Authors Posts by Andrew Sweigart

Andrew Sweigart

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Andrew Sweigart has pursued creative endeavors as a writer and a musician, but street photography has captured his soul. He enjoys finding the beauty in the routines and mundane of everyday life. If you would like to see his work you can also visit his Street Hunters Profile. He is co-founder of Street Hunters.

Introduction

Let this quote sink in for a minute:

“I always thought of photography as a naughty thing to do — that was one of my favorite things about it, and when I first did it, I felt very perverse.”

That quote is from Diane Arbus, and I think it nails what the thrill of street photography is all about squarely on the head. Shooting street is a rush, and if we’re being honest with ourselves, a naughty one at that. Pushing creepy, voyeuristic analogies aside, the nature of street photography could be considered slightly criminal. We are stealing from our subjects when we work candidly. We’re stealing moments, expressions, emotions, positions and movements. But, it is not with malicious intent. At least for me it isn’t. I “steal” to celebrate or to document.

However, detractors can legitimately argue against that defense. The anti-street folks can claim it’s an invasion of privacy, but I know the real deal and that’s what counts. I can even say, with a slightly straight face, that a street photographer can be viewed as a type of Robin Hood, stealing from the world that is rich in images and presenting them to the poor, unfortunate eyes that don’t see what we do. Lame excuse to justify my need to satisfy my street addiction? Perhaps. But, it’s true. Or maybe I’ve just told myself that enough that I believe it’s true! Never trust a junkie.

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Introduction

Art is not immune to change. Artists, and the tools that they use, reap the benefits of advances made in technology. Creators, if they allow themselves, can experiment, push mediums or even break new ground with greater ease if they choose to embrace change. Doors and eyes can be opened for the first time, or just opened wider. Photography is a shining example of this. To think how far photography has come in the past two decades is absolutely mind-blowing. Technological growth has affected everything we know, and to degrees that we often shrug off advancements as common, or expected. As photographers in the now, we take change in stride. We embrace the legacy of the greats whose work has inspired us and compelled us to create, but we use the evolving technology to get us to our creative endpoint. Street Photography is not approaching a new age, it’s in the heart of it. The genre is being directly affected by the science we often take for granted. It’s changing the game. Some say for the worse, but I believe for the better. Allow me to present some reasons why we are in a New Age of street photography.

Introduction

Although it’s been documented that Garry Winogrand was not a fan of the label “street photographer”, there is absolutely no doubt he was a master. His body of work speaks to this and will stand as a testament to it for all time. Winogrand considered himself simply a “photographer”. He didn’t attach any other adjective to the noun. But, and probably much to his dismay, we have to consider him one of the greatest street photographers of all time. And it can also be argued that he is the greatest ever. But photography or street photography is not a competition. It’s not about how many fantastic photos you produce, or how many exhibitions you have our how many books you publish. Photography, at it’s core is personal. It feeds a hunger to create. To document. To share. However, that being said, Winogrand not only satisfied his creative drive, but he did it in great volume and with great artistic vision and skill. The man was prolific and incredibly talented.

Introduction

For this this third installment of Under The Influence, I’m taking a hack at one of the most polarizing active photographers today… Martin Parr.

Parr is best described as a documentary photographer. His big splash was made in 1986 with the publication of The Last Resort, a project spotlighting British middle class vacationers at the New Brighton seaside resort. The Last Resort had a massive impact in the photography world, particularly the documentary genre, which I consider street photography to be an offspring of. The book made waves because of it’s subject matter. Opinions divided on whether it celebrated or ridiculed the common man. People were not depicted in the most flattering light. The backgrounds were not always flattering either, with rubbish about. But Parr’s work also made waves with his decision to use colour film for the project.

Parr had worked in black and white previously,having a few books published, but The Last Resort marked his transition into colour, as he drew inspiration from greats like Joel Meyerowitz, William Eggleston and Stephen Shore. And what colour it was. Loud, garish, lurid all are terms that could be used to describe the colour used in his images. With his use of flash, coupled with cheap film, the colours were pushed to over-the-top levels of saturation. To me, the shots were made even more exploitive because of this.

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Introduction

Let’s have a little fun, shall we? With this post, I’d like to share with you my 7 personal good habits I practice when shooting on the street. These aren’t carved in stone, by any means and they’re definitely subject to change. But, I’ve found these to be the most popular ones I employ and usually the most helpful. So, let’s dive in…

1. Be Prepared

This is simple, but necessary. By being prepared, I mean be ready for any situation that might arise when out on a street hunt. First, I ALWAYS make sure I have an extra battery and that it’s fully charged like the one in the camera. The NEX-6 I use isn’t horrible as far as battery life, but when I’m out, it’s always on. Plus, I have the LCD cranked to its brightest for when I’m shooting from the hip, which I’ve been forced to do a lot of lately. That is a real juice-sucker! I’ve even purchased another battery just to be safe.

