If ‘street photography’ is a form, then it is difficult to define quite what this form is: its borders with other genres, such as social documentary, photojournalism, road-trip photography and cityscape are indistinct. Streets or their parts (such as pavements and the like), are common features, but by no means essential. That street photography should contain people is a normal requirement, although sometimes scant signs of human presence will suffice. That the image should not be staged and its people should not be posing is an oft imposed condition, but latitude is often granted. That the image should be untouched apart from minimal cropping and dodging/burning is often a stipulation, but some of the greatest street photographs have had more than a little ‘manipulation’.
Perhaps, as with many things, it would be better to live comfortably with imprecision than to suffocate ourselves needlessly under a blanket of precise definition. Pinning a definition down, as if a beautiful butterfly in a display case, goes against the spirit of the endeavour that is street photography, for surely ‘street’ is as much about a photographer’s attitude and approach as an image’s content and how could an attitude be ‘pinned down’?
In “My Street” I will be exploring what I consider to be ‘the aesthetics’ and the ‘form’ of the kind of street photography that inspires me, particularly street photography using film. ‘My Street’ starts from the premise that street photography has its own identity – in short, its own ‘form of life’, to borrow a phrase from Wittgenstein. But this form of life is in danger of being submerged by the millions of photographs shared on social media that go under the name of “street photography”, but are just snaps of people in streets without any obvious underlying aesthetic purpose.
I am currently researching how the ideas of Kant, Merleau-Ponty and Bergson can help us to conceptualise what it is to have an aesthetic experience.
I hope you find something of interest in these pages.
My thoughts about film street photography is captured in the following article published at emulsive.org