Summary of Practical Work

Summary of my objectives for next trimester:

♡ Create a plan for my project including a timescale and location ideas

♡ Begin taking photographs until I have a reasonable amount to choose from

♡ Start editing the best photos

♡ Compile the portfolio

For my major project practical work, I am planning on exploring both street photography and staged photography. I am going to take a series of candid street photographs and a series focusing on a musician where the photographs will be taken in the street and appear spontaneous even though they will actually be staged. The resulting portfolio will contain all of the images, which should hopefully look cohesive as I am aiming to edit them all into black and white. I have found this style of photographs to be the most striking when doing my research. I will also be using a mobile phone to take the photos as I would like to demonstrate how they can capture great images and how the photographer doesn’t necessarily need to rely on expensive equipment. Finally, I plan on exploring the differences in the two styles of photography in my portfolio and what kind of effect they may have. 

My project will be ongoing throughout the next semester. In terms of the timescale, it is currently quite vague, especially due to the candid nature of street photography. First, I will set out to do some planning. The staged photos are going to require more of this than the street photography photos. I will need to list a series of possible locations to take the staged photos. In terms of when I will be taking them, this will revolve around the availability of my model. I will also be taking the weather conditions into consideration as this has a big impact on the lighting. The street photography photographs are going to be spontaneous so I won’t be able to plan how to take each photograph. I am going to try and take these photos when I am already out and about doing things. However, I will still be doing some planning for these, such as taking into account interesting locations and weather/lighting conditions. Next, I will spend a large amount of time taking and compiling a selection of photographs. I will then narrow these down into what I feel are the best ones and spend the rest of the time editing them and compiling them all into my portfolio.

Hopefully, I won’t run into any problems when doing the practical work as I have done lots of photography work in the past. I feel confident enough that I’ll be able to do this project well. The only thing I am concerned about is the possibility of problems when taking photos of people encountered in the street. I’ve already done some research into this and I will be making sure to take the photos in an acceptable manner and I will have to be respectful if anyone wanted me to delete their image. In my final photographs, I will be blurring any faces of people that haven’t consented to protect their identities.

Here are a few examples that I have taken to show the style of photographs that I hope to achieve in my final portfolio. Photograph 1 shows a staged photo that I have taken that appears spontaneous. The only difference is that my final images will be focusing on a musician. Photographs 2 and 3 are candid and match up with my street photography definition of ‘a photograph taken in the street of a singular moment in time’. And even though photograph 3 doesn’t include a human, there is a flock of birds flying and previously in my street photography research post, when defining street photography, I stated that having any living thing within street photography would be acceptable. Overall, they also show the black and white high contrast aesthetic that I will be aiming for and they were all taken on a mobile phone.

Black and White Photography

After doing my research, I came to the realisation that the majority of the photos that I was personally drawn to were all shot in black and white. Many of them were older photographs, however, and shot in black and white out of necessity, as ‘the first commercially successful color photography process appeared on the market in 1907’ (Widewalls, 2017). It was wasn’t until the 1960’s and 70’s when ‘prices were finally coming down, film sensitivity improved, and color photography became a norm for snapshot-taking, nearly pushing black-and-white film completely out of use’ (Widewalls, 2017). Despite having a wide access to colour photography, I want to explore black and white photography and why it still remains so appealing. 

Romanticised or Nostalgic?

1 – Ansel Adams, 2 – Lunch Atop a Skyscraper (unknown photographer), 3 – Bill Brandt, 4 – May Ray, 5 – Richard Avedon, 6 – Elliot Erwitt, 7 – Sally Mann 

I personally feel that black and white photography is so much more visually striking than colour photography. Sometimes, I find colour photographs to be slightly overwhelming. Through eliminating the colours, other aspects of the image are accentuated, such as light, shadow and contrast. Therefore, the focal point stands out more, like what is demonstrated in the photographs above.

However, I think that it is very likely that, because I am from the millennial generation, I may have a more romanticised view of black and white photography. It may hold more of a special quality to me because black and white photographs weren’t the norm whilst I was growing up. They were unusual and considered to be from a different era of time, snapshots of ancestors from a long time ago and photos in history books. On the other hand, ‘for all the generations that lived before the occurrence of [the] controversial digital revolution, black and white photography has obtained an important place in the collective consciousness’ (Widewalls, 2016). They will most likely feel nostalgic for a different era and will therefore feel differently about black and white photography. 

Black and White Street Photographers

Even when colour photography started to become widely available, some street photographers still preferred black and white photography, such as Henri Cartier Bresson who ‘refused to work in color, disappointed by the mediocre results’ (Widewalls, 2016). Even in this era, although it is rarer ‘to come across artists who primarily work in black and white’ (Newson, 2015), due to the fact that we are living ‘in a world that is predominantly ruled by colour images’ (Newson, 2015), there are still some street photographers who prefer black and white photography. One example is Jason Peterson, who I researched for my mobile phone photography blogpost. He explains that in his images, he is ‘trying to capture human emotion, make the viewer feel something. Black and white helps focus on that emotion – color is one less thing to be in the way of seeing the feeling’ (Stewart, 2017). I feel that this explains why black and white photography works so well within street photography. This is also reflected in the quote above by Canadian photographer, Ted Grant, who explains how, in black and white photography, you are photographing peoples souls. 

