Welcome to the Street Photography Lounge. This is where you can upload your street photography images, share your latest work and ask for critique. You can also start discussions, ask questions and generally discuss anything relating to street photography.
I’ve been having fun recently with medium format, in the shape of the new(ish) Fujifilm GFX50R. Based on the same technology as the successful 50S, the 50R has the form of a rangefinder camera and is therefore more aligned to what street photographers need. I used the camera on a recent trip to Venice and was blown away by the image quality and the amount of detail. Here’s an example:
Brian Lloyd Duckett, Venice street photographer, Venice photography workshop 2019
Sure, it’s bulkier that what we’ve come to expect from digital cameras but it’s really no bigger or heavier than a full-frame DSLR costing a similar amount. We often think of digital medium format cameras as being expensive but this camera puts 150mb files well within the reach of the serious amateur.
The image quality is just breathtaking, build quality is up there with the best, handling is ideal it’s weather resistant, there’s a good range of superb glass available. What’s not to like? Well, from where I’m standing, not much: okay, there’s no 4k video, the AF is not the fastest and the burst mode is only 3fps. But does any of that really matter? No: street, documentary or travel photographers really shouldn’t be too troubled by any of this. It’s a superb camera which I’m finding hard to put down.
It’s always satisfying to watch people develop after their initial workshop experience. I’m delighted that an image by Jonathan Gliksten, from Sydney, has been selected for the Head-on Photo Festival in Sydney next month (https://www.headon.com.au/exhibitions/city-2-surf). Jonathan attended one of my workshops last year in London and it’s been great to watch him grow as a street photographer ever since.
I asked Jonathan about this image . . .
“I took this image on my walk home from work. The golden hours in Sydney coincide well with morning and evening rush hour in Summer and so I try to make a habit of walking to and from work with camera in hand. But on this day, photography prospects weren’t looking too good. The skies were overcast and a searing heat was keeping many people off the streets. As I neared home, my luck picked up with hot 100 kph wind gusts blasting through the city and causing chaos for commuters. The photo opportunities were limitless: hats and hair flying, prams taking off, people, bikes and trees being blown over. After grabbing a few opportunistic shots, I realised that people were so busy trying to cope with the wind that they just didn’t care about me taking shots and that I could hang around and work the scene. It gave me time to reset shutter speed to 1/1000 sec and pay more attention to composition. This picture was about the 20th and last I took at the scene.
“What pleased me most about this image is that it rewarded me for a change in technique. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get back to Europe for a Streetsnappers workshop lately (and am still waiting for Brian’s circuit to come to Australia!) but I have spent time recently shooting with Australian In-Public photographer, Jesse Marlow. It’s really noticeable how Jesse works a scene. Instead of my old approach of trying to grab one or 2 shots without getting caught, Jesse takes 20-30 shots, constantly adjusting his height, distance, point of view and composition… and still doesn’t get caught! I’ve since tried to follow Jesse’s technique and I think that it paid off for me here, giving me multiple chances of capturing the moment. The irony is that whilst some have kindly commented that the image captures great moment, it was, in fact, just one pick of multiple moments at the scene that day”.
Thanks, Jonathan, for sharing this with us – what a great story!
We will be at the Photography Show again this year – at the Birmingham NEC, 16-19 March – in our usual spot on stand J67.
The show is an annual event and the biggest of its kind in the UK. You can find hundreds of trade stands with gear for sale, demonstrations, lectures, seminars and workshops – must of which are free once you have bought your entrance ticket. As well as running our stand for the duration of the show, I will be a guest speaker on the Fujifilm stage – full details here.
Do drop by and say hello – we look forward to seeing friends old and new!
If you’re visiting the show you can use our unique voucher code to get discounted show tickets. You can book your tickets HERE – and don’t forget to enter the promo code SSNAPTPS19 to claim your 25% discount.
Raymond Harding, who lives in Paris, has been on several of my workshops and is a keen street and travel photographer. He’s a passionate consumer of street photography books and here you can read his take on ‘The Americans’ by Robert Frank – an essential book in any street photographer’s library . . .
Engaging with Robert Frank’s The Americans
As a relatively new street photographer, I have been trying to widen my understanding of the history of the subject in order to refine my palate. Not so long ago, I purchased Robert Frank’s book ‘The Americans’; considered one of the seminal and founding works in street photography.
Robert Frank’s The Americans is the result of a Guggenheim Fellowship grant in the 1950’s which enabled Frank to spend two years traveling across America and capture what he saw. O’Hagan notes that “Frank set out with his Guggenheim Grant to do something new and unconstrained by commercial diktats……[which resulted in] a now classic photography book in the iconoclastic spirit of the Beats.”
