein Has Taught Me About Street Photography

© William Klein

This is another famous photograph by William Klein In a bizarre photo, a family is posing for Klein’s camera head-on, with the mother pointing a toy gun at the child’s head (reminiscent of Klein’s ‘Kid with Gun’ photo).

This is certainly an odd image– because even though the mother is showing some sort of murderous intent by pointing the gun at her kid’s head, the family is smiling and laughing– and they look like they are having a great time.

When I look at the photo, I would still classify it as a “street photograph” even though it is certainly done with the subjects being aware of the photographer. To my understanding, Klein didn’t tell the mother to point the gun at her kid’s head. I believe Klein said he could have never expected the boy’s mother to do something of the sort.

What I feel makes it a great photo is that it is full of energy, excitement, and life. The backstage is in the streets (in an urban location) and the shot looks spontaneous enough. Klein didn’t elaborately pose them according to how he wanted them to. He might have provoked them or chatted with them while photographing– but it is the family that ultimately chose how to pose for him.

So I suppose that even though the photo was photographed with consent– it still feels “unposed” in the sense there is that spontaneity to the shot.

c) Diane Arbus: Kid with grenade

1x1.trans 11 Lessons Diane Arbus Can Teach You About Street Photography

Copyright: The Estate of Diane Arbus

Another photograph that was photographed with permission and cooperation from the subject is Diane Arbus’ famous “Kid with grenade” photo in Central Park. This is once again, another photograph I would classify as a quintessential “street photograph.”

If you look at the contact sheet of the photographs Arbus took of the kid, you see that she took many photos of him– in different poses and arrangements.


Obviously the most stirring and bizarre photo she took was the first frame, with the kid clutching the grenade in one of his hands– with his other hand curled up like he was about to die. The look in his face looks like a mix between confusion, fear, and anxiety. To top it off, he even has a shoulder strap falling off his shoulder– which adds to this feeling of uneasiness.

Some street photographers I know say that street photographs have to be candid and shot without permission from the subject. But would these street photographers say that this photograph isn’t a street photograph?


Many of Arbus’ photos were taken in public of people she didn’t know– many of them with implicit or explicit permission from her subjects. Almost all street photographers I know would certainly classify her as one of the great “street photographers” in history.

So as a personal conclusion to myself– I have concluded that street photography doesn’t have to be candid. But still having a “candid look” makes a photo feel more authentic and interesting. Even the photo Arbus took of the kid with the grenade– I feel that the expression of the kid is something she couldn’t have ever dreamed of. Rather, it was the kid who was the willing participant who put on some sort of strange show for Arbus.

Public vs private places

1x1.trans 15 Lessons Bruce Davidson Can Teach You About Street Photography

Copyright: Bruce Davidson. From his “Subway” book.

Another point I would like to discuss on the debate of what street photography is or isn’t is the issue of photographing indoors versus outdoors (or in a private versus public space).

Does a street photograph necessarily need to be in a totally public and open space? I don’t think not always necessarily.

For example, the subway is a grey area. On one hand, it is a public space (as many countries provide the subway as a public service). But then, it isn’t outdoors– it is “indoors” and in a closed space. And some countries don’t offer the subway as a public service– but rather it is privatized.

But there have been many great street photographers who have done great works inside subways. One of my favorite books that come to mind is “Subway” by Bruce Davidson (who never even considered himself a street photographer– and despised the term). And the majority of his photos were taken with permission as well (but not all).

However there is still a feeling of “publicness” of a subway– as it isn’t somebody’s home. But can “street photography” be done in an office building? Or in a mall (sometimes classified as a public space, sometimes not)? Or in a stranger’s home? Or the beach? (Bruce Gilden and Martin Parr have done great work there). Or even the forest? (Contemporary street photographer dirty harrry has some fascinating candid photos of people in the forest).

As of now, my personal belief is that street photography can really be shot anywhere as long as it is open to the public to enter and leave as they please.

I don’t think street photography can truly be done in a person’s home (you generally need permission to enter someone’s home, unless you are breaking in) but I think it can be done in a hotel or office lobby (public people can enter the area with permission).

Does street photography need people in it?

1x1.trans The History of Street Photography: Timeless Insights You Can Learn

A photograph by Eugene Atget in the streets of Paris. But is it a “street photograph” without people?