Another street photographer who predominantly takes black and white photos is Japanese photographer, Daidō Moriyama. He is said to take quite a casual approach to his photography. He explains how his ‘photos are often out of focus, rough, streaky, warped, etc. But if you think about it, a normal human being will in one day perceive an infinite number of images, and some of them are focused upon, others are barely seen out of the corner of one’s eye’ (Photogpedia, 2021). I feel that this quote captures my definition of street photography perfectly (a photograph taken in the street of a singular moment in time). Due to his work being in black and white, this ‘results in work that is refreshingly modern, hard to place in time, a cacophony of harmonious chaos’ (Clay, 2021) I feel that this helps to capture the fleeting moments on the distinctively hectic Japanese streets.  

References:

Widewalls (2017) A short history of color photography. Available online: https://www.widewalls.ch/magazine/color-photography [Accessed 11/11/21].

Widewalls (2016) The nature of black and white photography. Available online: https://www.widewalls.ch/magazine/black-and-white-photography [Accessed 11/11/21].

Newson, A (2015) The best photographers working in black and white. Available online: https://www.dazeddigital.com/photography/article/28577/1/the-best-photographers-working-in-black-and-white [Accessed 11/11/21].

Stewart, J (2017) Over 1 Million people follow this photographer for his stunning B&W photos. Available online: https://mymodernmet.com/jason-peterson-black-white-photography/ [Accessed 12/11/21].

Photogpedia (2021) 40 Daidō Moriyama quotes to improve your street photography. Available online: https://photogpedia.com/daido-moriyama-quotes/ [Accessed 12/11/21].

Clay, E (2021) Daido Moriyama’s Tokyo. Available online: https://independent-photo.com/news/daido-moriyama-tokyo/ [Accessed 12/11/21].

Image References:

Ansel Adams:

Gray, J (2020) Iconic Ansel Adams image sells for nearly $1M at Sotheby’s auction, total sales of $6.4M. Available online: https://www.dpreview.com/news/4925755857/iconic-ansel-adams-image-sells-for-nearly-1m-at-sotheby-s-auction-total-sales-of-6-4m [Accessed 12/11/21].

Lunch Atop a Skyscraper:

Kenney, J (2019) One of the most iconic photos in history was actually staged. Available online: https://doyouremember.com/104712/lunch-atop-a-skyscraper-staged [Accessed 12/11/21].

Bill Brandt:

Photogpedia (2021) Bill Brandt: shadows of life. Available online: https://photogpedia.com/bill-brandt/ [Accessed 12/11/21].

Man Ray:

BBC (2014) Genius of photography – Man Ray. Available online: https://www.bbc.co.uk/photography/genius/gallery/ray.shtml [Accessed 12/11/21].

Richard Avedon:

Public Delivery (2021) Richard Avedon’s famous beekeeper portrait – the story behind. Available online: https://publicdelivery.org/richard-avedon-beekeeper/ [Accessed 12/11/21].

Elliot Erwitt:

Magnum Photos (n.d.) Life according to Elliot Erwitt. Available online: https://www.magnumphotos.com/arts-culture/society-arts-culture/elliott-erwitt-life/ [Accessed 12/11/21].

Sally Mann:

Vintage Everyday (2017) “Candy Cigarette” (1989) by Sally Mann. Available online: https://www.vintag.es/2017/08/candy-cigarette-1989-by-sally-mann.html [Accessed 12/11/21].

Ted Grant Quote found on:

Saini, R (n.d.) 14 excellent examples of street photography in black and white. Available online: https://photzy.com/14-excellent-examples-of-street-photography-in-black-and-white/ [Accessed 12/11/21].

Daidō Moriyama: 

Artsy (n.d.) Daidō Moriyama. Available online: https://www.artsy.net/artist/daido-moriyama/works-for-sale [Accessed 12/11/21].

 

Mobile Phone Photography

In the modern era, the majority of people are walking around with a mobile phone in their pocket, and, therefore, this means that the majority of people also have a camera on them that can take photographs. This is known as ‘mobile phone photography’ or ‘iPhoneography’ and has become very popular over recent years, owing to the growth in smartphones, technology and social media. 

1.43 trillion photographs were taken in 2020, ‘90.9% of these were taken on mobile phones’ (Canning, 2020) illustrating just how popular mobile phone photography has become. ‘A large number of mobile photos are snapshots of daily life’ (Gray, 2012) accumulating in their thousands on our camera rolls, sometimes even becoming forgotten about unless we share them to our digital audiences on social media. These photos aren’t always works of art, but, compared to the people in the 1800’s who would often own only one photo of a deceased family member, we are extremely lucky to be able to have the opportunity to take as many photos as we’d like and to have these images recorded forever. I feel that this is also an important way of documenting the times we are living in for future generations to examine in the same way we examine photos of the past. Although, it will be interesting to see what they would think of us when they scroll through our old selfies with bunny ear filters and photos of latte art. 

Instant Gratification

Mobile phone photography gives us instant gratification when it comes to our captures – we no longer have to carry bulky cameras around, insert rolls of film and attempt to alter complicated settings. But, most importantly, we no longer have to wait for our photos to be processed in a photography lab. Instead, we have everything in the palm of our hand, simplifying the photographic process significantly.

Street Photography 

The instantness of mobile phone photography is incredibly useful when it comes to street photography as it enables the photographer to capture more unexpected moments in a shorter space of time, which can be crucial when taking candid street photos. For example, on my iPhone, I only have to press the home button and swipe to get to the camera, making this process hassle free. Also, looking back to my research on whether street photography is acceptable, I feel that people may feel less threatened when someone is taking photos on a mobile because ‘the ubiquity of these cameras, combined with their unobtrusiveness, have made them particularly effective at capturing candid moments in public spaces […] mobile photographers can get close to their subjects and not be recognised as a photographer, allowing them to get more authentic images of people’ (Gray, 2012).

