The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

Street Photography NO!

A salaryman or Japanese office worker uses a mobile phone in front of an advertising hoarding featuring wanted posters. Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

I mean Street Photography Now over at the BBC.

Some interesting infomation in this blog piece by Phil Coomes; some shockingly ill-informed opinions in the comment section too regarding what street photography and photography in general is about.

Street photography is hard; but those that do it well can capture historically important images of our lives. These pictures can even be some of the most telling moments, the clearest, most easily understood messages about our time in the shared history of our planet.

The truly great street snappers hold-up a mirror to our confused humanity; they show us that, regardless of culture, country and race, we are, at root, all alike in the struggles we have with our desires and duties. A picture by the famous like Henri Cartier Bresson, Elliot Erwitt, Gary Winogrand, or the slightly less famous likes of Martin AmisPaul Treacy and Adrian Storey allows us to empathize with the emotions of the subject in the frame: be it anger, irony, fun, love, solitude and melancholy, loss, joy, hope or even the drunken regret hunched into the shoulders of suited sleeper in his impromptu bed.

Street photography is under attack with limiting laws of paranoia creeping into acceptability and normalcy, while a pervasive and aggressive misunderstanding of the purpose and direction of the photographers’ passions develops to intimidate and cause many photographers to self-censor moments and images they might once have hungered to record. The business is bankrupt too, almost no-one gets paid for this kind of image these days which is why it is amazing and encouraging to find the passion to perform this purest and most intimate form of photography is still so real for so many snappers. Our understanding of ourselves and the connectivity we have with those others of us across this marvelously interesting world has been made richer by the unjudgmental eye of the street photographer, over the history of the camera. I hope that the future will be as equally and lovingly represented by those brave, sensitive and incredibly observant people who are today out with a camera documenting the minutia of life and thus inspiring those that are perhaps picking-up a camera for the first time (or will soon) who will go on to speak of their time, in their own voice, for the generations that come after.



One response

  1. I’m flattered but embarrased to be mentioned in the same sentance as Bresson, Erwitt and Winogrand.
    If only anything I did was important as any of them!

    I agree wholeheartedly about street photography though, it is the most honest view we have of societies and the people in them, the increasingly draconian laws and paranoia surrounding it are frightening and stupid.

    If we continue down the legal road that we are travelling there will never be another Bresson or Winogrand because they will get arrested long before they can form a body of work.

    We are photographed and filmed hundreds of times a day by CCTV cameras on the streets and in shops and precious few people seem to worry about the implications of that. Yet, people don’t want to be photographed by individual artists??

    Long live street photography!

    October 7, 2010 at 11:41 am

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