Another misconception I feel exists in street photography is that it needs to have people in it. I disagree.

The best disconfirming evidence of the idea that street photography needs to have people in it is one of the founding fathers of street photography: Eugene Atget.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Eugene Atget, he was a photographer in Paris who documented the city with a large-format camera– mostly of the city’s architecture, statues, and details of homes/buildings.

Although some of his photos include people, the majority of them don’t. Perhaps part of this was the technical considerations of the time (Atget was shooting with an extremely slow film in the early 1900’s which perhaps prevented him to have people in the shot unless they were completely still) or that he was more interested in the architecture and buildings of the city (rather than its inhabitants).

Many street photographers argue that street photography has to have people in it. But the majority of Atget’s photographs didn’t have people in it. But if Atget was considered one of the “founding fathers” of street photography by almost all photo historians, what does it make him? Why is he considered a “street photographer” and not simply an “architecture photographer”?

Colin Westerbeck, author of “Bystander: A history of street photography” offers the following explanation: He says that because Atget focused mostly on the architecture of the city at street level (where people lived, interacted, and congregated) that it classified him as a street photographer. Rather than an architecture photographer who simply focused on the architecture. This is not always the case, however.

But still I feel that with Atget’s work– I would classify it street photography because his photos show a proof of humanity. His photos are of the city of Paris, which makes me think about the people living in the city. Sure, most of his photos don’t have people in it– but they still make me think and consider society.

So for me personally, I believe that street photography needs to show humanity or society. I prefer street photographs that have people in them (I connect to them more than urban landscapes) but I feel that street photographs don’t necessarily have to have people in them.

Therefore we see there is certainly a disconnect between what academics say what the “history” of street photography is– versus what makes intuitive sense to us “common people” on what street photography is or isn’t.

Definitions, shmefinitions

1x1.trans 10 Things Garry Winogrand Can Teach You About Street Photography

Garry Winogrand, the quintessential street photographer of our times who hated the term “street photography” and despised being called a “street photographer.”

What I hate about definitions is that they are often controlled by academics, historians, and people with some sort of authority. But who gives them the power to name and classify everything as they please?

After all, many street photographers were classified as street photographers (against their own will). Atget died before his work was truly “discovered” to the rest of the world (I doubt he would have called himself a “street photographer.”

Garry Winogrand, one of the most beloved contemporary street photographers, hated the term “street photography” and just considered himself a “photographer.” Bruce Davidson also did the majority of his work in the streets and is often called a ‘street photographer’. But Davidson as well– despised the term “street photography” and refused to call himself. Above all, Henri Cartier-Bresson (which all purists believe to be the real grandfather of street photography) never called himself a “street photographer” or the work that he did as “street photography.”

What is really important?

1x1.trans 10 Things Garry Winogrand Can Teach You About Street Photography

One of my favorite photos by Garry Winogrand– which shows a strong social message (the veterans ignoring this seemingly disabled veteran). What does this say about our society?

So I feel that in this sense, I recommend giving the middle finger to definitions– and not worrying about it. Who cares what people classify your type of photography to be? As long as you enjoy the photos you are taking– isn’t that enough?

Rather than worrying about if your photo is a bona-fide “street photograph” or not– let’s focus on making memorable photographs. Photographs that stir us emotionally, that make us think about humanity, society around us, the people we interact on a daily basis, the small beauties of life that we pass up for granted, others who are suffering, and the hopes and dreams of everyday individuals.

Street photography to rock music

A clumsy diagram of some different branches of the "school of street photography"

A clumsy diagram of some different branches of the “school of street photography”

I feel as a final concluding point, I want us to have a broader view of street photography– rather than contracting what it is or isn’t. I think that one of the beauties of street photography is its democratic and open nature– that anyone can participate in it regardless of where they live, what camera they shoot with, or the subjects they decide to photograph.

I think that in this sense street photography is a lot like rock music. There are a billion types of sub-genres of “rock” music– and each of these sub-genres say that they are the “true” rock music– and that the rest of them are either phonies, fakes, or posers.

We have heavy metal rock, alternative rock, emo rock, death metal rock, alternative emo metal rock, and so forth.

