Smoking man in the streets of WuZhen
Street Photography in China
In the last couple months, Ive been joining groups on Flickr and Facebook with the aim of improving my street photography, through the means of giving and receiving critique on people’s work. After having spent half an hour a day, monitoring and critisizing other work, my conclusion is that I only learned from successful work of other people, and not from critique on my own work. This goes to show that one really has to copy successful images, ideas, concepts or techniques, if one wants to understand the success of an image. Im aware that the word success is a bit ambiguous in this context. However, realizing this, I decided my next project will just be finding copies that are really close to my favourite photographer’s iconic images.
The image above was taken on a very early morning on a holiday within China. Its not a particularly strong composition, but I feel its an outspoken image.In an attempt to strenghten my idea and understanding of what street photography means to me, I decided to gather information on how other practisioners have attempted to define this vague genre. As I feel I need borders around this style, to feel limited by its definition, as this limitation has a creative impact on me while im looking for new images.
Street photography is an art photography that features the human condition within public places and does not necessitate the presence of a street or even the urban environment. The subject of the photograph might be absent of people and can be object or environment where the image projects a decidedly human character in facsimile or aesthetic. The origin of the term ‘Street’ refers to a time rather than a place, a time when women achieved greater freedom, when workers were rewarded with leisure time and when society left the privacy of their sitting rooms, people engaged with each other and their surroundings more publicly and therein the opportunity for the photographer.
Framing and timing are key aspects of the craft, with the aim of creating images at a decisive or poignant moment. Much of what is now widely regarded, stylistically and subjectively, as definitive street photography was made in the era spanning the end of the 19th Century through to the late 1970s; a period which saw the emergence of portable cameras.Street photography and documentary photography can be very similar genres of photography that often overlap while having distinct individual qualities.
Documentary style is defined by its premeditated message and intention to record particular events in history. The documentary approach includes aspects of journalism, art, education, sociology and history. In documentary’s social investigation, often the images are intended to pave way to social change. Street photography is disinterested in its nature, allowing it to deliver a true depiction of the world.Street photographs are mirror images of society, displaying “unmanipulated” scenes, with usually unaware subjects.
Origins in Europe
Paris is widely accepted as the birthplace of street photography. The cosmopolitan city helped to define street photography as a genre.Eugene Atget is regarded as the father of the genre, not because he was the first of his kind, but as a result of his popularity as a Parisian photographer. As the city developed, Atget helped to promote the city streets as a worthy subject for photography. He worked in the city of Paris from the 1890s to the 1920s. His subject matter consisted mainly of architecture; stairs, gardens, and windows. He did photograph some workers but it is clear that people were not his main focus.John Thomson, a Scotsman, photographed the street prior to Atget and had more of a social subject style than Atget.
Though he does not receive the same amount of recognition, Thomson was vital in the transition from portrait and pictorial photography to capturing everyday life on the streets.Henri Cartier-Bresson, who has a reputation comparable to Atget, was a 20th-century photographer whose poetic style focused on the actions of people. He was responsible for the idea of taking a picture at the ideal moment. He was influenced by his interest in traditional art, as his ambition was to be a painter. This influence is revealed through his skill in combining timing and technique.
Origins in the United States
The beginnings of street photography in the United States can be linked to that of jazz in the music domain, both emerging as outspoken depictions of everyday life. This connection is visible in the work of the New York School of Photography. The New York School was not a formal institution, but rather comprised groups of photographers in the mid-20th century based in New York City. One of its most notable photographers, Robert Frank, was a part of the beat movement interested in Black-American and counter cultures.
Frank rose to fame partly on account of his popular book, The Americans. Raw and often out of focus, his images questioned mainstream photography of the time, such as Ansel Adams’s landscapes. The mainstream photography community in America fiercely rejected Frank’s work, but it would later become a stepping stone for fresh photographers looking to break away from the restrictions of the old style.
Brilliant color palette! Great! Subtile and overwhelming atmosphere!
Nice post. I’ve been comparing and contrasting street photography and documentary photography recently, myself. Your post was very helpful!
You have a most amazing body of work.. you should be quite proud of yourself and the images you have captured. I am a mere novice but one day,…
The clarity, depth and tone of your work captures images in a way I am there, too. I know many people who, because they bought a camera, have the impression it makes them a photographer. Probably similar to people in the Wild West who bought pistols, and thought the gun made them a gunslinger. Very good work.
Thanks, too, for visiting my writing website and for deciding to follow my work.
That is a great metaphore to compliment me. And I must admit, at times I feel like a cowboy. Although I never shoot from the hip… Hope to see you around too sometime ;)
Probably not in Chine. But, you never know . . .
Online, is a place as well to some. haha
Thanks Yona for your photo.
I’m trying to improve my street photography and I bring my reflex with me when I go to work (one hour driving from my house) or just outside for a weekend.
I attended a photography course in the pas three months and the first thing the teacher said to improve your photography is to look at other photographers as much as you can, as you did.
Keep going, I always look at your photo with admiration and a little bit of envy.
Maybe one day I will be able to take photos like yours.
I can say that I learned a lot from Adam Marelli’s analyses of compositions of the great masters:
And recently I found Eric Kim has done similar analyses:
I can also advice you to go scouting for scenes, just like this needs to be done for the movie industry, you can also scout for scenes for your street photography, all you need then is a subject to walk into it. Although sometimes it takes a while, maybe several visits.
Good Luck and thanks for ur nice compliments
Hmmmm. Robert Frank actually immigrated from Switzerland and was working out issues brought about by the Nazis and his own religion when he came to The United States. The origins of jazz began in New Orleans in the very early 20th Century around 1910. By the 1950s, jazz was all over the place but I think that what you are mostly referring to was a mix of Bepop and Afro Cuban. All of that said, I like your work. :)
I think the author of Wiki’s story (I simply copy/pasted it) compared the emergence of Street Photographgy in the States, with that of the emergence of Jazz, in terms of “outspoken depictions of everyday life”, as both tried to break free from its classical sibling. Rather than comparing the periods these genres emerged.