Like any other cultural practice, street photography is a product of its time and place. Familiarity with the history of the genre and its varied traditions makes photographing in different places all the more interesting. It’s fascinating to consider how places have changed visually and if – as an outsider – we can capture defining aspects of the contemporary culture as earlier local photographers did in their times. Continue reading →
I’m preparing to leave India after four weeks of street photography that has taken me from Mumbai to Delhi via the southern most states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. It’s been a great, if at times gruelling, trip. We have visited some amazing locations and managed to meet up with some India based photographer friends for the first time.
To the uninitiated, street photography (SP) might seem a hap hazard activity pursued by camera toting odd balls looking to sneak shots of random strangers. While there is certainly no prohibition on odd balls using cameras, the serious street photographer is likely up to something much more structured and possibly even quite profound.
A major hurdle most aspiring street photographers have to overcome is the fear of pointing a camera at strangers. There are many reasons to think twice about photographing strangers on the street. Some relate to hypothetical ‘what ifs’ regarding the range of possible negative reactions. These are real but, in my experience, very infrequent.
However, it’s another set of reasons I want to reflect on this post. These relate to two ethical questions inherent in the practice of street photography. Continue reading →
“Scotland is more like Spain than Bengal is like the Punjab” Sir John Strachey, 1888
In his New York Times Magazine article ‘A Too-Perfect Picture’ (30/3/16), Teju Cole famously criticised the portrayal of India by the photographer Steve McCurry.
Based on a narrow reading of a minority of images contained in the photographer’s retrospective book India, Cole claims McCurry perpetuates an obsolete visual narrative and has a hackneyed style. Continue reading →
Much of my photography is done while travelling. However, even a cursory glance at my photographs confirms they are a long way from what might be thought of as conventional ‘travel’ photography. That is to say, colourful picturesque images of landmarks and ‘views’.
Igor Stravinsky, New York NY 1946 by Arnold Newman
Portraits are an integral part of our everyday lives as staff identity cards, passport mugshots, driving licences, etc. Portraits as advertising images bombard us on television, in cinemas, shops and on the streets in a bid to shape our consumption. Finally, they act as visual synapses transmitting relationship bonds between friends and family members in our private lives.
In short, the photographic portrait is the most ubiquitous of the medium’s genres. Their prevalence in the public and private consciousness means it’s easy to forget the complex nature of what is shown and how they are produced. Continue reading →
I’ve always found the most interesting photographers to be those who go out of their way to deliberately manipulate the inherent physical properties of the medium. Yes, I know, it’s an unfashionable modernist view that’s been sidelined by the art world’s promotion of post-modern conceptualists (a.k.a ‘artists working with photography’). However, I do think John Szarkowski was correct in expounding an “essentialist” view of photography (see). Not that I agree with what he saw as its essential properties. Continue reading →
Bear with me; I am going to make a digression before the main part of this post.
In 1946, the most celebrated exponent of formalist black and white photography, Edward Weston, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Just two years later the 60 year old photographer ceased taking pictures altogether. However, during that two year period he took up colour photography seriously for the first time. Continue reading →
This is the third instalment of a three part essay on photographic style. Part 1, addressed what I see as the three determinants of a photographer’s personal style. Part 2 looked at the dangers of imitation. Part 3 looks at what I call ‘necessary, ugly style’ (by which I mean styles that gain effectiveness from eschewing artfulness).Continue reading →
This is the second instalment of a three part essay on photographic style. Part 1, addressed what I see as the three determinants of a photographer’s personal style. This second part looks at the dangers of imitation. Part 3 will look at what I call ‘necessary ugly’ style (by which I mean styles that gain effectiveness from eschewing artfulness).Continue reading →
This is the start of a three part essay exploring ‘personal photographic style’. It is not an analysis of what constitutes photographic style per se but more a reflection on how it is arrived at (if at all). Part 1 considers basic determinants of photographic style, Part 2 is about Imitative Style, and Part 3, considering what I call ‘necessary ugly style’ , will follow in the coming days.Continue reading →
The story of Kenneth Jarecke’s 1991 photograph of an Iraqi soldier burnt to death in his truck has been widely reported. Differing editorial decisions in the US and Europe saw the photograph published by The Observer in the UK and Libération in France but, not by Time magazine or the Associated Press in the US. This is one of many such examples where particular images are deemed too politically or socially sensitive in relation to dominant public narratives.
For street photographers, this issue of self-censorship raises interesting personal questions. Primary among them being: In what ways does your personal identity and ethics affect what and how you photograph? Mary Ellen Mark put it this way: Continue reading →