I think in street photography there are now lots of sub-gernres as well. I feel that we have candid street photography (what I might classify as “classic street photography”- think Henri Cartier-Bresson), street portraits (focused mostly on portraits of people on the street, instead of the environment– either with or without permission like Diane Arbus or Bruce Gilden), urban landscapes with or without people in them (think Stephen Shore, Lee Friedlander, Joel Sternfeld, etc), still life street photography (think Martin Parr or William Eggleston), or socio-documentary street photography (think Bruce Davidson).

Let’s all get along

1x1.trans 10 Things Henri Cartier Bresson Can Teach You About Street Photography

One of my favorite photos by HCB – love the joy and happiness he captured here. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

So once again– let’s not worry about definitions about what street photography is or isn’t. What is important that we are all drawn to photographing humanity and society around us– rather than just pretty sunsets and flowers.

We all have different reasons why we photograph– whether it be for historical, personal, or socio-economic reasons. Some of us want our photos to affect people on an emotional level and have others reconsider their lives, some of us shoot for ourselves for the challenge and to release stress from our everyday existence, and some of us want our photos to be a record of our society to show our future grandchildren.

So rather than arguing whether my photo is “street photography,” or whether your photo is “street photography”– let’s collaborate and not argue. Let’s aim to make beautiful art and document the human condition together.

For further reading on staged photos, integrity, and street photography I recommend you reading this article by Charlie Kirk: On Staged Photos and Integrity.

What are your personal views on what street photography is or isn’t? Share your views and feel free to debate in the comments below. And let’s keep this discussion civil– and please use your real identities when leaving a comment. Trolling will also not be tolerated.

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  • Michael Ares

    I feel that with my work ALL of my shots need to be candid. I posed a shot once when I first started doing street photography and after awhile, was disgusted with myself for making a shot that wasn’t real. Yes, it may have looked real, but in my heart I knew the moment wasn’t real. It was influenced and purposely directed by me. I deleted the photo and ever since all of my photos have been 100% candid.

    I feel that it’s ok to interact with subjects like “Oh nice hat!”, or one time I saw two kids wrestling and I got a photo of them and asked them “So who won?”. They both laughed and argued about who won. So to interact with subjects in that kind of way I’m cool with, but not purposely telling kids with toy guns to “look tough” and point at me.

    I think that if a photographer admits that shots are posed it’s still nice. It shows the photographers’ ability to interact with subjects and meet people on a personal level. However the fact that it’s posed doesn’t do it for me. NOT saying that people who take these types of photographs aren’t talented, because some can be seriously great story tellers. I just prefer everything candid because it shows the photographers’ eye, and ability to catch those moments, composed beautifully in that fraction of a second.

    That’s my take on it. Good article Eric.

    • http://www.gazonthestreet.tumblr.com Gary Perlmutter

      I agree with you Michael, the challenge to me of street photography (I hate the name its been given) is spotting those moments that are unseen by most people. I too once set up a shot but have never published it for the same reason that you give.

      • guest

        IMO, both your and Michael Ares’ argument is valid not only for Street Photography, but for photography in general. What differentiates a photographer from the painter is that the former sees and creates while the later starts with a blank canvas. Now if the photographer decides to stage a shot, be it a portrait or still life, then photography looses it’s distinctness.
        ( I respect Cindy Sherman :) )

      • Michael Ares

        Exactly! I’m drawn to doing street photography because of the unexpected challenges. Nothing beats the feeling of knowing that you nailed a candid moment.

    • Passageways

      Michael some of what we consider the best “candid” photographs were in fact staged. I am not suggesting go out and stage photos but it happens. By the best.

      Two images come to mind.

      1) The photograph by HCB of his friend jumping over/into water in Paris. A photograph rich in social-political meaning and probably, intended for that purpose.

      2) Robert Capa’s Republican soldier falling on the side of a hill as he was being shot. Recent investigations in Spain have pretty much proven this was a staged photograph.

      Both photographs contain a certain political intent. As images they have had, and still have impact.

      In a sense we could say any time someone sees they are about to be photographed, consciously or not they will act differently. Thus to some extent those images too are staged, staged by the subject to a large or lesser extent. And the way the person reacts to the photographer will also in part be due to the interaction of the two (or more)

      When I photograph I do not consider myself an observer but a participant. It is as if the world interacts with me and every photograph to some extent is the world setting up situations. Sometimes it gives according to the interaction and sometimes, it will hold back.

