Manifesto is a heavy word. When you think about the context in which the word manifesto is often used, you think of a powerful political statement..You think of world leaders or want-to-be leaders. Of activists and policymakers. The Oxford dictionary defines manifesto as, “a public declaration of policy and aims, especially one issued before an election by a political party or candidate.”
The New Street Photographer’s Manifesto
Tanya Nagar’s “The New Street Photographer’s Manifesto” (Pixiq, 2012) is not so much a manifesto,, but more an excellent jumping off point for an aspiring street hunter. Well written and concise, at 176 pages, it’s a primer that I, with a year’s experience, still found to be an enjoyable, yet quick, read that serves up some bonus eye candy as well.
Nagar starts by giving a brief history of street photography and addressing the monumental obstacle that any fledgling street photographer must overcome: fear. Tackling this at the start of the book is a move to be applauded. Fear really is the “800 pound gorilla” in the room. From my own personal experience, I can testify to that.
From there, Nagar explains in the next two chapters, “Where And What To Shoot” and how to “Seize The Moment”. It’s a logical progression and one subject flows smoothly into the next. In the “Seize The Moment” chapter, Nagar dips into the technical side, touching on aperture, shutter speed, depth of field, and shooting at night. All along the way the author gives tips, tricks and even exercises fit the reader to use and experiment with.
Two particularly useful gems are found at the end of the third chapter. One is where Nagar writes about cultural sensitivities, using her experiences in London and Mumbai, India as reference points. The other is Nagar laying out myths and truths regarding street photography and the law in the UK and the USA.
Tanya Nagar’s images are plentiful throughout the book. Shot with various cameras and lenses, at various focal lengths, she uses the pictures to illustrate the written content accurately. Shot mostly in London and Mumbai, the majority of the images are quite lovely. Nagar even uses some of her “misses” to illustrate overexposure and using too slow a shutter speed when shooting at night.
To round out what I considered to be the “instructional”n portion of the book, Nagar gifts the reader examples of the different kinds of cameras, formats and lenses used in street photography. She even talks about using expired film. Then the focus briefly shifts to digital processing. Most refreshing is Nagar stressing “getting it right” the first time within the camera and not having to rely on Photoshop to make the image stand out. “The photo and subject should speak for themselves,” the author writes. Excellent point.
If the first five chapters are the meat and potatoes, then the sixth and final chapter is surely the dessert. It’s a showcase of eleven street photographers that I knew little or nothing about, but have some utterly fantastic images. The showcases not only feature a small gallery of each individual’s shots but gives full-page feature to a choice shot from each asking with the photographer’s explanation on how the shot was made. This, in my opinion, is a splendid way to finish out the book. The showcase also gives the reader a short bio on the photographer and some of their choices in equipment.
In all, The New Street Photographer’s Manifesto is a well put-together jumping off point for someone thinking about giving street photography a try. The book is easy to read and doesn’t bog the reader down with an excess of technical minutiae. For the experienced street photographer, the quirky-sized book may not be a necessary read. However, the showcase feature at the end does deserve attention and I found myself wanting to investigate the featured photographers further.
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