In “The Street Photographer’s Manual,” author David Gibson shares his thoughts about finding street photography subjects.
What word best describes aspects of street photography that might be at the edge or don’t quite fit? Perhaps fiction, although that suggests something made up, which is unpalatable for many street photographers. It is a great area. However, there is a place away from the center of street photography that does need mapping. Not everyone will go there, but it is important to acknowledge that other places, with possibly different cultures exist.
You might call one region ‘distortion,’ anything that moves away from what the eye sees naturally.
Extreme wide-angle and long lenses come within this area, although at least these lenses are still looking at reality; they are not setting up or rearranging reality.
Some years ago, I was wandering the streets of London with fellow photographer, Matt Stuart, when we saw a sign by some road that read ‘Extreme Danger.’ In a light-hearted moment, I asked Matt to stand on his head behind the sign so that only his legs were showing. It’s a funny photograph but I hardly ever show it because it was set up. I am acutely aware of this. I rarely show it, and like a pack of cigarettes it requires a health warning writ large – ‘this photograph ws set up’ – because to present it as a real moment would be deceitful; it would break trust both personally and in the wider community of street photography. This might sound dramatic but there are definite codes of conduct and a sense of responsibility within street photography. It could best be described as ‘zero tolerance.’
A well-known photographer allegedly once said that looking for his type of photographs ‘is like looking for a needle in a haystack, but sometimes it helps to throw another needle in the haystack.’ This is a little ambiguous. Every street photographer at some point has probably been ‘tempted’ when it comes to still life on the street. How many street photographers can honestly say that they have never kicked away a small distracting element from their intended framing?
Excerpted from THE STREET PHOTOGRAPHER’S MANUAL by David Gibson, published by Thames & Hudson. Copyright © 2014 Quintet Publishing Limited. Reprinted by permission of Thames & Hudson Inc, www.ThamesAndHudsonUSA.com