In my efforts to learn photography, specifically street photography at the moment, I decided I’d learn a bit more about other street photographers.
So who am I looking at? My first choice is Henri Cartier-Bresson, (more) who is part of Magnum Photos. I came across his work while looking for some tips on street photography, I’d had conversations about what counted as street photography, and a disagreement or two on the subject and was trying to find a good definition. Before we really look at his work, let’s look at those definitions too.
The definition I was given was the street photography was candid, and not staged. One person included a screen shot of the Wikipedia definition, however they didn’t include the whole piece, so here is the Wikipedia definition:
“Street photography, also sometimes called candid photography, is photography conducted for art or enquiry that features unmediated chance encounters and random incidents within public places. Although there is a difference between street and candid photography, it is usually subtle with most street photography being candid in nature and some candid photography being classifiable as street photography. Street photography does not necessitate the presence of a street or even the urban environment. Though people usually feature directly, street photography might be absent of people and can be of an object or environment where the image projects a decidedly human character in facsimile or aesthetic. ”
So according to Wiki, it can involve a street but doesn’t need to and it can involve people, but doesn’t need to.
According to the Britannica website, it’s about capturing every day life, it doesn’t state it must involve people, but it is implied.
“Street photography, a genre of photography that records everyday life in a public place. The very publicness of the setting enables the photographer to take candid pictures of strangers, often without their knowledge. Street photographers do not necessarily have a social purpose in mind, but they prefer to isolate and capture moments which might otherwise go unnoticed.“
James Maher (Photographer) put it best for me, it’s about people and humanity, it doesn’t have to involve a person and it’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it. That is one definition I can get on board with, the results from the Lens Culture 2020 competition show just how varied a genre it can be, with images of varying styles as well as subjects. It’s an inspiring range and if you’re looking for something a touch different, these photos will get your brain working away.
So anyway, why Henri Cartier-Bresson? I love the traditional approach of using monochrome for street photography, it’s not the only option but I love the dramatic sense you can get from it, and with Henri’s work I find the strong contrast used really pulls on that, creating a more dramatic image. His work draws the eye, as he intended, leaving you asking questions and wondering about the circumstances that brought these images about. For example, the image “Martine’s Legs” I can’t help but wonder what she’s reading as she tangles her legs around each other,
Although some say street photography isn’t staged, it is hard to see how some of these didn’t have a hand in creating them. That said I have images of my own that are to a degree staged, however when it comes to viewing the natural behaviours of humans, sometimes staging is a great way to get their attention and really record those responses. Perhaps it is the fact that these are days long past that draw the eye, but I believe that Henri captured things, place and people that more often than not would go unnoticed in the every day world. He captured them in such a ways as to grab and keep your attention. I wholeheartedly recommend you click on the above image and have a closer look for yourself.