Professional Photographers

There are many photographers still working today who are very loyal to their DSLR cameras and would most likely look down upon mobile phone photographers as ‘amateurs’. And, whilst I do agree that DSLR cameras have a much better optical zoom function and better specifications in general, I do feel that it is very ‘important to remember that a better camera won’t make you a better photographer’ (Iphotography, n.d.) I personally feel that the more important aspects to good photography would be composition, lighting and editing. There are lots of successful photographers who mostly shoot on mobile phones, such as Jason Peterson. Below are some of his photographs which were captured and edited on an iPhone. 

Photo Editing

Through the use of mobile photography apps, we are able to make our mobile captures look even better. They ‘give you the creative power of Photoshop, and more besides, without being tied to your desk’ (Gray, 2012). Also, the majority of these apps are free or cost very little, meaning more people have access to this compared to when photography was more expensive to pursue. Photo editing apps are also quick and easy to use. Photographer Peterson explains how, when editing his iPhone photographs, he spends ‘up to 5 minutes editing a photo – though it usually only takes 30 second to 1 minute’ (Artifact Uprising, n.d.). 

Social Media

Through the use of social media, we are able to share our photographs with a wider audience. We may limit this to just family and friends, or use social media as an influencer or to promote photography to potentially millions of followers. Many photographers now use apps such as Instagram to market their work and gain connections in the field, sometimes going onto getting paid work. 

References:

Canning, J (2020) 1.43 trillion photos were taken in 2020 but how many were of them were captured on our mobile phones? Available online: https://www.buymobiles.net/blog/1-43-trillion-photos-were-taken-in-2020-but-how-many-of-them-were-captured-on-our-mobile-phones/ [Accessed 5/11/21].

Gray, R (2012) The rise of mobile phone photography. Available online: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/nov/16/mobile-photography-richard-gray [Accessed 4/11/21].

Iphotography (n.d.) How good is iPhoneography? Available online: https://www.iphotography.com/blog/iphoneography/ [Accessed 5/11/21].

Artifact Uprising (n.d.) Guide to black and white photograph. Available online: https://www.artifactuprising.com/photography-tips/black-and-white-photography [Accessed 5/11/21].

Pie Chart circle created using:

Canva (2021) Graph Maker. Available online: https://www.canva.com/graphs/ [Accessed 5/11/21].

Pie Chart Data From: 

Canning, J (2020) 1.43 trillion photos were taken in 2020 but how many were of them were captured on our mobile phones? Available online: https://www.buymobiles.net/blog/1-43-trillion-photos-were-taken-in-2020-but-how-many-of-them-were-captured-on-our-mobile-phones/ [Accessed 5/11/21].

Jason Peterson Images:

Wesson, K (n.d.) How Jason Peterson takes incredible black and white street photos with iPhone. Available online: https://iphonephotographyschool.com/jason-peterson/ [Accessed 5/11/21].

Staged Photography Research

Staged photography is ‘photographs that capture staged or artificially constructed scenes made only for the purpose of photography’ (Artsy, n.d.). The results of the photographs are much more controlled compared to the more candid style of street photography and will most often be forms of portraiture. 

Studio Photography

The most common style of staged photography is studio photography. They are taken ‘in a managed setting where the photographer has complete control over all of the elements that go into creating a photograph’ (Capper, 2019), and most likely will be in an indoor studio. The studio ‘will usually start out as a blank space’ (Capper, 2019) and other factors such as sets, props and controlled lighting may be added later. 

‘The earliest known photography studio anywhere opened in New York City in March 1840’ (Britannica, n.d.) by Alexander Wolcott who was an American photographer and inventor. He used a slightly adapted form of the Daguerreotype process, which was invented by Louis Daguerre one year prior to this. During this time, portraits taken would have been very expensive and would have therefore ‘been limited to the middle and upper classes’ (Harding, 2013), due to this, ‘portraits still remained precious and rare investments; for many people, they might expect to have only one portrait ever made in their lives’ (Kukulski, 2014) and unfortunately, due to the high mortality rates during this time, people who have ‘passed away might never have had a portrait made while living, so a post-mortem portrait would have served as sole tangible remembrance’ (Kukulski, 2014). These portraits would sometimes be solely of the deceased person or persons. Although, the family would sometimes take this as an opportunity as part of their mourning process to have a portrait done. Due to the photographs needing a long exposure time, the deceased ‘were often seen more sharply than the slightly-blurred living, because of their lack of movement’ (Bell, 2016).

Studio photography has then progressed along with new photographic processes until we arrive to where we are today. Studio photography is now used for many different forms of art and industry, such as portraiture, fashion photography and product photography. Above are some examples of some contemporary studio photography, including some black and white images by photographer, Richard Avedon and some more contemporary studio photography by various photographers. 

Location Photography

Staged photography is not limited to a studio setting but can also be taken in different environments. This includes places like outdoor settings and existing buildings which aren’t necessarily set up as a studio. Some examples of staged location photography may be engagement and wedding photos, which might be taken outdoors, and fashion editorial photography which, for example, may be taken in historical buildings. 

