Street Photography -the rules..?

So as my interest in street photography has grown and and my skills and confidence has increased, so has my desire to try new ideas and if possible, to be a little more ‘precise’ in executing my image-making.  Added to this has been a wish to make sure that my images are ‘honest’, that I keep post-editing to a necessary limit of what is ‘needed’ to make an image presentable without altering the basic essence of the picture I saw through the view-finder or on the back screen at the point I pushed the shutter button…

So what are the ‘rules’ of street photography?  Well that’s an interesting question to me.  Quite recently I took part in a photo-walk in the fair city of Liverpool.  It was an enjoyable day, lovely company and being early September, sunny conditions.  The photographer leading the event was a well-known and respected man (and rightly so, his work is excellent) who offered lots of good advice to the near 100-fellow walkers.   However at one point I did find myself listening to him offering his thoughts about what was and was-not ‘street photography’ and I heard myself thinking “oh really?!”   Essentially, as I heard and understood it, it would appear that ‘real’ street photography must be completely honest, no tinkering, no cropping, no nothing.  And I thought to myself “I don’t agree”  Now I do ‘suffer’ with what is now called ‘oppositional defiance disorder’ and will tend to disagree with most things I am ‘told’!   Still, the more I thought about this advice the more I thought “well Mr, while I love your work and must respect the work you produce, yet I see within it plenty of evidence of post-production – black and white images all nice and ‘silvery’!”.  That being the case, how much notice should I/we take of advice like this?

You see, since the capturing of the very first image sometime in the late 1820’s I think, photography in all it’s many forms, has relied on degrees of manipulation both pre and post capture.  Indeed it was/is the very essence of the ‘dark-room’ to take images stored chemically on glass plates and later on rolls of film, and by various methods of alchemy, produce images on paper for the world to see and wonder at.  I do not believe in this, our digital age, that things are any different at all, apart from the methods of transferring captured image to audience.

Now let me be clear where I stand.  In one sense I agree that street work, to capture the essence of the ‘moment’ ought to be ‘honest’, in the sense that what is ‘in the scene’ remains ‘in the scene’, so no removing of unwanted distractions, litter, street furniture or, heaven forbid, other people!  However I do think cropping – to a degree – is ok – the degree being that cropping an image to make it appear you were ‘close to’ when in fact you were ‘way off’ is cheating… a little!  Many street photographers shoot in monochrome – as does my friend in Liverpool. I usually shoot colour and convert to B&W post capture, just my preferred way of doing things.  However, given the advice that the image ought to be completely honest…. well precisely how many monochrome scenes do we witness with our own eyes…?  Fortunately, I never do…

Anyway my image here was captured, and remains, in colour.  A restaurant waiter takes a break in Manchester’s Chinatown area one Saturday afternoon.  I was stood opposite him, saw him and captured him.  Simple, colourful, honest and real street photography.


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