Irking, Sniping, And Sneaking

A guide to street photography. All you ever wanted to know about one of the traditional ways of wasting your time and trying the patience of others.

Street photography has existed from the very start, though the first image seems to have been of a rooftop. Possibly Niepce wanted to get out and shoot the passers-by but few of them were willing to pose for 8 hours. One of the first shots that was made on a street does show a leg and a foot of one man who paused long enough for a shoe shine while all the rest of the world swirled about him. I doubt he ever knew that he was the first.

But enough of old French posers. Today I deal with new ones – the people who read about street photography and then go out and try their hand and lens at it. I promised a guide and here it is:

a. If you want to take pictures of people you don’t know for no purpose, street photography is one of the best ways of doing it. Add the factors that you will not be paid for it, and no-one will want to look at your images, and the thing looks even more attractive, eh?

b. If you have thought about being a nuisance or looking like a fool, this is the activity for you. You can simultaneously stand out from the crowd while blending in perfectly. You-one will see your face behind $ 4000 worth of expensive plastic and glass. They will see your ass stuck out in traffic.

c. In space no-one can hear you scream. In the midst of a boiler factory, deaf people will hear the sound of a Leica shutter. You will be heard despite your best efforts.

d. The best street shots are in the worst light, so make sure that you have an eye-wateringly expensive lens with a fast aperture on it. Focus in such a way that either the background or the foreground is sharp and the desired subject is blurred. Do this several times and it becomes art – do it all the damned time and it becomes your art.

e. No-one likes to be beaten up and have their equipment trashed by drunks or crazy people. Choose your repair shop with care.

f. Always make eye contact with militia men, pimps, and ice-addicts. Shout at them. This will give your images an edginess that others will have difficulty emulating.

g. Do you have a long lens? Do you have a anorak? Is there a government building or military installation nearby? Off you go, then, and don’t let them tell you that you can’t take pictures as much as you like. You’ve got rights.

h. There’s no better place to display your street photography than the internet. Or a gallery up four flights of stairs in a disused building. People will flock to see the pictures. In fact when they get up to the top of the stairs…the lift is never working…you will hear them say ” Flock this for a game of soldiers…”.

i. If you have nothing else to do in France, you can always stop and have a shoeshine in hopes of becoming immortal.


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