Is street photography revealing truth or can it be observed and understood in a different way that the photographer ment it to be?
In my view, I think that all street photography can be either true or false. The reason that I think this is because I feel that the way the photographer photographs the subject can create new ideas and a new "story" to the image. "There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer" (Ansel Adams). This quote I think helps to sum up the idea that the photographer and the viewer are two different people. Whilst the photographer may try and represent the image or story in one way, the viewer may see it another way then the photographer aimed for. So therefore, even if the photograph that was taken was intended to be true, it may not be looked at in the same way, creating a new story to the image. Weither this new story is good or bad revolves around the viewer and is almost always out of the control of the photographer.
"The belief that "the camera never lies" betrays the fact that someone chose what, when, where, why and how to photograph. Every step a photographer makes in taking a picture involves subjective choices, from the camera angle (looking up, looking down, eye level) to the framing (what to include and what to leave out) to the moment of exposure (when to shoot and when to wait). A photograph is always a decontextualized representation of reality recorded by a human being who conscious and even unconscious choices based on his or her cultural upbringing, experiences choices based on his or her cultural upbringing, experiences and biases" - retrieve May 4, 2011, from http://www.medialit.org/reading-room/camera-always-lies
This quote about suggests that street photography can be represented as a lie is how the photographer chooses to take the photograph, frame it and also edit it. Also other factors like text and how the image is used or displayed may add new ideas and concepts to the photograph. By saying this, I mean that in every photograph, the photographer has the choice how they take the photograph and what they include/exclude, so if they only photograph part of the image then the viewer will not be able to see the rest of the situation and they will only get half of the story, in this case, it is then left up to the viewer to decide on what else is happening in the image. This decision made by the viewer may be influenced by several things in the image like expressions on subjects faces.
When it comes to editing, mostly in the media, images are taken how the photographer wants to represent the situation even if they have to take it in a way that tells another story because they will be paid more. Text may be placed onto the image or next to the image that suits the medias story. For example in the newspaper
"In line at the supermarket, you notice a photo on the cover of a news magazine. But it may not be what it appears to be. New technology has created the possibility to alter photographs, with precision and quality. In a completely undetectable manner. Digital manipulation of photographs is happening more and more often these days, usually going unnoticed and without comment. " - retrieved May 4, 2011 . from http://www.medialit.org/reading-room/camera-always-lies
This quote backs up my point by stating that we are now in a time when photo editing has become so common and advanced that it is almost impossible now to tell whether a photograph has been edited and therefore, we tend to believe we see even if it is a lie.
Another point would be that the average street photographer are documentary photographers and by being so they document events that un-fold in the street and the city. If they happen to come across a big story and they photograph it, then they may submit the image to the local media for a charge. Depending on the conditions and rights on which this photograph was bought, the media may change the image and represent it in another way if they have rights to the photograph. Therefore, the image and what it represents is out of the photographers control.
A brief introduction to how street photography started and major events that occurred in the street photography environment.
Street photography was first started towards the end of the 1800's. This was advanced when the 35mm film camera was invented. It was small and light to travel with and was convenient for every day use. Once this genre was noticed and practiced more often, Photographers from both Europe and North America began to spread the word and developed it further.
A major photographer that played a part in the development of street photography is Robert Frank.
In 1958, A Swiss-born photographer Robert Frank created a book titled "The Americans" and it was first published in France.
Frank worked as a commercial photographer and in his spare time he would shoot what he considered to be "everyday life". In 1955, he took some time off from work to go on a road trip that started in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
During his trip, He shot a total of 767 rolls of film which adds up to 27,000 images. When he got back home he edited that number down to 1,000 work prints which he then spread out on the floor of his studio and also stuck them onto the walls for a last edit. In the end, he ended up with a total of 83 images which h made into the book "The Americans".
However, The next year after the book was published in France, it was not greeted warmly in America. This was due to the fact that his subjects were not the "American dream of the 1950's", this is due to the photographs containing factory workers in Detroit, Transvestites in New York, Black passengers on a segregated trolley in New Orleans. Not even the art world gave Frank much support. To top this, not even "The Museum of Modern Art" would sell the book, However the work did start to slowly catch on with the younger generation.
Photographer Ed Ruscha says "Robert Frank came out here and just showed that you could see the USA until you spit blood."
As the years went on, This book proved to be very influential and it is now recognized as a masterpiece of street photography.
In 1999, Phillip-Lorca diCorcia brought in a new method of street photography by setting up a flash light hidden above a busy New York street on some scaffolding. The flash was activated by diCorcia using a long lens camera focusing upon the pedestrians head. The flash light would light up the pedestrian without them knowing. diCorcia did this project for two years and at the end he made an exhibition of photographs called "Heads at Pace". At the same time, One of the photographed subjects later saw his face in the exhibition catalog and he sued diCorcia for publishing his portrait taken in public without permission and profiting from it financially. However, the New York State Supreme Court judge dismissed the suit on the grounds that the photographer's right to artistic expression. This is one of few cases that has triumphed over the subjects privacy rights.
Below are a few of the photographer from the series - "Heads at Pace".
In 2004, The art world lost one of the innovated photographers of the 20th century. Henry Cartier - Bresson. He was considered to be the father of modern photojournalism. He conquered the 35mm camera and also developed the term "Street Photographer". He along with Robert Capa, George Rodger, David Seymour and William Vandivert founded Magnum Photos in 1947.
On March 30th 2009, Helen Levitt best known for her street photographs of New York city died at the age of 95. She mainly taught herself.
Street Photography Now Project
Every week a leading contemporary street photographer will create a new brief that will seek to finding new ways and inspiration of documenting the world that we live in through photography.
The Street Photography Now Project was first launched in September 2010, It is a project that is ongoing for fifty two weeks that has a aim of to build up a global community of photographers exploring the rewards and challenges of documenting public life.
Anyone can start this project within the fifty two weeks and do so online. Each week, the new instruction from the street photographer will be sent to the participating photographers and they will then have six days before the next instruction to upload a photograph that fits around the instruction. Photographs are then uploaded to Flickr.
The instructions are set on a colour background that will vary from temperature to which the photograph be best taken with. Eg: A red/orange background will mean a hot sunny day and a blue/white background will represent a cold day.
Aswel as uploading these photographs, Each other is invited to comment and respond to new images from other photographers. Once the six days are up, no more photographs can be uploaded for that instruction.
The project is not a competition but at the end of the fifty two weeks, Once photographer will be selected that has made the best contribution to the Flickr group. This photographer will then be given £1000 worth of Thames & Hudson books and their work will be exhibited on The Photographers' Gallery digitial Wall for All.
Instruction #22 - Pick a spot, sit there for an hour and see what unfolds. - Polly Braden
Instruction #25 - Talk to strangers, let them take you places. - Mark Alor Powell
Instruction #28 - Go somewhere you haven't been before - a dog show, a polo match, a monster truck rally - and remember, the interesting things often happen at the fringes, away from the main "action". - Paul Russel
Instruction #30 - Remember Robert Capa's words: "If your pictures aren't good enough, your not close enough". - Andrew Glickman
This project I have been following since the first week. However, I have not really been uploading photographs for the instructions. This project is great for street photography because it enables the photographer to really think about the location that you are photographing and what you are looking for in the image.
It also makes the photographer think more creative for the instruction and it allows the photographer to explore new areas and space, making the full use of that space.
The link to the website and the weekly instructions I have placed here:http://streetphotographynowproject.wordpress.com
The link to the photographs uploaded to the flickr page is here. To change instruction, just alter the instruction number in the search bar. This is the link to instruction number 24.