Should street photography always be about nothing?

The title of today’s blog post may seem a little enigmatic, so I will try to explain. In a previous post, I suggested that, ideally, street photography should be about “nothing”: its subject matter should not be something in itself particularly unusual, or extraordinary, or funny, but rather the supposedly mundane fabric of everyday life.

 However, does this mean that a street photographer cannot approach and photograph “events”? Where does street photography end and documentary photography begin? How purist should we be about our definition of street photography?

 In my opinion, our conception of street photography should not be too rigid and narrow. After all, organized public events are also part of everyday life. I think the main thing is how the photographer approaches his subject-matter, not what that subject-matter is. The street photographer is always on the lookout for spontaneous moments, for candid, unposed photos. If he can find and capture those moments in the context of events or happenings that are usually photographed in a posed, fake, non-spontaneous way, that may in fact make the photographs even more interesting. By photographing such subjects in an original and candid way, the street photographer can add a dynamic element of surprise and tension to such photographs, and make an implicit comment about our culture and its emphasis on manufactured appearances and staged images.

 The street photographer works on the fringes – he approaches public events as an outsider, perhaps as an anthropologist, focusing on the sidelines, on what is not officially in the spotlight. The street photographer is an explorer and documentarian of the unspoken subtext lying underneath our culture’s official narrative. He holds a mirror to our culture, instead of blindly accepting the glamorous “publicity shot” the culture wants to present about itself. And, ultimately, he shows how life, spontaneous expression, always breaks through and has the last word, even in the context of the most rigidly and carefully staged cultural event.

 To try and illustrate these perhaps somewhat vague comments, here are some photos I took a few months ago during the New York Fashion Week event.

 

© Dimitri Mellos

© Dimitri Mellos

© Dimitri Mellos

© Dimitri Mellos

© Dimitri Mellos

© Dimitri Mellos

© Dimitri Mellos

© Dimitri Mellos

© Dimitri Mellos

© Dimitri Mellos

© Dimitri Mellos

© Dimitri Mellos

© Dimitri Mellos

© Dimitri Mellos

© Dimitri Mellos

© Dimitri Mellos

© Dimitri Mellos

© Dimitri Mellos

© Dimitri Mellos

© Dimitri Mellos

© Dimitri Mellos

© Dimitri Mellos

© Dimitri Mellos

© Dimitri Mellos

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Comentarios (3)

  • Avatar

    Paul's Pictures

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    Yes indeed! A good insight. If we as street photographers go out of our way to «ignore» an event or some other thing happening in the street, then we don’t allow ourselves to be witness to a balance of life on the street. Having said that, I rarely photograph large events and I don’t photograph certain other subject matter on the street. This is because of my own preferences and perception of my own skills, not to do with the event or subject matter «not» being «street photography». Very good and insightful!

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    Rafa Badia

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    Brilliant! (images plus text). I also agree with you: in fact, the «origins» of street photography -a development of previous called «straight photography»- in early 60´s started not only when Winogrand and Friedlander devoted themselves to drift on the streets with the camera, but also when Joel Meyerowitz and Tony Ray-Jones used to go to parades for finding good subjects and taking pictures. A minor question is to choose between going out to the streets looking for images to a place, event etc., or going out for «finding» situations, having a walk with no previous plans. Both options are good, in my opinion. As photographer I prefer the second one, for no especifical reasons.

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