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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

"Street Photography"

Here is a mildly interesting confluence which has crossed my personal perception recently.

Marketing your Street Photography which is a plug for an online workshop from Chris Gampat. Puzzled, I sent Chris a polite note asking him what on earth this even meant, to which he did not reply. Looking at the web site, we see three sessions. The first is how to take awesome photos, the next appears to be telling you how to get on all the social media platforms, and the third is how to use those platforms. The workshop title is "How to become a Legitimate Street Photographer."

The second item is this essay from The Photo Fundamentalist. Now, Tom Stanworth is just all around a more substantial guy than Chris Gampat, but he's making the same kind of underlying, mistaken, assumptions.

Street photography is barely even, as the kids say, "a thing." Sure, there's a million people running around taking photographs of people on streets, that's not the point. Neither is it the point that these photographs, by and large, are not very interesting.

The point is that there's nothing here to "Market" as Chris would suggest, nor to "Kill" as Tom suggests. It's just a hobby. There's no money in it, there's no trade association (unless you count Magnum?), there's nothing there. It's just "photographs that aren't done in a studio, and which are also not landscapes."

One might as well offer a workshop on marketing your karaoke skills: Day One, How to Sing Awesomely; Day Two, how to use Soundcloud; Day Three, how to get record company executive to listen to your soundcloud feed. Whaaaat? Similarly, the fact that lots of people do karaoke badly isn't killing karaoke, and "killing" karaoke isn't even something that's meaningful. Karaoke will die not when too many people do it, but when nobody does it.

The fact that, very very occasionally, someone's karaoke skills appear to be part of what launched them into a career as a singing teacher, or a pop star, is irrelevant. You might as well buy lottery tickets, and anyways the karaoke probably had almost nothing to do with whatever the success was.

Furthermore, both Tom and Chris seem to be making the mistake that individual street photographs are the goal. Single awesome pictures. This has basically never been the right answer for street, whatever you even mean by that term. Even the mighty names don't make much sense one picture at a time. It's all just snaps, sometimes lucky snaps. I submit that even the canonical iconic pictures would be dismissed, taken one by one. Indeed, every now and then some wag posts one for "critique" and then all the clever buggers have a laugh at the rubes who say "that's just a lucky snap."

They're all just lucky snaps. The impact doesn't happen until you see a bunch of them, and start to get what the photographer was after.

In this modern era, we're more sophisticated. The potential for a powerful essay is stronger than ever, even be it filled with individual cliches. Learning how to take an awesome street shot (honestly, I shudder slightly when I think about what on earth Chris is going to tell his students in this session) isn't the end of the story. It's barely the beginning, and Tom selecting a bunch of single shots for complaint is to also completely miss the point.

That said, I quite like The Photo Fundamentalist, and have added it to my reading list. You should too! Just ignore the gear reviews.

1 comment:

  1. "It's all just snaps, sometimes lucky snaps."

    Thank you.

    With best regards.