Explore Street Photography Now – with Lloyd Spencer

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Street photography explored through the 52 'perspectives' offered by the Street Photography Now project

Street photography explored through the 52 ‘perspectives’ offered by the Street Photography Now project

 

 

Street Photography NOW – and then

Taking inspiration from the 52 photographers featured in this book.

The 52 photographers featured in this book have each offered an idea or instruction from which we can take inspiration.

Street Photography Now was an outstanding book published in 2011. It contained the work of 52 wonderful photographers who serve to define the genre at that point in time.

The current interest in street photography owes something to the success of  Flickr.com, as a photo-sharing website and community (or collection of communities). In order to promote the publication of SPN as a book and to further engage the enthusiasm of street photographers around the world, the publishers offered the chance to participate in a “Street Photography Now Project” on Flickr.

Each week one of the photographers featured in the book offered a short, sometimes crytic, instruction or idea. Photographers were encouraged to respond by taking photos and submitting them to a group on Flickr.com

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On this website I have made a rather different use of these 52 instructions or ideas. I have tried to illustrate each one with one or two photos taken from my own archives, built up taking digital photographs over the past decade.

So here I offer you one photographer’s “take” on the ideas and inspirations offered as part of this project. I hope this offers a distinctive and personal perspective on the diverse impulses involved in street photography.

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WATCH THIS SPACE

Instruction # 45 “See the characters but create your own plot.” – Martin Kollar

Corner Window

“…he takes a seat by the window in a big … coffeehouse. He gazes around at the other customers and pores over advertisements in the paper, but mainly he is interested in the throng of people he sees through the window, surging past in the street.”
Walter Benjamin, On Some Motifs in Baudelaire.

Benjamin is commenting on the story “The Man of the Crowd” by E. A. Poe which, a few pages later, he contrasts with an earlier story, “My Cousin’s Corner Window” by E. T. A. Hoffmann.

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Walter Benjamin’s studies of the poet, Charles Baudelaire as the first “city poet” was the subject of my dissertation. It is there that Benjamin develops the idea of “flaneur”, the stroller, who explores the psychogeography of the city, receiving inspiration in flashes as he jostles the crowds. Benjamin’s essays — and indeed, Baudelaire’s poetry — provide wonderful starting points for a “theory” of street photography.

On return from my two years of study in Germany, I bought my first serious (SLR) camera and began to really work at “documentary” photography and improving my darkroom skills. Some of the B&W photographs I took in those early days are displayed on this site (under the “Early Work” category).

#52

#52 If you have talent, find your own way, – Cristóbal Hara

Greg Hobson, Martin and Susie Parr

Lloyd’s comment: study the work of the masters but especially those whose work, or methods, are very different from your own.

 

I have admired the work of Martin Parr (talking in the photo above) since I first encountered it in the early 1980s. But I have always thought of my own ‘way’ as being ‘not-Martin Parr’. When I got the opportunity to show him a selection of my photos he asked “Don’t you ever use flash?” I felt a bit embarrassed to have to answer “No” and went home and ordered an expensive flashgun. I did learn to use it and the use of flash was important to the way in which I photographed jive dancers for my dance photography projects. But by not using flash for so long I had developed a different kind of skill and today, when shooting tango, or street photography at night, I still leave the flashgun in my bag.

#51

On guard

#51 Buildings are like humans and have their own character – Alexey Titarenko

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Crowd of Favours

Lloyd’s comment: spaces and places can be made to (seem to) speak about the individuals seen in them. Building (and places) can seem to lend their ‘character’ to the people observed within them.

Geometry is everywhere. Use it. Noticing the geometries of the city becomes a kind of meditative practice. You will find yourself returning, not just to familiar places but to particularly useful perspectives… to see if anything interesting is happening. That is one of the most important lessons that one can learn from the photos of Henri Cartier-Bresson and the notion of a ‘decisive moment’.

#50

#50 Say it with flowers. – Johanna Neurath

Picturesque

Lloyd’s comment: long before the invention of photography there was a language of flowers.

 

We all need reminders of the living, breathing world. Flowers are a vital reminder that we need to maintain and improve our environment. We, too, need to breathe and to believe in beauty.

#49

#49 Read the street in front of you by saying to yourself: “everything that you see happening — both near you and coming toward you (the text of the street) — and the picture will present itself – Joel Meyerowitz

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Lloyd’s comment: the stream of passers-by are the reservoir of energy and interest for the street photographer. They stream past in ever-changing configurations. And most street photographers spend most of their time moving forward, with, but also into, the crowd.

“The man who loves to lose himself in a crowd enjoys feverish delights that the egoist locked up in himself as in a box, and the slothful man like a mollusk in his shell, will be eternally deprived of.” Charles Baudelaire, Crowds.

[It is worth reading Baudelaire on “Crowds” in his prose-poems but also in his essay on “The Painter of Modern Times”. Although Baudelaire was deeply suspicious of photography, these writings constitute an early and inspiring manifesto for ‘street photography’ long before that became a practical possibility.]

 

#48

Down the Causeway

#48 Things are what they seem to be, or maybe something else. – Richard Kalvar

Reflections in the city

 

Subject

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., a photo by Briggate.com on Flickr.
On reflection(s) by Briggate.com
On reflection(s), a photo by Briggate.com on Flickr.

Instruction # 47 “The real subject is yourself facing the world.” – Thierry Girard

Stocking

Stocking by Briggate.com
Stocking, a photo by Briggate.com on Flickr.

Instruction # 46 – “Make a picture that is funny and sad at the same time. A photograph that simultaneously evokes pathos, irony and humour.” – Jeff Mermelstein

Dancing in the street

Instruction # 44 “Be joyful! Dance in the street.” – Munem Wasif

Having a go at pole dancing, Boar Lane 2

Would you care to dance?

"The Very Marvellous Armley Tea Dance" #2

Dance has always been an important part of my life. And at present dance is as important to me as photography. I was dancing at the two events depicted in the 2nd and 3rd photographs above. With only an old and inferior digital camera to hand for the bottom photograph I had placed the camera on the floor in order to avoid camera shake. But I loved the result and copied that intriguing perspective later at another great dance (in the red photo above). It was important that people could see what I was doing. If I did it at all surreptitiously, I am sure some of the onlookers would have thought my behaviour highly dubious.

The first photo above was taken from the pavement, through the big windows of a bar which has a pole for pole dancing in the window. The pole is used mainly for messing about.

Photography can have a profound affinity with dance… especially when it is candid photography, and caught up in the rhythm of events. But photographing dance is really tricky. I have developed my own techniques for dance photography and have so far published one book of my dance photos.

Nothing doing / doing nothing

Instruction # 43 “Make something from nothing.” – Amani Willett

At two birds

In a different light

Instruction # 42 “While walking the street constantly look behind yourself, the light is always different.” – Trent Parke

The Voyeur

Reflections

Behind the university