Here are some examples of staged location photographs taken by the English photographer, John Hinde. He was ‘a pioneer in the use of colour staged photography in advertising and propaganda’ (Artland, n.d.) would have many of his photographs being featured on holiday postcards. His photographic career began in the 1940’s, where he ‘was involved in producing images for promotional posters during the Second World War in Britain; informative and propagandist scenes illustrating families working with their rations, gas masks and the trappings of everyday life in wartime Britain’ (Artland, n.d.). Later on in his career, he then went on to creating photographic postcards promoting tourism to various holiday destinations and Butlin’s holiday camps. 

Annie Liebovitz is probably one of the most well-known photographers today and is ‘best known for her engaging and dramatic celebrity portraits’ (Artnet, n.d.), often working for big publication companies such as Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and Vogue. Above is some of Liebovitz’s photographs, which show a mixture of both studio and location staged photography. 

References:

Artsy (n.d.) Staged Photography. Available online: https://www.artsy.net/gene/staged-photography [Accessed 2/11/21].

Capper, T (2019) What is studio photography? Available online: https://www.shootfactory.co.uk/what-is-studio-photography/ [Accessed 2/11/21].

Britannica (n.d.) History of photography. Available online: https://www.britannica.com/technology/photography/Photographys-early-evolution-c-1840-c-1900 [Accessed 2/11/21].

Harding, C (2013) How to spot a daguerreotype (1840s – 1850s). Available online: https://blog.scienceandmediamuseum.org.uk/find-out-when-a-photo-was-taken-identify-daguerreotype-photography/ [Accessed 2/11/21]. 

Kukulski, M (2014) A brief history of photography: part 11 – early portrait photography. Available online: https://notquiteinfocus.com/2014/10/16/a-brief-history-of-photography-part-11-early-portrait-photography/ [Accessed 2/11/21].

Bell, B (2016) Taken from life: The unsettling art of death photography. Available online: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-36389581 [Accessed 2/11/21].

Artnet (n.d.) Annie Leibovitz. Available online: http://www.artnet.com/artists/annie-leibovitz/ [Accessed 3/11/21].

Artland (n.d.) Staged photography: top 10 artists. Available online: https://magazine.artland.com/staged-photography-top-ten/ [Accessed 3/11/21].

Image references:

Daguerreotype:

Harding, C (2013) How to spot a daguerreotype (1840s – 1850s). Available online: https://blog.scienceandmediamuseum.org.uk/find-out-when-a-photo-was-taken-identify-daguerreotype-photography/ [Accessed 2/11/21]. 

Studio:

Artnet (n.d.) Richard Avedon. Available online: http://www.artnet.com/artists/richard-avedon/ [Accessed 3/11/21].

J Balla Photography (2021) Flower Bride. Available online: https://unsplash.com/photos/BilfH1qKpuU [Accessed 3/11/21].

Pijak, J (2014) Eccentric pop art editorials. Available online: https://www.trendhunter.com/trends/aline-weber-editorial [Accessed 3/11/21].

John Hinde:

Hinde, J (n.d.) Postcard archive. Available online: https://johnhindecollection.com/johnhindepostcard_archive.html [Accessed 3/11/21].

Annie Leibovitz:

Ericcanto (n.d.) Annie Leibovitz photographer. Available online: https://www.ericcanto.com/en/annie-leibovitz-photographer/ [Accessed 3/11/21].

Artnet (n.d.) Annie Leibovitz. Available online: http://www.artnet.com/artists/annie-leibovitz/ [Accessed 3/11/21].

Street Photography Research

Here, I am going to research into street photography. I will be looking at the history of street photography to help me gain a better understanding of the subject. I will also be analysing some existing street photographers work to help me get inspiration for my own work. Finally, I will develop a detailed definition of what I consider as street photography. 

The History of Street Photography

Street photography is essentially described as ‘a genre of photography that records everyday life in a public place’ (Britannica, n.d.). Some of the earliest known photographs that I am about to analyse were taken in the street but may not necessarily be classed as street photography, I will be exploring this concept more later.

One of the earliest known photos is titled ‘View from the window of Le Gras’ and was taken by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in around 1826/27. The scene was captured using a Camera Obscura and processed using the heliographic process, which Niépce had invented. This process would then form the foundations for Louis Daguerre to be able to invent one of the most revolutionary photographic processes, the Daguerreotype, which was ‘the first successful form of photography’ (Britannica, n.d.). 

Another good example of early street photography was taken by Louis Daguerre in 1838 titled ‘View of the Boulevard du Temple’. It shows a Parisian street scene and was one of the first photos taken of a human. As the Daguerreotype needed about 15 minutes of exposure time, the man in the photograph getting his shoes shined shows up on the photograph and there is a faint outline of the shoe shiner, but it was said that ‘others were walking or riding in carriages down that busy street that day, but because they moved, they didn’t show up’ (Open Culture, 2017). 

After this early photography period, ‘street photography’ still wasn’t necessarily a known term. However, documentary photography and photojournalism did exist from the mid 1800’s and these genres of photography would crossover into what we think of as street photography today. ‘Documentary Photography describes photography that attempts to capture real-life situations and settings’ (The Art Story, n.d.), this could also easily be used to describe street photography.