My engagement started when I picked up The Americans after having spent some time on Instagram over my morning coffee. Today’s ‘best’ Instagram accounts contain a wealth of amazing street photography: vibrant reds, neon greens, crisp images and strong composition (at least some of the time). By contrast, Frank’s images are often dour, seemingly poorly composed with key parts of the images often out of focus.
My initial thought was that photography has come a long way since Frank’s work and that it was clear that there was something I was missing. Thanks to some insightful discussion with some other members on the StreetSnappers forum (thanks to all those who were part of the discussion and gently challenged me in my understanding), I was challenged to think again about Frank’s work.
To engage better with this book, I took a weekend to spend some quality time with The Americans, to savour each image in the book and to try to reflect on what it was saying and not flick through the images with a cursory glance, as one would an Instagram feed. I read around the book, to see what Frank and others said about it, and watched some videos to expand my perspective.
I came out of my weekend with seven thoughts:
Thought One: The Americans reflects Robert Frank and his engagement with America
When I first read The Americans, I didn’t know enough about America of the 1950’s and how many of the mainstream images in circulation in America at that time depicted optimism, hope, and commercialism and minimised the social inequalities, segregation, and poverty of the day.
I also didn’t know enough about Robert Frank in general; I didn’t know that he was an immigrant to the US, with Jewish parents who had been de-stated by the Nazis and moved to Switzerland as aliens; I didn’t know that as a young man Frank moved to the US without his family and had to build his life from scratch. I didn’t know, until I watched interviews with Frank, his pessimistic/dour/curmudgeonly view of the world in general, and of America at the time specifically.
And therefore I didn’t understand the clash between the American self-portrait of the day: bright, hopeful, commercial, with the dour outsider with a background of real suffering and pain. I didn’t understand the clash of the rose-tinted view of the 1950’s with the glass half-empty view of Frank. As Frank said: “I wanted to follow my own intuition and do it my way, and not to make any concession – not to make a Life story… those goddamn stories with a beginning and an end.”
Understanding more about Frank, who he is and how he saw the America of the 1950’s and his reaction to (and against) it, made more sense of the images he chose to present and the narrative he put forward.
While it is not possible for me to recreate the counter-cultural experience that an American of the 1950’s would have had when seeing their culture through Frank’s lens, understanding the clash helped me better engage with The Americans on its terms.
Thought Two: The Americans is deliberate selection
Robert Frank took 28,000 images as part of his road trip across America. He chose to show 83 of them in The Americans. The book is highly curated. It’s a very deliberate selection of specific images, specifically laid out in a certain order to tell a narrative.
As I read around The Americans I discovered, for example, that Frank separated the book into four sections, and each section started with an image where the American flag was central. This challenged me to think about each photo in the book: What was the photo before? Why did Frank choose to put this image after the previous image but before the next one? What story is reinforced by this order and the specific image in that order?
This approach is in contrast to my own and, I think, the social media approach more generally, of looking for the ‘one image I am going to share today’. Of course, social media is a different medium than a photo book, but my experience has been that my photobooks are more about collecting my favourite images; Frank challenged me to think about building a cohesive story with my images. As I put together my next photobook, which image will I put first? And why should that image go before the next image? What story is told by how I place these images? I suspect that the process will now take a lot more time but I suspect the end result will be more fulfilling.
Thought Three: The challenge of composition
As I said above, I started with Frank after looking at Instagram, where a lot of the images are often super sharp. I had assumed that some of the imperfections in Frank’s photos were due to technical issues: we have better cameras now, photography has moved on…..
However, after engaging more with Frank, I have learnt to appreciate that Frank’s decisions are deliberate. Where he has ‘missed’ focus on (what I had assumed is) the main subject, that Frank has made a deliberate choice to throw my attention to somewhere else in the frame. I found that Frank’s images bear thinking about – stopping a little longer than you think is necessary to see where he draws your eye and what that means; it is story-telling through composition. It is designed to tell a specific story and to make me think.
For me, the point of my photography has been to find the subject and make it sharp; my challenge from Frank is to think more carefully about the composition: what story do I want to tell and what does that mean for my composition? How can I take my composition from the main subject being front, centre, and sharp, to a more nuanced approach to composition where other factors might be front and centre in the image because they tell a better story?
Thought Four: Post-processing to tell a story
Frank deliberately used post processing to add to his story. He wanted a dark mood to advance his narrative; where photos were taken on a bright sunny day, he post processes the images to achieve a dark moody feeling.
