Most serious street photographers have probably attempted to map out the different styles and approaches that make up the genre of “street photography”, even if only to better understand which particular style they ‘fit into’. That is, if they have a style. And, no doubt, many give up in the attempt. A useful style classification is difficult to construct since any underlying principle is soon found to be limiting, as this early attempt by me shows:
One could look to subject matter: for example photographs that show facial expressions or eye contact between people, or wet pavements or photographs that depict architectural vistas.
Another principle might emphasise the technical approach: for example the use of flash or a very wide lens, or high grain.
Or, following classical Indian aesthetics, one might classify styles by the psychological effects that the photographs have on a viewer: for example comedy, fear, ambiguity or narrative.
Another approach would be to reflect on the communicative approach: abstract, surrealist, observational, dramatic and social commentary.
No doubt we could construct further classifying principles if we were to think harder.
But great street photographs combine several of these principles together in order to achieve an effect. The attempt to consciously pick a style in order to have the effect that you seek is an essential part of success. Although it will quickly run you into a cul-de-sac, classification is an essential thought process on the road to success. By asking the simple question: “what is the point of your own street photography?” one hopes to understand what effect you seek to achieve and thereby the best route (style) to delivering that.
If Street Photography is to go beyond the banal ‘do you get it?’ type of photograph, its proponents need to have strong, clear and bold ideas like those shown by the likes of Steve McClaren, Trente Park and Richard Bram. This entails a good deal of introspection. A good starting point is to ask yourself ‘What is the point of your street photography’? I seem to ask myself this every time I venture out with camera.