Friday, August 29, 2008

What is Street Photography? (Part One)

Text and pictures by Eki Qushay Akhwan, all rights reserved

Street photography is actually a misnomer for the kind of photography that it refers to as the subjects of this kind of photography are not limited to street scenes as such. The word “street” is used here rather as a synecdoche to mean anything that does not belong to the private space, of which the street is part and the quintessential symbol of.

"Rainy Day" ©Eki Qushay Akhwan, all rights reserved

The Setting
The first thing that characterizes street photography, therefore, is the setting of the scenes. Street photography takes place in public places. But obviously this characteristic alone is not enough to define street photography. The photo of a bunch of tourists posing on a road side with a monument behind them, for example, cannot generally be categorized as an example of street photography. The disqualifier in this example is the “posing”.

Deliberate posing takes away another essential element that defines street photography, that is candidness. A photo of posed subjects does not qualify as street photography because in such a photo, the real condition of the subject has been masked and silenced by the interplay of the camera factor, the photographer, and the subject’s own need to conform to the superego expectations and to appear agreeable to the viewers.

Candidness in street photograpy presumes that the photographer does not interfere whatsoever with the subjects and/or the unfolding event. This include obvious factors such as posing and making the subject aware of the presence of his/her camera, and more subtle factors, such as the comfort level of the subjects with the presence of the photographer as an alien person in their environ and the photographer’s own attitude towards the event and his/her action and reaction to it.

For a treet photographer, being inconspicuous, therefore, is of paramount importance. A number of strategies are known to be practiced by legendary street photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson. These include the use of simple, unobtrusive, and inconspicuous equipments (Bresson is known to use mainly his Leica 35 mm rangefinder cameras whose chrome body he often wrapped in black tape to make it less conspicuous when taking pictures), refraining from taking pictures until the subjects feel comfortable in your presence, and blending in with the scene in which a photographer takes his/her photos.

"Night Baskteballers" ©Eki Qushay Akhwan, all rights reserved

(To be continued in part 2)


Karolus Naga said...

hmmm ... i just finished wroting about it days ago ... this one helps a lot for me to review some of my writing. thanks

ilhamks said...

great post bang eki..., i learned a lot on this one.

waiting for your next precious. ;)

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