Again, Frank challenges me to think outside the box in terms of a larger post-compositional elements. Once I have taken my image and the composition is done, what mood do I want this photograph to convey? And what tools do my sliders give me to contribute to that story? On a larger question, am I happy to change the mood of a photograph to fit in with a large narrative?
Thought Five: The larger narrative
One of the questions that I have often thought about with street photography is the ‘so what’ – another random photo of a stranger with a nice hat, or someone walking through a shaft of light, or doing something funny. But, ultimately, what is the point and what do you end up with in the end?
If The Americans taught me anything, it was a challenge to think about a larger narrative.
Frank’s work is an organised holistic work with a clear perspective and a clear narrative. Maybe some of the images, if viewed out of the larger whole, are not going to get a ton of Instagram likes, but taken together, they were a challenge to the worldview of the day, and in hindsight create an important historical record.
I think, if asked about Instagram likes, Frank may not be so polite.
I found The Americans challenged me to try and think on a much larger scale: A long term large project with a clear message and looking for how I could best tell that story. And at the same time, to be less worried about creating a single image that tons of people may like or appreciate for 20 minutes, but rather to consider my street photography work in the longer term – what will this image say in 2 years time, or 20 years time, or 200 years time.
Thought Six: Finding the treasure
I often walk around my city to see what I can see. I take photos as I wander, but I am not the type of photographer who waits around to see what might come into a scene.
Looking at Frank’s contact sheets (which you can find images of online), some of his photos are indeed luck – a single powerful image taken at just the right moment as he turned around. However, for the most part, the photos in The Americans are the result of Frank taking a large number of photos and he has chosen his preferred image from a selection. And it’s not just that he has taken a lot of images of the same scene, there are some times when it seems like he has worked with people in the image to make the image what he wanted (specifically the iconic ‘girl in the lift’).
Frank (along with some other photographers more recently) has encouraged me to set my camera on burst and take more than one photo when something captures my eye to give me a better chance to getting a better image. A good image is more important than a false expectation that I can also capture it in one press of a button; no one asks how many frames you needed to take to get an image.
Thought Seven: The Americans took time
Today’s prevailing ethos is that you can be a superstar today. Pick up your camera, build a social media following and get a lot of likes instantly.
Frank’s journey to The Americans was long. He was already an established photographer before he applied for the grant that funded the work. He had a solid body of work behind him already. He envisioned a project, refined it, rescoped it, and then he pitched it to others who saw the value of it. He secured funding for the project and then he devoted two years of his life shooting the images for this one project, and then more time developing, more time post-processing, and more time triaging, and then more time compiling the images.
The Americans was not a quick win.
Nor was the initial publication the end of the story; Frank has re-processed the images for each re-print, constantly refining the images to better tell the story he wants to tell.
I find this a challenge for how quickly I should expect to progress – my images tomorrow will be better than my images today (as long as I take images today and tomorrow and in between). A project should take time: how much time do I spend scoping a project and thinking about; how much time to I spend taking images for the project; how much time I spend editing an image; selecting images for putting in a photobook and laying it out?
After my weekend spent with The Americans, I came out thinking that I still wanted to know more about The Americans and about Robert Frank. Therefore, while these thoughts capture where I got to today, I am sure tomorrow my perspective will change.
I’m very pleased to have been asked to become a brand ambassador for Fujifilm – an ‘Official Fujifilm X-Photographer’. You may know that I’ve been using Fujifilm gear for street photography for some years and rate it very highly; I’ll now be working more closely with the company to run workshops, to test equipment and to help the company with its product development. But to make one thing clear: this does not mean I get free gear – nor does it mean I’ll be banging on about it relentlessly through every channel available. If you’re already a Fujifilm user, you’ll benefit from my access to the company for technical support, advice and updates; I’ll also be running some Fujifilm-specific workshops later this year. If you’re not a Fujifilm user, don’t worry – nothing changes! I warmly welcome users of any make or model of equipment on all my courses and workshops and everyone gets the same level of personal attention.
Political unrest often brings interesting opportunities for documentary photographers. So why not join us in the ‘Westminster bubble’ for this unique documentary photography workshop?
March 29th could be an historic day for the UK, and London is already alive with political shenanigans. Working with an experienced documentary photographer, you will develop a picture-led news feature based on the theme of ‘Brexit’. Based principally in and around Westminster, we will join the frenzy of politicians, the media and protesters in what is undoubtedly one of the most exciting periods for current affairs in many years.
