The Types of Street Photography
Street Photography is beautiful. Street Photography is thrilling. Street Photography is ugly. Street Photography is funny. Street Photography is rude. Street Photography has many silhouettes and shapes. Street Photography is about faces…
According to how we understand Street Photography, it is many things. Depending on the style of the Photographer, a Street Photo can be Artistic, or Rude, or Intrusive or all those together. A Street Photo can be Amazing, Boring, Full of people or devoid of people. So, you see, there are many styles of Street Photos out there. Today we are going to present the Types of Street Photography. We will examine what defines each Type and through this examination we will better understand the scope that Street Photography covers.
Types of Street Photography
Unobtrusive or Standard
This Type of Street Photography refers to the photos that have been shot without Photographers intruding into the personal space of the subjects, on the contrary they have been either unnoticed or welcomed using great Social skills. These photos have an observatory style, a documentary style, they show how life unfolds itself in front of the camera of the Street Photographer. Because most times the Photographer isn’t noticed, this leads to beautiful candid shots or photos with a more Photojournalistic style that are worth being preserved for historical reasons. There is a balance between the people in the photo, the environment and the story that can be seen behind it. This is the Type of Street Photography that Henri Cartier Bresson or Robert Doisneau used to practice. A recording of life’s events, stories, people, feelings, simply beautiful.
Intrusive or Gutsy
As the words above imply, this Type of Street Photography is more aggressive and totally “in your face”. Street Photographers that practice this Type of Street Photography have guts, they are brave or just crazy. You must have seen photos of Bruce Gilden! He shoots people in their faces using a flash. He just jumps up, or turns around where he stands and captures the stricken expressions of people walking in the streets. The results of this Type of Street Photography are amazing and if you think of how brave you need to be to do this, you can understand the value of these images. Of course Intrusive Street Photography isn’t so much about documenting life’s events such as Standard Street Photography is, but it serves a purpose and the results are most often stunning.
This is the Type of Street Photography where everything is allowed. There are no ethical boundaries and usually composition, light and geometry are not so important. What is important in Raw Street Photography is to shoot anything as it is, where it is, without any regard of making the subject(s) feel bad about being photographed. Homeless that are in shambles, cripples, desperate people that are in real pain, beggars, abused, drug addicts, drunks and even the dead, killed people, but not in the sense of Photojournalism. These photos are not shot for historical reasons, they are shot as eye openers, as “reality checks”. Some Raw Street Photographers want to give a message to all those people that don’t live in these situations or those parts of the world. Some want to remind themselves that life isn’t as it seems. This Type of Street Photography is reality in its hardest and the Photographer making these types of photos must be able to handle the heat of unhappy people that have nothing to lose.
Street Photography can also produce images that are so pleasing to the eye, they make the viewer feel like they are staring into a marvellous painting. Photographs that have an amazing combination of light and shadows, that tell a story, that make the viewer feel something, that actually have an impact in the same sense that a masterful painting does, are Fine Art Street Photos. The goal of this Type of Street Photography is to produce amazing, beautiful, artful shots that can be hung on a wall and enjoyed by people. Fine Art Street Photos have to be carefully thought of, even planned (e.g. the Street Photographer must be in a specific place during the time of day when the light is perfect), they have to stir feelings in the Photographer so he/she can create something that will be (hopefully) conveyed to the viewers in a way that will touch their feelings too.
This type of Street Photography has been around for a long time, but has flourished ever since modern architecture evolved in the large Metropolis and later on in other Cities around the world especially after the 60’s. Geometric is the Type of Street Photography that focuses mainly on Geometric shapes, lines, sharp shadows created by structures, parallels, stairs, doors and anything Architectural. Street Photographers that practice Geometric Street Photography will find the perfect building, the best possible spot around a modern structure that has the most amazing line of light and just wait for a person to walk into the scene, just to give the photograph a human element. Humans aren’t the main characters in this Type of Street Photography, they are the cherry on the top of the cake. The main focus and the main elements in this Type of Street Photography is Architecture and Interior Design, light and shadows. Henri Cartier Bresson was obsessed with Geometric Street Photography and was perfect at it.
Smart or Intelligent
Have you ever noticed a photograph that has been so smart it made you wonder how on earth the photographer could have managed to actually capture it? Have you ever seen a photo that just blew your mind away because of how witty it was? This Type of Street Photography is one of the hardest. The Street Photographer trying to shoot photos like this must be really fast, must know his/her camera amazingly well, must be prepared constantly and must have a camera strapped around his/her neck 24/7/365. These types of photos happen around us all day, but only the fast eye can see them before they happen. One of the Masters of this type of Photography was Garry Winogrand. He was a prolific photographer that managed to capture the most amazing moments that existed for the smallest amounts of time and were invisible to normal people. The Smart Street Photographer, never stops looking, never stops shooting. He/she is in search of the Decisive moment always.
This Type of Street Photography has a self explanatory name. It has to do with shooting portraits of people in an uncontrolled environment. That environment could be the street, a park, inside a restaurant, in a home, on a balcony, on a ship, on a train, anywhere. As long as the portrait isn’t shot in a studio with a controlled environment, it is a Street Portrait. Street Portraits can be posed or candid. You can read more about that though in the post “Posed Street Portraits vs Candid Street Portraits – The differences and how to shoot them”. Portrait Street Photography aims to capture peoples faces and the different unique looks each face has to offer. There isn’t a single identical face, even twins have slight differences, so capturing faces in the street can be very interesting for any Street Hunter.
Have you taken the time to look at your photos and see what Type of Street Photography you shoot mostly? You might be surprised to see that you take more Street Photos of a certain type. By going through your photos and trying to categorise them in this way will help you understand more about what kind of Street Photographer you are. We all have our styles and those styles are defined by the Types of photos we shoot and our personal understanding of what Street Photography is.
Great blog! ! Keep it up 🙂
Really good summary and very interesting. Thanks!
Hello Tony and thanks for your comment! Glad you like the post.
Stay Sharp & Keep Shooting!
I think I try for a combination of Unobtrusive and Fine Art (like Trent Parke or Jesse Marlow), but always looking for those Smart shots (like Matt Stuart).
Yes, I find myself switching between styles many times Sharon. I think it is all part of being creative and it helps to keep motivated and inspired 🙂