      To see the world we photograph as a place outside ourselves to observe, walk through without influencing it, or being influenced by it is possibly to deceive ourselves.

      Personally I do not consider myself a street photographer. I photograph mostly people and “the street” is where they are often to be found.

  • T Kerr

    well said.

  • Patricia Dos Santos Paton

    Very well written post. I really like how you decided to give your examples. I agree with you. For me street photography has to be able to transmit the feelings of us individuals in our society (being the photographer or the photographed). With regard to landscape photography as being part of street photography (and I agree too) and not just a landscape photography (just-with all the respect here), we have to be very good to transmit a feeling of our society in it. There are great examples around.

  • Deedee

    A more accurate title would be ‘street life’ or ‘life’ on the streets but they do not work.
    Street photography.. Tarmac, concrete, lamp posts, maybe someone needs to invent a new name for a genre which in most peoples perception is people on the streets as per your illustrations with the well written article.

  • Michael Meinhardt

    When William Eggleston was asked about the subject of his pictures. he said “life today”.

    That to me is a pretty accurate summation of what people call street photography. I would possibly extend his definition by calling it “public life today”.

    The only thing I wouldn’t put into the street photography genre is pictures of houses, since they fall more into the architectural field.

    But I also think that the street photography genre is not finite. It seems to be growing every day and there is no reason to stifle this growth.

    I personally am excited to see where life takes us in terms of photography. We really are living in interesting times.

  • Antoine

    Each time I learn a picture was staged I lose some of my passion for it. As a teenager I truly believed the “Baiser de l’Hotel de ville” was totally candid. I was naive.

  • Fernando Pereira Gomes

    I completely agree, Eric. There should not be, by any means, a definition of street photography. Like with any form of art, it is a deeply personal form of expression and creativity, regardless of the medium or the final product… just make it your own.

  • Wayne Hiebert

    “Without some understanding of words and definitions thereof language becomes meaningless… Street photography is not whatever you want it to be. By definition (at least as understood by masters of the genre) street photography is candid. Not set up… not posed… that was easy enough. Set up — posed photos? … Hey they can be great as well and just as important in their own right…. The problem comes when a photographer deceives the viewer into believing the photograph is something it is not. If you are going to enter your photographs in a street photography exhibit or competition the debate as to what and what not is a street photograph is very important. I shoot street photographs, street portraits – posed and candid, landscapes, abstracts, documentary and worked for many years as a photojournalist. Eric Kim’s website contains a wealth of information which is why I follow him on faceook… but on this issue I think he is wrong.. I do agree though that whether posed or not photographs should be “meaningful and memorable” Let’s just avoid calling them what they are not.” From a previous post on the same subject..

    • lane

      I think the fact that people are ignoring the fact that posing also serves to create a photographers vision, sometimes he sees something that could be, and that is just as much creative as the fabled decisive moment, otherwise we wouldn’t be talking about some of the photographers mentioned.

  • Larry Kleinke

    Nice article Eric, and i agree with all your points. While i consider myself a “street photographer”, i’m starting to think the term “Urban Photographer” might better suited. I simply just like to walk around and shoot what interests me. Buildings, cars, signs, people, walls, trash on the streets, etc… it’s all game. It’s not always just Life on the Streets.

  • Christos Kapatos

    i agree with Michael’s comment but its one point of view. i m also excited when capturing a candid situation but its not compared with the awe i feel when creating a completely staged shot. I hear people always say that they ve tried staging a photo but its crappy and someone could tell that it is staged. And i am not speaking of just a staring portrait which is obviously staged or non candid. I m talking about cinematic scenes of paused moments in time. We pay to go to the movies and we cry to the romantic scene even though we know there is a 20 people crew behind the camera etc. etc.

    It takes great agility and sharp eye and photographic knowledge or just talent to make good street photography but it takes the same and extra imagination to successfully stage a shot and make it look real.
    I love both and will hopefully keep doing both.

  • Gardner Hamilton

    A very enjoyable well written and thought provoking article, Nice one Eric

  • David Hair

    Of all photographic genres so called street photography is about sponteneity. The ability to “see” and capture a unique moment in time. Equipment etc is irrelevant, what is important is the photographers eye and perhaps the experience to be able to forsee a potential shot.