We will use the theme of ‘Brexit’ to construct a photo-documentary project, telling the story of the event in 12-18 pictures. You’ll learn how to develop the headline ‘splash’ image, backed up with a selection of images representing the ‘bigger picture’, including some ‘B-roll’ (general views) to support the story.
Working in a small group (maximum 6 participants), you will receive plenty of individual coaching and hands-on attention from a highly experienced photojournalist. This will be a fast-paced, challenging and inspiring day – ideal for street photographers and aspiring documentary photographers.
This will be a longer workshop day than usual, with a 9am start and an ‘official’ finish time of 6pm but we may carry on shooting if things hot up. The day will start with a thorough briefing and ‘tutorial’ session, where we will cover key topics such as:
How to approach a major ‘hard news’ event; shooting to a tight editorial brief
How to develop a cohesive set of images which tell the story of an historic political event
Finding strong news angles; what picture editors look for
Principles of photojournalism
The role of stock photography
Story-telling; shooting and sequencing a news feature
Legal issues; your rights; dealing with the police; public vs private property
I met Sule, from Istanbul, on a workshop late last year and was intrigued by her approach to street photography. So, this month she’s in the hot seat and I interviewed her about her work . . .
How long have you been practicing street photography? – How did you get into it?
My first beginning was very long ago, but my real interest and self-improvement in photography has been going up since the last two years. It began when I bought my first camera, in 1994 which was Zenitt 122 at Moscow. I was not able to spare enough time to photography in this period since I had recently graduated from university and got a start in my professional carrier. My camera had to find its place on my bookshelf for this reason. I bought my second camera Canon Rebel XT on 2006, while digital photography started being widespread. I’ve used this camera mostly for travel photographs since I was working abroad and changing my location on 2-3 years of periods. I’ve bought my mirrorless camera at beginning of 2017, which was lighter and more practical before my trip to Thailand. It increased my interest to photograph. After that trip, I attended the X-Workshops at Fujifilm which introduced me with the street photography.
I realized that Istanbul has many advantages and opportunities for street photography when I started working with the photographer who organized daily workshops, long term projects and gives lectures at IFSAK (Istanbul Amateur Photographer and Cinematographer Community). For the last two years we’ve completed three different projects and held exhibitions for two of them. Within this time of period, I attended workshops on my travels abroad to meet different approaches of different cultures. I found the opportunity of meeting with expert photographers like Brian and took advantage of using their experience. I’m still continuing with two different projects with two different photographers whose are Fujifilm X-Photographers as of 2019. I want to improve myself in street photography with all these projects. I can say photography, especially street photography, is an essential part of my life after all.
What is ‘street photography’? What does it mean to you?
I’ve read a description about street photography once which was just simple and I really liked; ‘Street photography is the art of capturing life, culture and humanity’. Feeling and capturing interesting moments in our simple and ordinary life flow is a gateway to understand life and world around us. For me, it’s a tool to widen my limits, to touch different lifes and different people.
Which street photographers do you admire – and why?
Vivian Maier, Dorothea Lange, Robert Doisneau, Elliott Erwitt, Eugene Smith, Saul Leiter, Henri Cartier Bresson, Alex Webb, Tish Murta… I think they are all pathbreaking on their own style of street photography.
How would you describe your own style of street photography?
I’m not sure I have my own style yet. I can say I’m still learning and trying to find my own style. As an architect I like to use architecture and geometry on my photographs, It’s kind of easier for me. I’m trying to capture some minimalist frames with well known architect Mies van der Rohe’s motto ‘less is more’. I’m also pushing myself to capture street portraits which is the most difficult to me.
Has that style naturally evolved or have you made a conscious effort to steer yourself in a particular direction?
My first photography project subject was ‘human in geometry’ by chance. When I was searching for geometries all around the streets of Istanbul, I realized that architecture presents lots of opportunities to create it. And I also realized that my eyes were to tend to see geometry in architecture. So it’s naturally evolved I think.
What challenges have you faced as a street photographer?
Shooting photographs is not allowed in some of public areas such as underground stations and trains in Turkey. I sometimes face the interference of security guards and police while I’m shooting. The other issue is directly related with my personality. I’m not an extravert person, therefore it’s sometimes difficult to get closer to people for better point of view. Because of that I’m not comfortable on working street portraits. This is what I need to get over if I continue working on street photography.
What camera / lens do you like to use?
I’m happy to use my Fujifilm X-T2 with Fujinon 10-24mm lens mostly when I’m walking around the city for shooting photograph. When I need narrower angle I use Fujinon 18-135mm lens instead.
What’s your workflow and preferred post-production method?