Often, documentary photographers would be commissioned by someone to take photos of certain situations amongst society. For example, Jacob Riis, who was a Danish immigrant who lived in New York and ‘was a police reporter for the New York Tribune newspaper.’ (The Met Museum, 2004). In the 1880’s, he took photos to go alongside his work reporting on the over-crowded and run down Lower East Side slums. From this, he ‘became known as one of the city’s most important social reformers.’ (The Met Museum, 2004). He ended up publishing his collection of photos into a book, titled ‘How the Other Half Lives’ to try and bring attention to the terrible conditions the residents of the Lower East Side were living in. Riis’ book even caught the attention of Theodore Roosevelt, who at that time was a Police Commissioners board member in New York. Roosevelt said to Riis ‘I have read your book, and I have come to help.’ (Kuroski, 2021). Roosevelt eventually went onto become the 26th US president, and he was said to be ‘especially active in addressing the treatment of the poor’. (Kuroski, 2021). This shows just how impactful photography can be. 

Eventually, in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, newer photographic processes came about which were easier to use. This led to street photography becoming much more popular and ‘coincided with the urbanization and globalisation of the world’ (Kim, n.d.). One of the earliest street photographers was Eugene Atget. He ‘photographed the streets of Paris at the turn of the 20th century [and] he worked at a time when photography was rising in popularity’ (Mishra, n.d.). Many of Atget’s work didn’t necessarily feature people in the street scenes. He was more focused on capturing the architecture within the streets of Paris as they were at risk of modernisation. From this, his work would more likely be classed as documentary photography or architectural photography, ‘but he is cited by many later street photographers as a major influence’ (Mishra, n.d.).

Many photographers were then influenced by Atget’s work including French photographer, ‘Henri Cartier-Bresson, whose early work sought to imitate Atget’ (Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson). Cartier-Bresson started his photographic career in the 1930’s, eventually becoming a pioneer within street photography, and is probably one of the most well known street photographers to this day. I feel that his work captures moments really naturally, shown by how ‘his signature shooting technique was to find a visually arresting setting for a photograph and then patiently wait for that decisive moment to unfurl’ (Estrin, 2016). Cartier-Bresson was even known to sometimes go as far as concealing his camera, making it much less conspicuous meaning that ‘most of the images that he captured his subjects were oblivious of the camera, and thus truly candid’ (Kim, n.d.).

Street Photographers Research

After having looked into the history of street photography, and gaining a better understanding of where street photography originated from, I am now going to look into the works of some more street photographers whose work I find very inspiring. 

Robert Doisneau also photographed the streets of Paris around the 1930’s, alongside other great street photographers of that era, such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Brassaï and André Kertész. However, in researching different street photographers, I did find Doisneau’s images very striking. He was known for being ‘always charmed by his subjects, he enjoyed finding amusing juxtapositions or oddities of human nature’ (Svenning, n.d.). One of my favourite photos by Doisneau is the one with the man stood in the rain, holding an umbrella over a cello case whilst a man in the background is painting. I find the photo very captivating, I feel that the photo leaves the viewer quite intrigued as to what is going on in the image and why. Doisneau has definitely managed to capture an unusual and unique moment in time. I also find black and white photography to be very fascinating. The high contrast black and white helps to add to the overall atmosphere, which is also emphasised by the rain on the floor giving it a rather moody vibe. 

I find Vivian Maier’s story to be really intriguing. She began working as a nanny in Chicago in the 1950’s, where she also began to take photographs on the streets of Chicago. She took many photographs until into the late 90’s, amassing a collection of 100,000 negatives. In her old age, she had to store her collection in a storage locker. Due to not keeping up with the storage locker payments, her storage locker was put to auction. ‘Maier’s massive body of work would come to light when in 2007 her work was discovered at a local thrift auction house on Chicago’s Northwest Side’ (Vivian Maier.com, n.d.) by John Maloof, ‘who has since dedicated himself to establishing her legacy’ (Howard Greenberg Gallery, n.d.). He put Maier’s photographs online, and they ended up going viral. Unfortunately, Maier had passed away by this time.‘Maloof [then] began to investigate the life and work of Maier, culminating in the Oscar-nominated documentary Finding Vivian Maier (2014). Since the discovery of her work, Maier’s photographs have [been] the subject of several publications and have been exhibited at major institutions throughout the world’ (Howard Greenbery Gallery, n.d.). It is not known as to why Maier kept her photography a secret or whether she would have liked the fact that her images have been seen by so many people posthumously. I feel that the mystery surrounding her and her life story just adds to the intrigue to her photos. 

Shirley Baker documented the working class streets of Manchester and Salford from the 1960’s-80’s. Many of these photographs, like the ones shown above, are taken during the ‘slum clearance’ years which many towns and cities in the UK experienced post-war. Baker said ‘my sympathies lay with the people who were forced to exist miserably, often for months on end, sometimes years, whilst demolition went on all around them’ (Baker, n.d.). One photo in particular is very impactful. The image of a large queue of people outside a caravan with a sign above that reads ‘rehousing enquiries’. It shows that, although there is a lot of destruction going on in the lives of the people in the image, life still goes on. Even though these moments are quite mundane to them, the resulting photograph is quite powerful.

Alan Schaller is a modern day photographer who opts to take mainly black and white photos. He incorporates lots of use of light and shadow, similar to the work of the older photographers that I have researched such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau. I find this style of high contrast photography stands out really well, and I feel very inspired by this style in my own work. 

Street Photography Pinterest Inspiration Board


(Please click on ‘Street Photography Inspiration’ to view the whole board on Pinterest or click here)

Here is a Pinterest moodboard which I am compiling of different Street Photography Photos that I hope to find inspiration from when doing my own work. 

Defining Street Photography

After researching into the history of street photography and analysing some of the photographers work, I now need to develop a more detailed definition of what I consider to be street photography so I can follow this guideline when doing my own practical work.