  • Giovanni Pascarella

    ‘-Let’s not worry about definitions’, said the “International Street Photographer”.
    Just joking ;)
    I agree with most of your conclusions, I agree less with the need for all these discussions about what is SP and what it is not. Outside of a contest in which these discussion are strictly needed for official purposes (i.e., a photography contest), I don’t see the point of wasting so much energy. After all, away from keyboards and forums, a GOOD photography will be always recognized as such in time, regardless of any definition. There’s a fundamental reason why all the best photographers (past and present) that we admire so much didn’t restrict themself or their work to the definition of street photography, and they were as a matter of fact rejecting any definition other than the most simple and perfect one: photographer.

  • Brandon Campbell

    No people is where I have to draw the line, I just can’t get interested in a “street photo” with no people in it. People and their unpredictability are what make it so exciting for me, there’s always something different and new to try and catch. Without them, it’s just a landscape. And there are some nice urban landscapes out there, but I don’t call them street photos.

  • Robert Norbury

    For me street photography is a brand of photography where usually the technical and aesthetic elements are not carecully considered. Its a style of photography not a subject. Its immediate. Its a state of mind.

  • Francisco

    Very good article

  • chrishue

    this is not street

  • Joe Osborne

    The problem with the term “street photography” is that unlike all of the other descriptors that take their name from the subject (portrait, landscape, still life, abstract,) “street photography” takes its name name from the environment the photographer shoots in. In fact, when asked about the subject, Gary Winogrand said he took issue with the term street photographer because he was an animal shooter! He was looking to define his work by his subject matter, not his photographic environment. This, I submit, is why it is such an uncomfortable tag. It just doesn’t work, and leads to purposeless arguments over what-it-is and what-it-is-not (see Canon vs. Nikon).

    There seems to be some overarching, driving need to categorize a photographers work. At a workshop at Brooks last December, during introductions, a well known podcast host asked each of the participants what they shoot (a fair question). When I answered, ” I photograph things that I find interesting.” The response I got was “Oh, so you’re one of those guys who has a problem with commitment.” (cue laughter). No harm done, but how would Bresson have answered that question? My guess is he would have said he is a photographer, and shoots what interest him. Rather than quibble about the box we want to put photographers in we should simply understand we are all photographers. Period.

    We all use a camera that responds to the laws of physics, and we manipulate the physical laws of light with this device to produce an artistic expression. Whether we shoot weddings, landscapes, people on the street, posed or candid, those are subjects that define the subsequent print- not the photographer.

    What I really found refreshing in reading in Eric’s post was this:”So rather than arguing whether my photo is “street photography,” or whether your photo is “street photography”– let’s collaborate and not argue. Let’s aim to make beautiful art and document the human condition together.”

    Let’s stop the noise of endless, fruitless, debate and celebrate what we do that is unlike anything anyone else does.

    We are photographers.

  • Fototraffic

    Be proud to be a street photographer. Growing up in what was at one
    Time considered to be the worst city in America (Gary,Indiana).
    Today I only wish I had a camera back then to record my memories of
    The sky’s filled with black smoke from the steel mills,vacant lots glittering
    With broken glass and cans with kids rolling old car tires threw the debris
    Laughing and crying pimps in the furs platform shoes leaning on the rides
    With the chromed out grilles and diamonds in the back,the police brutality.
    I could go on forever ———- Be proud to be a street photographer
    Or how does this sound a historian
    Photographer.nope street photographer
    Sound better to me

  • Ilkka

    Nature photographers have somehow agreed, more or less, to put a (c) next to the photographs that have been taken under ‘controlled conditions’, ie in a zoo, of a captive animal etc. Maybe street photographers should similarly put a (p) next to the posed photographs, as this seems to be a key point to many people.
    In the end I fully agree with you. Let’s relax a bit. Good photograph is a good photograph and bad photograph is bad even if it is unposed and made without a permission. Photographers themselves have a keen attraction to those pictures that were the hardest to make but the viewer does not see the trouble, they only see a good or bad picture.

  • lane

    Those that subscribe to artificial rules already putting a limit to their potential because they’ve created a limit for themselves by creating a misguided ruleset they prescribe to. Its like they’ve indoctrinated themselves, almost blind morality mixed with self-righteousness about their choices.