First of all, I’m trying to archive my photographs based on where and when I shot. When I want to print it I make small touch ups on Photoshop such as light and contrast adjustment or convert to black and white. If I’ll use my photographs on social media I work with phone application Snapseed. I’m a little bit lazy to work on my computer
How and where do you share or display your images? Any plans to do more?
I share my images on Instagram (@sbaycan) and my Facebook page. Sometimes I’m sending my images to photography groups on Facebook to get some comments to improve myself. As I mentioned above I’ve being studying on street photography projects since last two years and we exhibited our works end of the project at exhibition hall of Istanbul Amateur Photographer and Cinematographer Community. I hope I’ll make better works to organize my personal photography exhibition one day in future. I also want to establish a web site to display my works but I need some more time for it.
What about the future of street photography – where do you see it going?
I can answer this question not globally, but only for Turkey. Street photography is getting more popular everyday in my country. I see that lots of lectures and workshops are being organized by experienced photographers. But unfortunately popularity doesn’t always bring quality together. You can see lots of ordinary photographs without any aim or story on social media platforms. I believe it will find its own way and general flow will be improved by qualified works.
Hundreds of students take part in my street photography workshops and courses every year – from complete beginners to seasoned operators. A few weeks ago I asked everyone to nominate their favourite street image of 2018 and here are the results. There’s a rich diversity of style and approach, with some truly outstanding work.
I’m always banging on about the importance of working in projects and, whilst some of the images below work perfectly well as stand-alone images, they have even more impact when viewed in a wider context as part of a project.
So, well done to everyone. It’s been hugely enjoyable watching you grow and develop, embracing our shared passion: street photography. 2018 will be a hard act to follow.
Despite the explosive advances in digital technology, film is still with us and it has made a big comeback in recent years. Suddenly, people are interested in film once again and labs are dusting down their enlargers, community darkrooms are popping up and film sales are booming.
If you’re still in possession of a film camera, you’re in luck. If you’re not, they are in plentiful supply and you can find them for sale in car boot sales, in charity shops and on auction sites such as eBay. Whether it’s roll film or 35mm, colour or black & white it doesn’t matter. Just buy some of the stuff, load it up and shoot some street photography – you’ll be in for a real treat.
Here are 12 good reasons to shoot film:
Celebrate ‘slow art’! Shooting with film will really slow you down and think more about what you’re shooting; you will pay more attention to the composition and also to exposure and focusing.
Rather like learning theory in music, it will help you better understand the technical aspects of your camera.
If you shoot only using film, your images will take on a consistent look (film shooters tend to find one type of film they like and then stick with it). It will help you develop your own personal style.
If you really get into film and do your own developing and printing, your hobby takes on a whole new meaning and you learn a completely new skillset.
You won’t be chimping (reviewing shots on the LCD screen) all the time and will be able to concentrate on the ‘here and now’.
You will be more thoughtful when shooting – more conscious of your surroundings and more ‘in the zone’. You’ll also be more discerning about what to shoot and will become more self-critical.
You won’t obsess about gear as much as the simplicity of film shooting will act as a ‘digital detox’.
You will develop as a digital photographer as film shooting will make you think more critically about how you capture and process every single image.
If you don’t fancy having a darkroom, most labs will develop a film and send you an envelope with the negatives and also a CD with all the JPEGs – this takes you right back into the digital process.
Prints made from film have a ‘look’ that digital can’t seem to replicate.
It’s exciting: there is no instant gratification and the anticipation of waiting to see your a feeling like no other for the photographer.
Everyone will love you! Walk down the street with a huge DSLR round your neck and you’ll be public enemy number one. But when people see a film camera they’ll smile and start to reminisce. Old cameras make people happy.
Do give it a try. Get yourself an old camera and commit to using it exclusively for a month. Be highly disciplined and don’t be tempted to reach for anything digital until the month is over. You will almost certainly relish the experience, producing stylish images and growing as a photographer.
The weather forecast is good, so if you’re in London this weekend and fancy a street photography workshop, I have a few spaces available. These are the last two workshops of the year, with the 2019 workshop programme starting in January.
This part of London offers some terrific street photography opportunities, with some of the most colourful and characterful people, street markets, street art and buildings you’ll see anywhere. After a comprehensive tuition and discussion session, we will take to the streets of Barbican, Shoreditch and and Brick Lane areas, looking for new angles, creative approaches and, as ever, some witty interpretations of life on the streets.
London takes on a frenetic pace during the weeks leading up to Christmas, with the street alive with shoppers and party-goers. This is a ‘project-based’ workshop where we will aim to produce a cohesive set of images which tell the story of ‘Christmas in London’.