I’ve never sat down to really write my views on street photography at length, partly because I’ve never taken it that seriously as a category. The defining text is still ‘Bystander – A History of Street Photography‘ by Colin Westerbeck and Joel Meyerowitz published in 1994, which deserves a closer reading than the flip-thorugh on Vimeo, but this does demonstrate that it attempts to annexe a signigicant proportion of the history of our medium to its rather flimsily described genre.
Of course it isn’t the fault of these authors that street photography has now gained the popularity it has nor that most of what passes under that title is sloppy, self-indulgent ephemera. There are some fine photographers who call themselves ‘street photographers‘, (and I’ve written about some here and elsewhere) but they are in a small minority. It’s probably the same for any other genre, but it shows more simply because everybody and his cat is now a ‘street photographer’.
My murky thoughts on the subject were stirred up a little this morning by two articles I read. One on PetaPixel, Why Street Photography Matters in 2017 by London-based street photographer Temoor Iqbal, and the second a feature on Amateur Photographer, Ali Shams: iPhone Street Photography with his pictures made in Qazvin, Iran.
As I write this, there are 18 comments on the first article, and some of them are worth reading, but none on the second, which has to my mind the far more interesting images. But your opinion may differ.
I’m getting ready to go out and photograph on the streets in a few minutes, my first call being at Downing St. But while I might have been a ‘street photographer’ back in the 80s and 90s, these days I’m just a photographer. As for Downing St, I’ll finish with a link to a verse written 95 years ago by “socialist MP, poet and lion-tamer amongst many other things” John S Clarke.
Fleet Street used to be referred to – at least in ‘Private Eye’ – as the ‘Street of Shame’. That accolade has now firmly passed to Downing St.