  • Qamuuqin

    Great read Eric. As Voltaire so well put, “judge a [person] by [their] questions rather than [their] answers.”, and you always pose engaging and insightful ones. I appreciate that you do not assign labels such as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ since photography is so entirely subjective and up to the individual.

    At the end of the day, after all the self-righteous opinions and institutionalized views, the whole point is to get out out and shoot, which your writing always inspires me to do!

    • http://erickimphotography.com/blog Eric Kim

      Cheers Q – thanks very much for the feedback. I am glad you enjoy the questions, and yes at the end of the day – shooting is the most important :)

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  • Bob

    Street Photographers are Rebels with a cause. The click of the shutter is the high of the moment, have I captured that moment.

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  • hans

    Many thanks for a very comprehensive and concise summary. I agree for the most part on what you have written and believe that somewhat unfortunately, street photography has fallen prey to a segment of its population that wants to set rules and defintions that do not permit any deviation, i.e., adding a touch of HDR to a photo to emphasize the feeling in it or even color when it focuses on a key message of the image. On one point I feel strong about at the moment is that street photography should be for the most part candid. I felt a little disappointed to learn that Abus’s child with grenades involved so many shots to produce that “one good one.” It is a challenge to get a good shot that is not posed or constructed. On the other hand I think it is the perogative of the photographer to process a good basic shot to emphasize a point he wishes to make, i.e., sharpening, dodging, etc.

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  • http://dzunglephotographs.tumblr.com/ dzunglv

    For me it is all about being spontaneous. Everything else just does not matter

  • Will

    So posing someone in a studio isn’t street photography but posing someone in public is?

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  • William C

    I am interested in street photography and i have been watching a lot of videos relating to the topic. While I really enjoy some of the work, I became frustrated when I watch some of the video of the street photographer at work. It almost looks like they are just going around taking random pictures of random people continously without much planning or observation before taking the shot. Is it purely a game of luck where you might get one or 2 that may turn out to be good?

  • Sandu Tarlev

    I try to photograph without pemision and to shoot so that someone does not notice me. I think, photos are very realistic. For exemple this man from mz town Chisinau. He looks like Hitchcock

  • Kirk Lothian

    Great article Eric. Thanks. I am just starting out in photography and got my first camera 2 years ago but have recently found that most of the subjects I have photographed, after an initial glow of satisfaction, retreat into the darkness of the hard drive. For me, people are my interest: the subject matter that makes me go back to an image time and again.

    People going about there every day ordinary life in an extraordinary way when captured in a split second of irony, humour, coincidence or parallel existence.

    From my perspective, making a stranger aware of my existence breaks the spell. It may be that I have just not admitted to myself that I do not yet have the courage to try this and it will be something that I experiment with going forward but for the moment I prefer to observe.

    With regards to people not being included in the photograph, I would see that as being a very rare occurrence for me personally. It is that split second of anonymous harmony between a human being and the surroundings resulting in a completely unique moment in time that fascinates me. The interpretation of the person/people is the magic. How can you apply the assumptions and empathy that exist in the your eyes and the eyes of other viewers to an inanimate object?

    Yes, a structure can change in light, weather, time of day and any other combination of factors but it does not fire me.

    Most of all though, I am open to whatever opportunity presents itself and I am protective of the joy the art gives me. I fell foul of being pigeon-holed by myself and others as a musician and this will not happen again. Yes, I’ll read, educate myself and respect the opinions of those that have walked the talk but at the end of the day life’s too short to get caught up in all the confusion about who you are and what you are trying to do. Just do it and enjoy it. I’m old enough now to comfortably state that a lot of the artistic viewpoints in all the arts are akin to the “emperor’s new clothes” and it is often better to make up your own rules, but you have to learn the art first and I am looking forward to embarking on your introductory course to start that journey off ;-) Thanks again,


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  • Peter

    I have read this article over and over again since discovering it and I have to thank you for helping be more of an active photographer. I primarily used to focus on landscapes. I hate labels. Nonetheless I was allowing myself to be pigeon holed into looking for a single type of photography. This article made me
    a bit braver and opened me to a new way of thinking about my photography and it has become fun again!

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