Initially, when looking at the very early photos, I assumed that they could be classed as street photography, as they are taken in the street. However, I realise now that it could be argued that they aren’t. This is down to the fact that these early photos took hours of preparation and exposure time to create any results. The resulting image doesn’t portray the actual life of the street accurately. 

For example, the photo that I researched earlier, ’View of the Boulevard du Temple’ by Louis Daguerre was an image of a Parisian street scene. It shows the architecture, the road lined with trees, and a person stood getting their shoes shined. Although there are some signs of life within the photo, the final resulting photo wasn’t an accurate portrayal of how this street scene would have looked to the photographers eyes. It took around 15 minutes of exposure time to create this photo, meaning that lots of other things were happening in the street, such as other people walking along the path and horse carriages travelling down the street. Due to the long exposure time and the fact that they were moving (unlike the man getting his shoes shined) they didn’t appear on the final photograph. So, technically, this doesn’t capture the scene as how it would have appeared in a certain moment in time 

I also have considered whether having no human present in a street photograph would still be defined as street photography. In my opinion, a street photograph can be classed as street photography if there is a living thing in the street – this may be a human or an animal, and if there was no sign of a living thing, the photograph would be classed as architectural photography.

This research has helped me to realise that the timing of the photograph definitely plays an important part into what I consider is classed as street photography. I feel that it needs to capture a more genuine moment in time, the same image as what the photographers eyes would have seen. For these reasons, I will be personally defining street photography as ‘a photograph taken in the street of a singular moment in time’ throughout the rest of my work.

Is Street Photography Acceptable?

I have decided to raise the question of whether the act of taking street photography photos of people is acceptable or not. In the UK, it is legal to take photos of ‘people and buildings without needing permission, providing you are in a public place’ (BLPA, n.d.). However, many of the people who are the subjects of street photography don’t always know they are being photographed and, if they did, some wouldn’t necessarily consent to it. On the other hand, if the photographer was to ask permission from someone to take their photo, this would result in a posed photo, which takes away from the more candid ‘photograph taken in the street of a singular moment in time’ that I have previously defined as what I believe to be true street photography.

I feel that the subject within my photos will be very important. When researching into street photography, I did come across many photographs of people living in very poor conditions and lots of homeless people. I am of the opinion that this can be interpreted as quite exploitative, particularly if the photographer is just making money off the images and not helping the subjects. Although, if their photographs were to highlight important societal issues, I think that it would definitely be acceptable. For example, the documentary photographer Jacob Riis photographed the people living in the slums of New York and then ‘asked citizens from the upper and middle classes [to] help the poor’ (Herrera, 2018) and ‘pushed for laws to improve immigrant communities’ (Herrera, 2018). On the other hand, there are subjects where street photography would be more acceptable, such as street performers and musicians because they are already ‘putting themselves out there’ in front of people. 

‘The Street Photographer is […] often likened to the historical figure of the flâneur: namely someone who mingles anonymously amongst the crowd observing and recording the ways the unsuspecting city dweller interacts with his or her environment’ (The Art Story, n.d.) This is a good description, however, in my opinion, some street photographers have taken this a step too far by taking their photos using concealed cameras. It is true that this can result in a very candid photo, but I also feel like this could come across as creepy and exploitative. For example, the American street photographer Bruce Gilden has quite a controversial approach to taking photos. He is ‘known for his graphic and often confrontational close-ups made using flash’ (Magnum photos, n.d.). I think that this approach is not only too direct and risky, as it could provoke a violent reaction from the subject, but it also takes away from street photography being more candid. For my work, I will hopefully find an approach that I feel comfortable with. I won’t conceal my camera and I certainly won’t be getting right into peoples faces. I will try to find an acceptable balance, possibly taking inspiration from Vivian Maier, who shot her photographs at waist height. I feel this method is very unobtrusive and will hopefully make me feel less awkward about shooting my photos. 

Overall, I am going to take considerable care in ensuring I am taking my street photographs in an acceptable manner. I am going to consider the overall subject of my images and be respectful towards people at all times, particularly if they were to approach me and ask me to delete their photo. However, I will still stick to my belief that street photographs should be candid and will do this by taking my photos as subtly as possible.

Summary

Overall, I feel that street photography is a way of not only documenting brief and unique moments in time, but researching into many street photographers throughout history made me realise just how important street photography is. It is a way of visually gaining an understanding of someones life and preserving periods of history like a time capsule. Many street photographs capture very mundane moments in peoples lives, yet somehow they can be very thought provoking works of art in their own right. 

References:

Britannica (n.d.) Street photography. Available online: https://www.britannica.com/art/street-photography [Accessed 20/10/21].

Britannica (n.d.) Nicéphore Niépce. Available online: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Nicephore-Niepce [Accessed 20/10/21].

Open Culture (2017) See the first photograph of a human being: A photo taken by Louis Daguerre (1838). Available online: https://www.openculture.com/2017/11/see-the-first-photograph-of-a-human-being-a-photo-taken-by-louis-daguerre-1838.html [Accessed 20/10/21].

The Art Story (n.d.) Documentary photography. Available online: https://www.theartstory.org/movement/documentary-photography/ [Accessed 20/10/21]. 

The Met Museum (2004) Early documentary photography. Available online: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/edph/hd_edph.htm [Accessed 20/10/21].

Kuroski, J (2021) Heartbreaking Jacob Riis photographs from how the other half lives and beyond. Available online: https://allthatsinteresting.com/jacob-riis-photographs-how-the-other-half-lives [Accessed 21/10/21].

