The importance of Street Photography can seem unrecognizable in this day and time, due to the influx of cameras being placed in every kind of device that the human mind can think of.
We have calibrated into a society that needs to see everything as soon as the photograph has been captured. The popularity of photography has every field fading into hours and hours of uploading, fulfilling timelines, newsfeeds and trending hashtags.
In a way, this can water down and desensitize The Moment; furthermore, this sort of desensitizing that layers out with super instant gratification being easily attainable, can allow society to be numbed out to seeing Life through a photographic Moment, a visual expression with a certainty that an occasion, incident, accident, situation or scene won’t ever happen again. Instead, we digest being able to see photographs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with an unappreciative acceptance. The photograph is a free luxury, as common as tap water coming out of a faucet with a disposable plastic courtesy cup under its splash.
We pour out more photographs into the drains of social-media than we do taking our time with viewing photographs. Street Photography has troubling times with its placement in this visual medium. What is a candid photograph, what is a street photograph, what is Art in photography?
Street photography can take on the vibe of a candid visual statement. However, the candidness in a street photograph does not always need to be nestled inside of a street photograph; thus, the candid visual statement can fall away. If a photograph has a protester allowing their emotions to be fully passionate as they bravely look straight into the photographic lens of the photographer, consciously they are in the photograph, but subconsciously, their presence will accept the Moment. This is what high-fashion photography lacks (it is often conceptual, imaginative, fantasy driven, commercially honest) and photojournalism avoids (an editor of a newspaper want the value in what they consider newsworthy, more than a quiet truth that can be viewed inside of a street photograph).
The Street has its unpredictable clause of showing life as we build and live. Every second in Life has a progressive momentum out there in the Streets. We travel through this existence with the sense of movement. Even if it is the reality of something going on, which could be judged as normal, shy, not famous, basic. The street photograph has an address on its time, place, and interesting uniqueness.
From the business owner to the consumer to the homeless person, to the resident, immigrant, citizen, tourist, man, woman and child, pets and stray animals, busses, cars, trucks, motorcycles and civilization as we know it, each has a number on the face of time, telling us what the time may be in cultures and sub-cultures.
Exploitation might be a source within some Street Photography. In total, Photography has a lingering tone that is connected to exploitation, which has an hour in every field of Photography. The exploiter with a camera can schedule opportunistic eagerness, attempting to feed a greedy hunger; furthermore, the exploiter has an ego, which is more about a self-absorbed reward, rather than awarding society with how they see the streets with their lens, sharing the streets. (Giving back, not just taking.)
If Street Photography is met with an importance in the Eye of the photographer, the possibility to visually apply another tone that distances itself from exploiting one’s pain, struggle, celebration, poverty or success can happen.
When the photographic Moment climbs away from exploitation, the photograph will free itself and the onlooker can truly become an emotional conduit with understanding what it is that has happened, even if the reality in the Moment was captured in 1/60th of a second: the life of the still, street photograph is one that can be viewed for hours, perhaps days. The Moment can be reserved for future views: the energy of the past streets can relive via Photography, despite time going on with new businesses, buildings, people, visitors, and residents recycling their energies into a new neighborhood.
Of course, Street Photography is a crowded area in Photography. One where, if Henri Cartier-Bresson had been alive today with his Leica, his work might have been overlooked if he did not have a virtual entourage roaming through his social-media, offering him the social-media following to elevate his work above other eager photographers tossing their work into the channels of social-media.
It would be a loaded wonder to speculate where the Street Photography from Saul Leiter, Walker Evans, Lisette Model, and Louis Faurer would have landed, if they had to find their time on this calendar, our virtual world of photography. This is not to say that there is an issue with social media entrapping Photography. In fact, social media has the power to help Photography. In an optimistic wishful thinking sense, if we were not overwhelmed and over-saturated with so many photographs landing into the Internet, there could be a Renaissance-like possibility with Photography having a freedom that would not allow the photograph to be reshaped into being just a commodity, or else, it is unsuccessful.
Repression holds this overall medium of Photography, with a societal grip. This is a main problem with the entire foundation of Photography. The freedom which Photography could have, tend to fall for the popularity that does not mind being housed in the prison of commercialism. Photography is doing hard time. Street Photography does not need the Meme, nor does it need the photo-editor of a magazine defining it, as they sat in their office, behind a desk.
If the Street Photographers from the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, had their work go through a filter of finding a hashtag lottery to pick their work, then, they would be largely unknown. Could you imagine Henri Cartier-Bresson trying to figure out the cone of vision as he lift up a mobile phone with a camera? If the Street Photographers from 30 or 40 years ago had to meet the viewership of today, would they be able to keep up with the demanding, competitive pace of uploading their work on a hourly or daily basis? The clock ticks, trending tricks time, and every camera has a chance, more so than every photographer.
As street photography has become a hashtag in advertising its placement, the viral success has produced exhibitions that could put the photographer into a famous place. There is a popular chance that the well-known photographer of this week, could find a brand with books ready to be sold to the consumer. The photo-essay can be in blogs, as websites have the control to approve or disapprove what they want to share to their followings. Outlets such as popular blogs which does not specialize in or advocate Street Photography, could generously swipe up and publish a street photographer’s work, if the buzz about their work has a popular appeal that can swing some attention back to the blog or website that will report on and publish any kind of fad that is popular or trendy. This sort of imbalance, proposes the term Street Photography into a relationship, where the street photographer can feel married to an undefined meaning.
