I’m sure that at one point in our lives as photographers shooting the streets, there was a time that we get asked to explain what street photography is. When I was starting out, I had no concrete idea what street photography is, let alone explaining to my family and friends. So here’s a simple list that could hopefully help you in telling friends and family about our artform.
1) Come up with a simple definition
Defining street photography is opening a can of worms. Those who practice street photography can’t even seem to find a common ground so how the hell can we explain it to those who are not into street photography?
So I came up with the most simplistic definition that I usually use to explain street photography to people. “Candidly photographing people in public places”. Yes it is an extreme generalization but I think it gives an idea as to what we do in street photography and the type of image we produce. I feel it is a good starting point especially when we are introducing someone to street photography.
If the person you are talking to is familiar with visual art s(or practicing a different genre of photography), your job is halfway done since they already know the principles of art. On the other hand, if the person you are talking to is absolutely unfamiliar, then hopefully the next steps/methods would help.
2) Show them the work of a master (Workshop, book, or exhibit)
My father told me that the best way to get to know a person is through good food and what they think of art. What better way to show off street photography than by showing your favorite photographer. It will show them good street photography right off the bat and at the same time, it will show the person the level of street photography you want to achieve.
There are many ways you can do this. Check your local museums and galleries if they are going to bring the work of a master and schedule accordingly. It is always a different experience seeing the prints in front of you. The nuances the photographer and the printer made is magnified and at the same time, seeing it in person is always better than seeing it in a monitor. This is extra special when you can bring a friend or a special someone you want to introduce to street photography.
When there are no exhibits happening around, why not bring your favorite photo book and share it. Let the person consume every page, every sequence, and every photograph and you can talk about it after.
If all else fails, there are a lot of youtube videos you can share that can easily show a master at work.
I personally recommend Dream Lives since it is about Trent Parke and his wife Narelle Autio as they go on their lives with photography and with each other.
3) Show them your portfolio and/or your works
It’s a two birds in one stone. You will be forced to organize and share your work at the same time. You can get into the finer points of what you do photographically and explain what street photography is all about. It is also nice to show our work to someone with fresh eyes to know what they think. See what someone who has no idea about street photography would think about the work you did in which you have poured in tons of hours.
This also helps when you are on the street shooting and strangers approach you and ask questions on what you do. Whip out a simple stack of 3×5 prints or show some images from your mobile phone can easily establish trust and it directly shows them what you do.
Also, if you have an exhibit, go on and invite them! It would be a great setting to show your work and it will a great opportunity for them to see a community of artists and photographers!
4) Invite them to go to a photowalk with you
I personally enjoy shooting the streets alone but I do enjoy when I have company. That’s why I always invite people who want to get into street photography by coming along with me to see what it is about in a hand’s on manner. It piques interest especially if my friend is already inclined to photograph.
Just give your friend an invite and tell her/him to bring comfy shoes. You can even let them borrow a spare camera and make it a teaching and learning experience. Try to explain how you manipulate the available light, wait for the right framing. and show how you work the spaces and scenes. After a walk like that, it’s great excuse to have drinks or coffee.
And if you really want your friend or your partner to get into photography, why not try and going into a workshop for beginners. It will refresh your memory and skills about photography and at the same time, an experience you can share with your friend that will get into photography. No better way to learn and understand something by diving headfirst.
It would be nice to be able to share your love and your passion to friends and family. We don’t need them to be master street photographers but at least they could see what it is that we do so that they don’t have to worry when we are out. It will also make them realize all the time (and sometimes money) we are spending in making street photographs is not for nothing. Who knows, maybe you’ll now have a partner when you go hit the streets or perhaps a spouse that can sleep soundly at night knowing his husband is doing art.
So go ahead and try these simple ways on a friend or a loved one or Did I miss anything? Any other tips or methods you are doing? Please share it in the comments below. Nonetheless, may the light shine bright wherever you will be shooting!
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