Kim, E (n.d.) The history of street photography. Available online: https://erickimphotography.com/blog/2013/03/04/timeless-insights-you-can-learn-from-the-history-of-street-photography/ [Accessed 21/10/21].

Mishra, J (n.d.) 20 most famous street photographers you should now. Available online: https://expertphotography.com/famous-street-photographers/ [Accessed 21/10/21].

Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson (n.d.) Exhibitions. Available online: https://www.henricartierbresson.org/en/expositions/eugene-atget/ [Accessed 23/10/21].

Estrin, J (2016) Henri Cartier-Bresson, whose ‘decisive moment’ shaped modern photography. Available online: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/cp/obituaries/archives/henri-cartier-bresson-photography [Accessed 23/10/21].

Kim, E (n.d.) 10 things Henri Cartier-Bresson can teach you about street photography. Available online: https://erickimphotography.com/blog/2011/08/22/10-things-henri-cartier-bresson-can-teach-you-about-street-photography/ [Accessed 23/10/21].

Svenning, K (n.d.) Robert Doisneau. Available online: https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/constituents/robert-doisneau?all/all/all/all/0 [Accessed 23/10/21].

Vivian maier.com (n.d.) About Vivian Maier. Available online: http://www.vivianmaier.com/about-vivian-maier/ [Accessed 23/10/21].

Howard Greenberg Gallery (n.d.) Vivian Maier. Available online: https://www.howardgreenberg.com/artists/vivian-maier [Accessed 23/10/21].

Baker, S (n.d.) Shirley Baker photographer. Available online: https://shirleybakerphotography.com/bio/ [Accessed 23/10/21]. 

BLPA (n.d.) Photographers’ rights. Available online: https://www.blpawards.org/competition/photo-rights [Accessed 31/10/21].

Herrera, K (2018) Jacob Riis. Available online: https://www.timeforkids.com/g34/jacob-riis/ [Accessed 31/10/21].

The Art Story (n.d.) Street Photography. Available online: https://www.theartstory.org/movement/street-photography/ [Accessed 1/11/21].

Magnum Photos (n.d.) Bruce Gilden. Available online: https://www.magnumphotos.com/photographer/bruce-gilden/ [Accessed 1/11/21].

Image references:

Nicéphore Niépce, J (1826) View from the window of Le Gras [Photo]. Available online: https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/articles/the-history-of-street-photography/ [Accessed 20/10/21].

Daguerre, L (1838) See the first photograph of a human being: a photo taken by Louis Daguerre [Photo]. Available online: https://www.openculture.com/2017/11/see-the-first-photograph-of-a-human-being-a-photo-taken-by-louis-daguerre-1838.html [Accessed 20/10/21].

Jacob Riis Photos: 

International Centre of Photography (n.d.) Jacob Riis [Photo]. Available online: https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/constituents/jacob-riis?all/all/all/all/1 [Accessed 20/10/21].

Eugene Atget Photos:

Cox, D (2020). The empty streets (and parks) of Eugene Atget [Photo]. Available online: https://www.vam.ac.uk/blog/museum-life/the-empty-streets-and-parks-of-eugene-atget%E2%80%8B [Accessed 20/10/21].

Henri Cartier-Bresson Photos:

Artnet (n.d.) Henri Cartier-Bresson [Photo]. Available online: http://www.artnet.com/artists/henri-cartier-bresson/3 [Accessed 23/10/21].

Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson (2021) “Henri Cartier-Bresson – Paris revisited” at the musée carnavalet, Paris [Photo]. Available online: https://www.henricartierbresson.org/en/actualites/henri-cartier-bresson-paris-revisited-at-the-musee-carnavalet/ [Accessed 23/10/21].

Mitphoto2016 (2017) Henri Cartier-Bresson’s compositions [Photo]. Available online: https://mitphoto2016.wordpress.com/2017/09/28/henri-cartier-bressons-compositions/comment-page-1/ [Accessed 23/10/21].

Robert Doisneau Photos:

Exibart (n.d.) Robert Doisneau: the poetic approach to street photography [Photo]. Available online: https://www.exibartstreet.com/news/robert-doisneau-the-poetic-approach-to-street-photography/ [Accessed 23/10/21].

Vivian Maier Photos:

Maier, V (n.d.) Vivian Maier gallery [Photo]. Available online: http://www.vivianmaier.com/gallery/street-1/ [Accessed 23/10/21].

Shirley Baker Photos:

Baker, S (n.d.) The street photographs (early colour) [Photo]. Available online: https://shirleybakerphotography.com/the-street-photographs-colour/ [Accessed 23/10/21].

Alan Schaller Photos:

Schaller, A (n.d.) Street photography [Photo]. Available online: http://alanschaller.com/streetphotography [Accessed 23/10/21].

Introduction/The History of Photography

Introduction 

For my major project, I have decided to explore the world of both street photography and staged photography. Photography has always interested me from a very young age. I have enjoyed it both as a hobby, mostly through taking photos on my phone whilst travelling around places, and as a job when I worked within a photographic lab processing photos before coming to university. Despite this experience, street photography is not something that I have ever had the chance to explore in more depth so I decided that this project would be perfect for me. I would not only have the chance to improve on my own photo skills, but to also thoroughly research an area within photography that has always intrigued me. 

