Monday, September 10, 2012

What Is And What Isn’t Street Photography?

 I have a personal definition of Street Photography. It is personal because I don’t believe a formal definition of what is and what isn’t Street Photography does anything except to fix firmly in the past our idea of what street photography should be.

Personal definition what is Street Photography:

  • Urban environment
  • Range of distances: from up close and personal to across the street. (Across the street being more urban life scene less traditional street.)
  • The subject should scream life and humanity all those personal quirks and everyday little and big things that make us human
  • The subject does not have to be a person or persons regardless it does have to evoke an image of humanity
  • There has to be some transit nature to the subject. An example: A half eaten ice cream cone melting on a pavement evokes memories and tells a story
  • Generally the single photograph should stand by it’s self even when it’s included in a larger photojournalist type story. Whether or not the single image shows truth in the photojournalist sense is not relevant.

My Personal Definition of What Definitely Isn’t Street Photography (doesn’t mean I won’t take the shot any way)

  • Beach scenes; nature scenes, country roads; Architecture, statues and art as the primary subject.
  • Static objects including empty streets (too obvious and trite) although fog street scenes are tempting
  • Road traffic where the cars, trucks … are the subject even is it’s a long exposure and shows pretty light painting effects
  • Too much staging although I hate getting into the street portrait debate


  • Sometimes a backside is just a backside and a snapshot is just a snapshot, trite is trite in whatever guise
  • Geometric organizations and patterns, can be really interesting but if too clinical and clean without the grit it’s more of an abstract
  • Sometimes a sign mixed with people work as street, it depends if the subject is the people rather then mostly the sign.

Most important: If you see a shot take the shot! If you take a shot then consider staying a minute or two and taking another the shot from several different positions and angles. Worry about any definitions of what is or is not street afterwards,

By my definition here are some borderline Street photographs. Except for the first one they all came from the same roll of film. Remember there is no right or wrong answer.
Robocall: “Democracy Can Kiss My Shiny Metal Ass"

Body Language

Freshly Squeezed
At The Bay


jannx said...

I've given up on this topic. People tell me anything in a street is street photography. Right.

Ryan Raz said...

Similar to the question what is art?