In fact, I’m not even sure what the term means. I sometimes take pictures in the street, and they sometimes have people in them. Occasionally, and this is very occasionally, the pictures will capture some sort of significant moment that’s worth the space on my hard drive or in my negative wallet.
If street photography is sticking your camera in someone’s face and snapping a negative reaction or look of displeasure at having their privacy invaded, then I don’t like it. Likewise, if ‘street’ requires a humorous alignment of unlikely or divergent aspects to provide a moment of titillation, then it’s not a genre of photography that I’m likely to spend much time with.
Yes, I am grumpy.
In spite of my low opinion of much of what passes for ‘street’, I find myself a week away from my first workshop, and guess what, it’s a Street/Reportage course*.
That ‘forward slash’ is important as notwithstanding my aversion to ‘street’, or at least all the things that we associate with it, reportage is what I’d most like to be doing with a camera. I’d like to be (and like to think that I often am) reporting my experiences of events and places, rather than just taking pictures of them. The things I choose to photograph, or not, tell my version of events. Getting better at this is why I’m doing the course.
Whenever I’ve gone out to ‘shoot street’ (I don’t even like the way that sounds), I’ve felt massively uncomfortable. I’ll wander about for an hour or two, shyly turning away from my subjects as they catch my eye as I’m about to take their picture. I tried ‘shooting from the hip’ but only got crooked, badly framed snapshots of little interest.
However, despite everything above, I am keen to investigate street photography further. At its best, it can be thought-provoking, a record (or report) on the times that we live in, or an insight into an unfamiliar place and so is potentially a hugely valuable and important pursuit.
I somehow need to find a way to be in the mindset of reporting my experiences of a city, rather than going out to make street photography. If I can work out what the difference is, I’ll enjoy it a whole lot more…
Ahead of next weekend, (but before I’d given much thought to this differentiation), I headed into Limerick this morning with Emily and my camera and made these pictures in and around the Milk Market.
Leica M9 Monochrom, Lomography 32mm LC-A Minitar Art Lens.
*As you’ll have heard on Episode 21 of the Viewfinder Vikings podcast, I spoke with photojournalist Cathal McNaughton about his career and the courses and ‘masterclasses’ that he runs since his return from a Reuters job in Asia. Prior to our conversation, I’d already enrolled on his course in Dublin next weekend, having heard him speak at a camera club event a few weeks previously.