Last year I spent one month trying something new. A different genre to what I was used to, and that genre was ‘Street’ or ‘Street Photography’. The idea was to push myself to shoot something other than wide open landscapes at sunrise and sunset. The ‘experiment’ if that’s what you think we should call it was on the whole a success. I didn’t take the world’s best street photos (I was a beginner after all), but I started to find my feet, develop a style and most of all I enjoyed it. The project featured in a 4 page spread in the Amateur Photographer magazine last July, but was that the end of it? I think not...
People make the shot
I soon began to realise that although I was shooting ‘street’ it was people that made the shots work. But it had to be the right person in the shot, wearing the right colour or style of clothes, walking in the right direction in relation to the photographer and the light source, and also happy enough to be included in an image. If there is opportunity I always ask permission, but more often than not its simply not possible. Nine months on since starting shooting street I still haven’t found anyone that wasn’t happy to be included in a shot. Anyway, I always try my best to show people in a good light (excuse the pun) and would never dream of photographing anyone in distress.
I started experimenting with viewpoints, shooting through glass to play with reflections and searching out more abstract images. Mostly everyday scenes and locations with folk going about their everyday lives. Most of the subjects in my images probably don't even know I've tried to turn them into art.
My landscape images tend to be subtle and painterly in style. Because of this its rare that there are any bold colours. In the manmade world there are strong colours all around, and its great to be able to use them in Street images. I still shoot all my street images as Monochrome Jpegs, but ensure the camera records a RAW image, giving me the option to go colour if I think it suits.
Every 6 weeks or so I have to visit London for a scheduled meeting. I saw this as an opportunity to shoot streets in a different city, and one with bags of opportunity and potential. What I hadn’t taken into account was the raised levels of security in the capital, and the fear of terrorist action. This required a brush up of my rights, just in case I was challenged… and I was on more than one occasion.
The rights for street photography are probably something I should cover in a separate blog. If you use common sense, don't intrude on anyone's privacy, and know the difference between public and private property you should generally be ok for images of none commercial use. As soon as you want to make money from your street shots you need to consider model release forms and in some cases 'Permits to shoot'.
Basically try not to act in any way suspicious. Hanging around with a chunky DSLR and super telephoto lens isn’t exactly discrete. You can be stopped and searched by the police if they suspect you might be a terrorist, and at the same time they can view your images and even seize the camera if they feel there is a significant threat. They can’t however prevent you from taking pictures on a public highway or ask you to delete images without a court order. For further reading see sections 43 and 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. Security guards have no right to stop and search. They cannot stop you taking images if you’re on public property. They can however ask you to move on or stop what you are doing if you are on Private property, failure to do so can be classed as trespass.
Having got all that out of the way I’m happy to report I have only had 2 ‘run-ins’ with security (both of which ended pleasantly with an “enjoy the rest of your day”) and no brushes with the law.
Most of the images used in this blog were taken during the winter, on cloudy and/or wet days. This isn’t a major problem as a wet pavement creates fabulous reflections and abstract patterns. Colourful umbrellas add to an otherwise ordinary scene.
Bright light (generally a problem in landscape photography) also changes a scene completely. Strong shadows create contrast, and when used in conjunction with man made structures new patterns appear.
I find it is always a good idea to look at a scene and imagine what it would look like in a range of conditions. Then, when you go shooting you can check the forecast and plan your day ahead to make the most of it.
General Reaction to the project
On the whole the reception the images received was favourable. It became obvious that a street image would fail to receive as many likes/faves on social media as a landscape photo, but I assume that's down to a following built up mainly of other landscape, not street photographers. The images tend to be what I refer to as 'Marmite Shots. Love them or hate them, there is very little between. Whenever I visited a photographic society around the country to give my 'Landscapes and Seascapes' talk it was commonplace to get approached quietly during the interval to ask "are there any of your street shots in this presentation". Friends started to ask for more of this kind of image so I could only assume that street photography was cool, but it was something you didn't admit to liking in front of others. I'm hugely thankful to those individuals who have encouraged me with this with their comments and kind words.
So Whats Next...
Well I still intend to carry on with my street photography project alongside my Landscape work. I still haven’t done any night time street, which is high on the to-do list, and I have still hardly brushed the surface of London, whereas Birmingham offers new and exciting opportunities as its constantly evolving. Of course theres plenty of other towns and cities to try in the UK, and the rest of the world... The camera is now a permanent fixture when I visit city centres so ill just keep my eyes open for possibilities. I am about to make some prints of the project so far. They're initially only for personal use, but I have already been asked about the potential to make them into some sort of exhibition which is daunting but very much something I would be interested in doing. Im also open to other suggestions, so if you have any feel free to voice them...
All shots were taken using a Fuji X-Pro2 Camera with either 16mm, 23mm or 35mm prime lens.