25 September 2011

Why I love Street Photography

You love me, ehh! 

"There is creative fraction of second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that  life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. Thats the moment the photographer is creative. Oops.. the moment. Once you miss it, its gone forever."  Henri Cartier Bresson 

I have fallen in love with street photography. Experienced photographers usually advise that one must find a preferred genre and develop a style to be a successful photographer. Obviously true, its hard to be able to do well everything for everyone - as they say in business. So yes, after dabbling in different genres of photography - viz landscapes, travel, portraits, wildlife etc etc, I have figured out street photography is probably what excites me most. There are reasons why it has caught my fancy. Even though, it may seem no big deal to shoot scenes in the street. "What is so enticing about shooting the dirty, crumbling decaying streets of Bombay" - a friend asked. So I thought, I will share what is it that excites me about the street photography and its not surprising that each of these are also challenges that do not seem to ebb.

The Decisive Moment : Indeed it is about that moment when the frame tells a story. If you are a few seconds late, its gone. Its the interplay between elements in the frame, actually happening in reality or just a vision of the photographer. Its not easy to spot them, and that is why its so challenging. One could walk by such moments and not notice them. It requires training and knack to observe. To my mind, this is the single biggest difference between a mediocre and good street photographer.
Hey Ho - raise your hands... well looks like a new way to greet!
Uncontrolled Environment:  If studio photography is one extreme, street is the other. Street Photography is about limited control. Once you miss a shot, you don't go back to people and ask them to pose again. Sometimes when the subject is right, the light is poor or you never managed to reach the right place to frame the shot. These are reasons, why shooting in the street feels a bit like sitting for an exam not knowing what will come in the exam paper. You make do with what you can.
Street Photography - Well there are professional hazards that need to be managed
Its Intimate: Street is about people, and it is always a bit unnerving to get close to a stranger. But as Robert Kapa said  "If your shots are not good, you are not close enough". Usually people are either friendly or indifferent. Well not always. Like this one time (see above), I got a nasty glare. Thankfully it did not go further. Getting close enough, will remain a challenge, almost always accompanied by a rush of blood when you know you have a unique frame in sight.

Friendly Folks - happy to find a photographer amidst them
Its not about the Camera dude: You do not need an expensive DSLR to do street. On the contrary the smaller the camera the easier it is. Some of the best street photography shots I have seen have been made by point and shoot. It really doesn't matter. Street photography is a great equalizer, in the end, its what you see, frame and shoot, not about what gear you can afford and use. And I love this bit about it.

Look Ma, who has come for Ganpati Visarjan
Its like Bollywood Masala Film: Street Photographers document the story of humanity, it is very much like our typical bollywood drama - you will find sorrow, hope, love, humor. And thats why it is so endearing.

Handheld Panning shot - No Mobile When Driving
It does not mean that street photographers do not need technical skills. On the contrary, changing light conditions and moving subjects require the photographer to be technically strong. I personally do not like photographs with OOO (Out of Focus) subjects. Some of these do get passed off in name of art.

Street photography may not be visually most pleasing and colorful, but these are the shots that have soul in them, a bit of the photographer as well. Your shot will never be same as mine, even if we stand together on same street and shoot same subject.

And this from Elliot Erwitt sums up nicely,
“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”


Luke Ekblad said...

Great photography!  

Georgie Mathew said...

Hi Mayank!

Thoughtful post!Erwitt's put it sweetly and I'm a great fan of his work..
Love the 1st image "Ho Ho raise your hands"-really a decisive moment!

But your panning image hasn't come out as sharp. Is it the poor resolution or the image itself?

"its like a B-wood masala film" LOL!!


Zephyr said...

Loved the life encapsulated in the shots but liked the commentary more. That's the kind comment you get when a non-photographer comments on a photo blog :)

Chintan said...

This is so amazing. The devil one is icing on the cake. I clicked a drunk man yesterday...he alnost killed me for that :-( so it can be tricky in this part of the world.


mayankpandey said...

Thanks Z. Non photographers tend to see the photographs for what they are ! always pleasure to read your feedback.

mayankpandey said...

Ofcourse you are right. Its not a sharp focus shot. Just goes onto show, street photographers cannot get away with blurred, our of focus shots - which they sometime do. Thanks.

mayankpandey said...

Thanks Luke. Good to hear from you and good luck with your photography on streets.

mayankpandey said...

Chitan my dear friend, I hope it was not a bad experience. Photographer do live with this risk.. we need to develop our own survival instincts. 

Kaushal said...

Wow Mayank really love the 1st shot!  Like the second one too. Avoid the vignetting - your images are good in their raw natural form.  Were these shot with the 35mm? 

mayankpandey said...

Thanks Kaushal. No my faithful 1855. I will use 35 mm in Sydney now. :-) 
You think i should cut the vignetting out.. well, i will. 

Indranil said...

well written... and some outstanding pictures as well.... The streets are your calling, it seems....

mayankpandey said...

Thanks dada - streets my playground i guess.

thoma said...

it's such a genuine post you've here...kudos! loved the "intimate" reason and such oomphy quotes. enjoyed all the photos and the most i enjoyed, the ones in sequence from hey ho to friendly faces. nasty glare!!! you can be sure of a nastier glare from me lol. you people may hold your cam really tight when taking strangers, right??

mayankpandey said...

Thoma, thanks for that feedback. Oh yes, holding the cam tight and keeping the feet nimble are essential survival traits of any street photographer. And all the more relevant, when attempting to shoot pretty faces. We (I) watch carefully before moving for the kill.. err the click. On serious note, glad you liked the post. It was really an attempt to answer all those who tend to belittle the art of street photography.

joshi daniel said...

lovely varieties and some have very cool expression!

mayankpandey said...

Daniel sir, thanks. Glad to hear you like.

Nimish said...

really love the first shot:) and you have expressed the beauty of street photography  quite well. There is so much out on the streets and the whole challenging bit in getting close to people is what is even more enticing about this genre. The good part is, it makes you crazy observant of your surroundings:)

mayankpandey said...

Thanks Nimish. I completely echo your views. No wonder, i am slowing getting more and more involved in street genre. Meanwhile, have a look at other post on street http://mayank-p.blogspot.com/2011/09/mumbai-street-photography-uniquely.html#more and
let me know your favs.