10 Things from Anders Petersen

A beautiful post on Eric Kim’s Street Photography site, 10 Things Anders Petersen Can Teach You About Street Photography in which Kim explores the thoughts and pictures of Petersen. I’m not sure that you can teach most street photographers anything- its a genre that seems to attract and encourage the unthinking, and one which I think is generally long past its sell-by date – but most of it is great advice for most photographers.

Not necessarily what you should do, because you need to find ways of working that suit you, and there are many who his won’t fit, but there are things which we can all learn from even if we decide on a different path. My thanks to Peggy Sue Amison, artistic director of the Sirius Arts Centre in East Cork, a place I often wish I lived closer to, and whose Facebook posts often light up my mornings, as this one did, for sharing this.

Back in the days when I was at least a part-time street photographer (before I saw the light?) I followed at least some of the 10 precepts from Petersen, although in my case the inspiration came from the work of guys like Winogrand and some of Cartier-Bresson’s images on the run (rather than his ‘waiters’). Perhaps the most important is the first:

1. Shoot with your heart, not your brain

and something that disappoints me about much recent street photography is that it seems to be more about clever design exercises than working from the heart.  Another that struck a real chord with me is Kim’s number 8, ‘Focus on content, not form‘, but it is really an article you need to read and digest for yourself. And when you have done so, like me you will probably want to go on to read more by Kim, and in particular his 10 Things Garry Winogrand Can Teach You About Street Photography.

Kim and Petersen also comment on equipment, basically the need to keep things simple. My favourite street cameras were the Minolta CLE with a 28mm and the 35mm f2 fixed lens Konica Hexar. With both I worked with the exposure manually set for the lighting conditions, usually at an aperture of f5.6 and manual focus set usually at 1.8 metres, which gave me a reasonable zone of focus. The only thing I had to think about was being at around the right distance and pressing the release. Nothing digital I’ve tried quite comes up to these cameras – perhaps the nearest – apart from size, noise and bulk – is the Nikon D800 with a 20mm lens set to DX crop (a 30mm equivalent.)

For most work now I need a more flexible approach, but the idea of reducing thought about anything technical to a minimum still holds. Almost every exposure I make is with the camera on ‘P’ (photographers joke it stands for Professional), although I often use of the thumb wheel to modify the shutter/aperture combination when I can see a need for a faster shutter speed or greater depth of field, as well as usually having some exposure compensation – my default is to give an extra 1/3 stop.

Thanks perhaps to some curious thinking by Nikon, P doesn’t give sensible results with flash at night, unless you like your subject with a black background. Usually I switch to A so I can choose the aperture or S if I want to use slow shutter speeds.

Working fast with longer focal lengths is really only possible with good autofocus, and modern camera viewfinders are generally pretty poor for manual focus. Although I often know I don’t need to focus when I’m working wide-angle, most of the time I leave it on, as otherwise I forget to turn it back on when I really need it.

3 Responses to “10 Things from Anders Petersen”

  1. RogerGW says:

    > A beautiful post on Eric Kim’s Street Photography site, 10 Things Anders Petersen Can Teach You About Street Photography in which Kim explores the thoughts and pictures of Petersen.

    “Street” photography? At least eight of those pictures look to have been taken indoors.


  2. Kim is saying street photographers can learn 10 things from him rather than that he is a street photographer. But in any case I think street photography is more an attitude of mind rather than being restricted to pictures on pavements.

    And not every picture taken on the street is street photography – as was demonstrated in last year’s London Street Photography show/book at the Museum of London.

  3. RogerGW says:

    We’re in Humpty Dumpty territory, I see. 8-)


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.