I will eventually go on to producing my own portfolio of photographs, but before doing this I will be researching into the subject of photography to hopefully help me to understand the subject deeper and also gain some inspiration for my own work. I have decided that one of my first tasks would be to research into the history of street photography.

The History of Photography

The word ‘Photography’ is ‘derived from the Greek photos (“light”) and graphien (“to draw”), and was first used in the 1830’s’ (Rosenblum, n.d.) however, the art of photography has actually been around much longer than this…

Illustrations and timeline created by me

Camera Obscura Invented 

The camera obscura is a literal example of drawing with light. It was the first tool we know about that was ‘used by some artists that allowed them to easily draw or paint realistic landscapes and rendering of architecture. In its simplest form, a pinhole projects a scene in a dark room or bow that the artist can basically trace over, […] the earliest historical mention of the idea dates back to China in around 500BCE’ (Photography Talk, n.d.).

Daguerreotype Process Invented

One of the first types of permanent photos was invented by Louis Daguerre. This was known as the Daguerreotype and they were made on silver copper plates. These images ‘did not fade and needed under thirty minutes of light exposure’ (Thought Co, n.d.). 

Collodion Process Created

This process was invented by Frederick Scott Archer and involved the use of wet chemicals in a dark room and a plate. The camera would then expose onto the plate, and ‘the images required only two or three seconds of light exposure’ (Thought Co, n.d.)

Dry Plate Process Invented

Richard Maddox invented a new dry plate process, which completely changed the world of photography, ‘photographers were […] able to use commercial dry plates off off the shelf instead of having to prepare their own emulsions in a mobile darkroom [and] for the first time, cameras could be made small enough to be hand-held’ (Tietz, 2017).

Box Camera Invented

The Kodak box camera was revolutionary, in how much it simplified the photographic process and made it more accessible for users. It was much smaller than previous cameras, rolls of film were inserted inside it and the user could then send the films to Kodak to get processed. Kodak even used the slogan ‘You press the button, we’ll do the rest’ (Film is Not Dead, 2017) to advertise their new cameras.

Instant Camera Invented

The ‘Land Camera’ by Polaroid ‘contained a roll of positive paper with a pod of developing chemicals at the top of each frame [rollers would then] spread the reagents evenly between the two layers and pushed it out of the camera’ (Macneil, 2019). This then resulted in an instant black and white photo.

Point and Shoot Camera Invented

Konica introduced the first point and shoot camera, ‘it was a compact, light and simple to use camera with an excellent lens that was distinctly wider than average for the time and that took good photographs because it could be focused accurately. It was an outstanding sales success throughout the world.’ (Camerapedia, n.d.). 

First Professional Digital Camera

Kodak launched the first professional DSLR camera. A digital camera back was attached to a regular SLR camera, ‘came with a 200MB hard drive that could store roughly 160 uncompressed images’ (Chen, 2011) and ‘the images taken could be reviewed, deleted and processed with the Digital Storage Unit’. (Digitalkamera Museum, n.d.). 

First Camera Phone

The first ever camera phone was created by the company Kyocera in 1999 ‘it was the first such phone with a built-in camera that was sold commercially to the general public’ (Callaham, 2021) and ‘by 2003, camera phone sales overtook digital cameras’ (Trenholm, 2021)

First Smart Phone

Apple launched the iPhone in 2007, and phone cameras began to dramatically improve – ’phone memories got bigger so you could take more pictures; CCD sensors were replaced by CMOS chips that use less power’ (Trenholm, 2021). 

References:

Rosenblum, N (n.d.) History of photography. Available online: https://www.britannica.com/technology/photography [Accessed 18/10/21].

Photography Talk (n.d.) History of photography timeline from start to present day. Available online: https://www.photographytalk.com/history-of-photography-timeline-from-start-to-present-day [Accessed 18/10/21].

Thought Co (n.d.) Photography timeline. Available online: https://www.thoughtco.com/photography-timeline-1992306 [Accessed 18/10/21].

Tietz, T (2017) How Richard Leach Maddox revolutionised photography. Available online: http://scihi.org/richard-leach-maddox-photography/ [Accessed 18/10/21].

Film is Not Dead (2017) “You press the button, we do the rest” – George Eastman. Available online: https://www.filmsnotdead.com/you-press-the-button-we-do-the-rest-george-eastman/ [Accessed 18/10/21].

Macneil, J (2019) Polaroid introduces the instant camera, February 21, 1947. Available online:  https://www.edn.com/polaroid-introduces-the-instant-camera-february-21-1947/ [Accessed 18/10/21].

Camerapedia (n.d.) Konica C35. Available online: https://camerapedia.fandom.com/wiki/Konica_C35 [Accessed 18/10/21].

Chen, J (2011) Digital photography in 1991. Available online: https://www.zdnet.com/pictures/digital-photography-in-1991-photos/2/ [Accessed 18/10/21].

Digitalkamera Museum (n.d.) Kodak professional DCS. Available online: https://www.digitalkameramuseum.de/en/cameras/item/kodak-professional-dcs [Accessed 18/10/21].

Callaham, J (2021) The first camera phone was sold 22 years ago, and its not what you’d expect. Available online: https://www.androidauthority.com/first-camera-phone-anniversary-993492/ [Accessed 18/10/21].

Trenholm, R (2021) History of digital cameras: From ’70s prototypes to iPhone and Galaxy’s everyday wonders. Available online: https://www.cnet.com/tech/computing/history-of-digital-cameras-from-70s-prototypes-to-iphone-and-galaxys-everyday-wonders/ [Accessed 18/10/21].