When the need to see the Streets does show a balance, this field can be accepted as a virtual city, showing the World and its uniqueness. We can see so much of any given place in this world, at any time, because of the Internet: we always could see this, tangible wise, ever since the latent image found a way to be chemically produced in 1820’s. Today, the streets may be overlooked; however, our invitations are online passports with a url. So many voices are trying to find a tone with the viewers who want that visual product – the photograph.
The Street Photograph can justify point of views, when the balance is even. Injustices and brutalities from people who have abused their powers, have been photographed. We as a society have been on the side of the onlooker with being able to see so much in this 21st century. Social issues going on right now, if they had taken place some 30 years ago could appear mythical or fictional, had it not been for cameras being an Eye in this very visual world. Well, again, the camera was around 30 years ago and chances are, the injustices and brutalities were a reality. However, the channels to show what was not “newsworthy” had an extremely slim chance of being given the time of day through television screens or mainstream newspapers pushing their content through newsstands or metal vending machines on the corners of communities. There are social-media outlets, blogs and websites that are for the street photographer and their work, now, they might not be in the highest rankings of Google’s top visited websites, but the construction of their tunnels does hold real street photographic works, are there, awaiting the onlooker who wants to see and study more than what is popular.
What Street Photography can do for the societal patience and appreciation, would be to articulate the visual elements that comprises of civilizations living in various societal worlds, all on the same planet, all at the same time. Different, unique, political, crowded, private, huge or small buildings, religions, businesses, people, pets, fashion, vehicles, all of these times have their hours on the street clock.
As the exhibition market of street photography has an agenda to make the Street Photograph, a commodity that can be purchased by the consumer, for the conclusion to have the Streets on the wall of offices and homes, the root of the Street photograph has a vastness to it.
The Street Photograph hangs onto the lenses of legacies of Diane Arbus, Bill Brandt, Mary Ellen Mark, Andre Kertesz, Saul Leiter, Robert Frank, Don McCullin, James Barnor, Rebecca Lepkoff, Dorothea Lange, Errol Sawyer, Joel Meyerowitz and William Eggleston, along with many other great photographers from the mid to late 20th century.
As the rural areas of United States, during the 20th century became a street element in the tube of society, a great contrasting outcome can be paired with Jacob Riis’ photography of New York’s outdoor poverty during the late 19th century. The Streets were being photographed in an international capacity, not just in the United States, and way before social media became the virtual ocean that users could work with, in order to surf into other continents and communities outside of their own.
It may be worth investing in the visual future wisdom to slow down a little and have some discipline with knowing not to overlook the past foundations.
In Africa, the ancient Egyptians were advanced thinkers, as were the Aztecs in Mexico. Yet, neither civilization had camera Photography. Past civilizations before and without Photography prospered very well with their forms of visual articulation.
No wise Soul would argue that the Italian Renaissance was visually left out, without Photography. However, we could only photographically guess at how their streets would have looked if the camera were aimed at Renaissances before the photographic camera and processes were invented in the early part of the 19th century.
If the people mentioned in the Bible were photographed, outdoors, walking through the towns with their fashion, or at tables during outdoor celebrations, our mind’s need to connect to reviewing their reflections would be humbly impressed, at the very least and culturally seeking an education about their past.
This is why Street photography has a glory inside of it. Just as Garry Winogrand rapidly aimed with a pace to photograph as much as he could possibly photograph, aligned next to the patience of Eugene Atget, who refused to allow a Paris of his yesterday to be forgotten, with selectively using his large-format camera to memorialize the streets of his nation: the Streets of Photography are riddled with professional, unique, eyes that want the energy rapidly taking place outdoors to be their outdoor studio.
Photography has not met a classical period with its age of being 192 years old. This area that we are in with high-technology gifting the Internet with so many bridges of visual communication, visual steps which can journey into languages, foods, fashion, events, architecture, parks, landscapes, all of this can be culturally liberating—if we can see beyond the popularity, propaganda and narrow view that commercialism can do to a photograph, when the photograph has to be a product dressed up as Art.
One of the most optimistic possibilities for the future civilizations, would be that the generations that will be ahead of our times right now will have Photographs to understand, articulate and historically weigh what we are doing now.
This will only add onto the other mediums which are traditionally well-fed: such as Painting, Sculpture, Dance, Music, Filmmaking and Literature. The streets of today could be real in the sense that the camera could depict what really happened, at least in a moment’s sense of what is a photographic reality, what is a photographic truth? This aftereffect should be an inspiring hour for the street photographer who may find themselves out of time, lost in time, or misunderstood, because their photograph might receive 10 Likes on social-media.
As a professional photographer who travels through various fields of Photography, from studio work to still-life, to architecture, e.t.c., my eyes opened up and met their light on the streets of Baltimore. As I pay attention to New York and this world with my Eye, I will always keep that street instinct in a promising place. After all, the Journey starts with the effort thriving within the steps, and the pavement is how we originally learned how to balance the travel we need when going through the times. As for me, I have a camera with me as I live and it is my clock.