Friday, January 31, 2020

Get streetwise

"Street photography is one of the most difficult genres to master", says Valerie Jardin, but the advice she gives - via Anita Chaudhuri's article in the Guardian - seems sensible and helpful. For instance, set out to take pictures on a particular theme that's of personal interest; be discerning and take time to look for photo opportunities and the right moment rather than shooting anything and everything; and stick to the same focal length, so that "in time your eye will know exactly what you're going to get before you even press the shutter".

She stresses the significance of luck, given the unpredictability of the subject matter - which means that you should be content with a low strike rate. Equally reassuring is the fact that technique merits little mention and kit isn't discussed at all. I've come across a few debates on Twitter on this subject recently, and as a rank amateur with only a moderately respectable camera it's good to be told that your eye for a photo is more important than what equipment you have to capture it with.

The article also touches on the thing that really stops me from throwing myself into street photography: the issue of ethics. Take candid pictures of strangers and it seems unethical; insist on asking their permission first and not only are the results are inevitably slightly staged and lack the same immediacy but you also end up missing out on so many golden opportunities. Robert Capa emphasised the value of actual proximity; Jardin suggests using a longer lens if getting up close and personal makes you feel uncomfortable. Either way, though, there's an element of intrusion. How, I wonder, did street photography's biggest names approach the issue? Did they just not have any scruples?

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