The Distance Project 16
The Distance Project 17

Street Life

Trick CyclistPerfecting the wheelieing technique. Oakgrove, Milton Keynes.

The Monday Photo

Saturday the 22nd of August was World Street Photography day, but what is street photography? It’s the photography of people in public places; mostly in the streets, but it could be on the beach, at the railway station, or in any public place.

The very best street photography shows us something of life. It isn’t an easy thing to do, and there are many failures. A fraction of a second late, this week’s photo would have been a failure. As it is, it works.

The boy’s tongue is curled in concentration. The straps of the bicycle helmet, the bicycle seat, his raised knee and his hand out for balance all tell the story, but if I had missed the tongue, the photo would have been useless.

This isn’t the first time I’ve taken a photo like this; there was a similar one on the blog last year. I can’t deny there’s a little bit of luck involved, but so far I’ve been lucky like this twice; I think there’s a little bit of skill involved.

I’ve just had a look at last year’s photo. The subject is going left, not right, but until this moment I hadn’t realised how similar the two photos are!

The idea of the day is that photographers go out and attempt some street photography. It’s not the taking of a good photo that’s the idea, but just to get out and try to get a good one, even if you don’t succeed. So out I went. I enjoyed it.

I used to do quite a lot of street photography, but I hadn’t really done very much in years, apart from a few for The Distance Project (see the previous post). I think I’ll do some more now.

The 22nd of August was chosen because it was the birthday of the most famous and accomplished of all street photographers, Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Cartier-Bresson was born in France in 1908. He took up photography seriously in 1931 and bought one of the new Leica cameras. Compact and discreet, it was just right for taking unposed photos on the streets.

The point of taking unposed pictures is not to catch somebody out, it is so that they act unselfconsciously. Only then can a true picture of them be made.

The photographer also has to take a nicely composed and well timed photo, or people will not bother to study it.

Older street photography is also a valuable historical record; think of all those street scenes you sometimes see from only 25 or 30 years ago. Only when you see them do you realise how much has changed in the street and the people.

Cartier Bresson passed away in 2004 aged 95, but street photography still goes on.


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