Some basic thoughts on the nature of street photography
“In photography, the smallest thing can become a big subject, an insignificant human detail can become a leitmotiv. We see and we make seen as a witness to the world around us; the event, in its natural activity, generates an organic rhythm of forms.” Henri Cartier-Bresson
Street photography is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and at the time challenging genres of photography. Unlike studio photography, for example, where previous planning helps to eliminate unexpected incidents in the moment of the shooting, heading out on the streets with the camera in hand is full of surprises. You never know what kind of situations or characters you might come across. You need all your senses to be ready to anticipate the right moment to press the shutter button. To go with the flow and let your instincts take over when it comes to capturing a unique moment in the wink of an eye, that’s the beauty of street photography.
The cradle of street photography is often said to be Paris. The buzzling and cosmopolitan capital of France and its people attracted early photographers like Eugene Atget (1857-1927). He took his camera from the studio out to the streets, although in the beginning still focusing more on architecture than on people. A couple of years later it was Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) who made an art out of taking candid images of human activity in urban environment.
For a detailed trip through the history of street photography I highly recommend Joel Meyerowitz’s and Colin Westerbeck’s book “Bystander: A History of Street Photography”. It’s great reading for everyone interested to learn more about the nature of street photography.
You also might want to check out these great resources on the Internet about street photography. There’s for example the street photographers collective SP Street Photographers. Some of its members have also been featured on this site. Among them Ed Peters (“A Few Seconds To Frame”), Alison McCauley (“Curious About Human Nature”), Lukas Vasilikos (“Questions Without Answers”), Umberto Verdoliva (“Man And Urban Environment”), Shane Gray (“Instinct Is Precious”), and Shin Noguchi (“Street Poet With A Camera”).
On “Top Photography Films” you find several inspiring features about contemporary street photographers.