Also, you must be ready for the elements. Proper attire and an umbrella are things to have handy.

A different focal length lens is another thing to consider. Different shots may demand another lens. I like to stick to one focal length when hunting, but there’s times where I’ve regretted not having another lens with me. Specifically, a wider-angled one. I usually shoot with the 35 or the 50mm lenses, but I keep the svelte 16-50 powerzoom tucked in my little bag just in case.

Under the Influence of Henri Cartier Bresson

Introduction

For the second installment of Under The Influence, I reluctantly choose Henri Cartier-Bresson as my subject. Why reluctantly? Simply put, his influence is far too massive. To single out one thing, one influence (which is the objective) seems nearly impossible.

As photographers and admirers of street photography, we all know his name and the monumental impact of his work. Calling Henri Cartier-Bresson a father of street photography is not a stretch. His images are simply iconic. As a co-founder of Magnum photos, his contribution to the world of photography expanded even more. To read his written work has helped scores to open their “mind’s eye” wide. I simplify his many achievements and contributions only because they’ve been expounded upon thousands, maybe millions of times before. Really, it’s quite safe to say his legacy will never be diminished. He is part of the foundation on which all street photographers tread upon. And, his name will always be referenced as one if the masters of the craft.

Under the Influence of Vivian Maier

Introduction

As photographers, we’ve all been influenced by another photographer’s work. Their images stoked our creative fire. They spoke to us, awakening the very spirit that drives us to do what we do. Somewhere deep within us all, that spirit was buried until our eyes found their treasures. Then we found ourselves compelled. Compelled to pick up a camera for the first time. Compelled to try street photography. Compelled to emulate them. And then, and perhaps most importantly, compelled to create our own style. These titans of their craft gave us the greatest gift an artist can give… inspiration. This series is an homage to these great photographers. Some passed and some who still walk among us. With each artist, I’ll focus on one aspect of their work that has had a deep impact on me. For the first installment, I present to you… Vivian Maier.

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Andrew Sweigart - Street Hunter

Introduction

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” A very true statement. Imagine, sometime copying your style of photography! How great would that be? You’re a hero, an idol, a GOD behind the lens! But there’s something else even more powerful than being imitated. That’s the power to INSPIRE. Lighting someone’s fire to create, that’s where it’s at. That’s the best flattery of them all! But let me explain why I feel it’s important to us, as photographers, to not copy or imitate someone’s style, but to be our own animal. Our own creature that evolves constantly and maybe inspires someone else to create their own art.

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Snowy street

Introduction

Right now, some of us in the Northern Hemisphere are in winter’s icy grip. I know here in central Pennsylvania, USA, it’s the coldest winter in twenty years! That’s far, far longer than I’ve been shooting, for sure. As tempting as it is to stay inside, safe and warm, street photography in wintery conditions can be very rewarding and yield fantastic images. It’s not without risk, though. If you’re hardy enough and prepared, it can give you great rewards.

The Beauty Of Winter

I love the look of snow blanketing our cityscapes. It adds a new perspective to the same scenes we see 3/4 of the year. It changes it. Not drastically so, but enough to make you look at it differently. I see it as a fresh start… both the end and beginning of a year. It quiets the city some and can slow it down. That being said, it also changes how people move about and how they act.

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Big Pig

Introduction

Our busy lives eat up much of our precious time. Our jobs, families, school, homes and so on are hungry for our precious minutes. Carving out chunks of time for our passion, Street Photography, is necessary. For me, and I’m sure this holds true for almost every one of you, this has to be done. It gives us balance in our lives. It rejuvenates us, just like any other hobby or recreational activity would. For some, it’s what keeps us from becoming drones. From being mindless zombies that are slaves to the grind. I can definitely testify to that.

If you’re like me, the only available time to get lost in shooting is on the weekends. That’s especially true during this time of year here in the Northeast United States Of America. The days are terribly short and the nights tend to be too cold. That being said, by the time a weekend is over, I’m already planning for the next weekend. I start thinking of a plan of attack before Monday even hits. A Street Hunt (a.k.a. Street Photowalk), for me, is rarely just a grab and go venture. I usually know in advance when I’ll be able to steal a few hours to go shoot and I can plan accordingly. So, let me share how I prepare for a Street Hunt.