The following views are mine personally and do not necessarily represent the views of the StreetHunters team.
How do I define street photography? At the root, it’s a “style” of photography. Genres and styles. Seems to me that all forms of art are categorized by genres and styles. I don’t like to be categorized, and I believe most creative folk do not, either. But, I can understand why it’s a necessary evil. If any style of photography pushes the confines of categorization, street photography surely does!
Categories are good for the marketers, from the top all the way down to the retailer, promoter, etc. They know where to place the “product”. They know how to promote it. How to sell it. And it’s good for the booking agent at the club or the gallery owner. To get similar genres and styles together. To appeal to a certain crowd. To know what section of the book our music store to go to. It’s a degree of homogenization that effectively helps to sell or bring our notice to something.
However, this homogenization also benefits us as consumers. When we seek something, we know how to search for it by it’s categorization. We know what term to search for online. We know what style or type of art, book or music we’re looking for. Whatever style we’re looking for, it can easily be found with a few keywords. I’m not going to a country music festival if I’m in the mood for reggae. I’m not going to search out fine art portrait photos if I’m looking for street photography.
But street photography is a style, a form, that’s hard to contain within a simple definition. If you’re reading this, you probably have your own definition of what street photography is. And, you may have your own boundaries set up for that definition. Some photos may have elements or effects that push it outside that boundary and it’s no longer considered street photography to you. But that… the fact that street photography is defined by us, on a personal level, is what makes it amazing.
For me, the definition of street photography is in a constant state of flux. It changes, mutates, evolves. But, I can tell you what the core of the definition is: a candid or spontaneous shot in a public space. That’s general, for sure. But, for me, that’s the root.
But what about posed street portraits? Yes, they fall within my boundaries. There’s spontaneity in that posed shot! What about the architecture shot? It can be, but here’s where it gets tricky.
For me, a photograph also has to have a certain “feel” in order to make a street photograph. This, is almost impossible to define and also what makes street photography such a broad and wonderful genre. I cannot put it into words. There’s a “look” to a street photograph that differentiates it from any other style of photography. Is it the contrast? Yes, but that’s only one element. Is it monochrome? No, because there’s absolutely awesome color street photography. Honestly, I cannot describe it. But we all see it and feel it. We all have our own palate for the look, our own taste for it. This taste factors into our own personal definition of street photography.
As far as boundaries go, I am not by any means a purist. I appreciate and respect the parameters that are set by the good folk that consider themselves such. No color splash, HDR, animals, etc. But, i don’t think that having one of those elements eliminates a photograph from being considered “street”. I’m not a huge fan of over the top effects, but i don’t feel I’m one to judge.
So a concrete definition for street photography? I don’t have one. I have a bit I work from and it spreads out from there. Is this a cop out? I don’t really think so. To attempt to clearly define street photography is a fool’s errand. I cannot do it, and I would probably want to argue with anyone who thinks they could. Street Photography is not conventional and neither should be its definition.