Jan 05 2011
It’s 2011, so the natural thing to do is launch a new photo blog! Announcing Street Scene: Montreal and Beyond, a new street photography blog from yours truly.
I know you’re all just boiling over with questions, so I have put together this handy FAQ to handle all your WTFs.
Street Scene FAQ
Q: Where are all the faces?
A: Street Scene grows out of an earlier experiment called From the Hip – Montreal, which was an exercise in street photography that purposely excluded people’s faces from the images. The reason for doing so is based in Aubry vs. Editions Vice Versa, a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that essentially makes it illegal to photograph people in Quebec without their permission. You can read a bit more about that on From the Hip‘s About page.
Street Scene re-uses many of the images from From the Hip – Montreal but removes the prohibition against visible faces. (I do this at my own risk.)
Q: Yeah, but where are all the faces?
A: Even though Street Scene is free of the “no faces” rule, that doesn’t mean it will be all about faces. Typically, the subject of street photography is people, and the context is their urban environment. Street Scene flips that. The subject of Street Scene is the urban environment, and the context is the people within it.
Q: So are you going to start shoving your camera in people’s faces?
A: Hardly. My predominant technique will still be “clandestine” and from the hip. But I’m not going to worry about including faces, and when the situation calls for it I’ll be as forward and unclandestine as any other street photographer.
Q: Why are some of the pictures blurry?
A: Street Scene is my personal view of the urban environment and the people in it. Sometimes that view is fuzzy, such as when the photograph is taken at night, in low light. This is not some exercise in image clarity or pixel peeping. This is a personal, subjective, and sometimes fuzzy view that I hope some people will find familiar, startling, or evocative.
Q: How often will you post photos?
A: At launch time (January 2011) I have several dozen images that I want to post, and will do so over the following months. After that I’ll post ‘em as I make ‘em. Bear in mind that my “from the hip” technique has a very high failure rate, and I’m not prolific in the conventional style. Weeks may pass without an update. And in winter this will be a virtual dead zone, as I don’t walk around with my camera in my un-gloved hands when it’s -20.
Q: Are you the only person doing this?
A: Not at all. There are many active street photographers, including some who shoot from the hip, such as Joe Wigfall (Flickr photostream, YouTube interview about shooting from the hip). Other personal favorites include Magnus Fröderberg (Sweden) and Alex Coghe (Rome/Mexico).
Q: How long will it take before you cash in?
A: HA HA HA HA!!! In the entire history of photography, the number of people who have “cashed in” on street photography can be counted on one hand. A few more than that have found a bit of fame (primarily in the “golden age” of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s), but hardly anyone has made any appreciable money at it. Street photography – especially in the digital age – is something you do entirely for artistic and expressive reasons, and for fun. There ain’t no money in it.
Q: OMG where’s the HDR?
A: Shut the fuck up and read this.
Q: Who are your main influences in photography?
A: The long list is endless and is based more on individual images than the photographers behind them. But there is a short list, and all of the people on it are from well before the digital age. The short list includes:
- Berenice Abbott
- Robert Adams
- Lewis Baltz
- Henri Cartier-Bresson
- Bruce Davidson
- Joe Deal
- Robert Doisneau
- Elliot Erwitt
- Robert Frank
- Lee Friedlander
- Frank Gohlke
- Andre Kertesz
- Lisette Model
- Garry Winogrand
Sharp observers will notice that not all of these artists are street photographers. In fact, a bunch of them are from the New Topographics landscape photography movement of the 1970s. The New Topographics did and does have a strong influence on how I think about photography, as do those photojournalists and street photographers.
As you might imagine, you could hardly find two more disparate styles in photography than New Topographics and street photography. That’s a bit like combining Strauss waltzes and death metal, or rococco painting with abstract expressionism. But that’s what moves me so that’s what I’m stuck with. I’m formally a mess, but hopefully some of the photos on Street Scene will make a bit of sense anyway.
For a peek at a few of my New Topographics inspired images that are not at all “streety,” check out the Monday Morning Photo Blog, under the tag “new-topographics.”
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