Updated: Jul 17, 2018
Street photography is divided over what the genre actually constitutes. Some purists believe street photography has to be absolutely candid. If there is interaction between the photographer and the subject or there is any element of construction then it does not qualify as being street photography. It may be portraiture or fine art but it is not street. Other photographers see any form of photography that involves documenting social life as street photography. Here the street is a metaphor for social life. Constructing the image in dialogue with the subjects or arranging elements in the street is seen as having sufficient levels of spontaneity to deserve the street label.
My own philosophy is more in tune with the latter perspective. An example of why I think interaction with subjects does not preclude constructed images from being categorised as street photography is the photo below which I managed to get by pure chance.
This is a local man who stumbled upon me crouching in the street, trying to get an interesting angle on a high street pub in Long Eaton (visible in the background). When he caught my attention he informed me that he worked at the pub. Grasping the opportunity I asked if he would mind posing for me with the pub behind him. He was rather pleased at the request and making the most of a captive audience proceeded to regale me with his life story.
As it turned out the story was a rather sad one that I felt obliged to give my full attention to. Without any perceptible focus the story darted from one topic to another, leaving me with impressions rather than concrete facts. As I took some shots, his life unfurled in loose fragments. Before I left him to push his bicycle off in the opposite direction, he did reveal that his daughter was having a baby that day. It was a short interlude in the day which left me with some sadness but a series of photos to remember it by. This would not have happened by design, it was pure chance.
Fifteen minutes later I took the photo below which in my view was more candid and I thought clandestine, until the man shouted 'are you taking a photo of me?' I could have pretended otherwise but thought it better to own up and take the consequences.
Luckily the subject was friendly and quite willing to let me take another portrait. However, the can of beer disappeared into his coat pocket.
I quizzed him about hiding the can and he laughed about it. A little bit of spontaneity and a bit of construction but moments exchanged and captured on camera. It is what makes street photography so rewarding and so much fun. You live and you learn though a lens.