Street Photography :
A New York Street Photographers’ Thoughts on Street Photography
• by Daniel A. Norman •
As a New York Artist and Photographer, I’m passionate about Street Photography. I constantly search for new areas to explore with my camera and there is something happening everywhere you look in NYC. I make it a habit to keep a camera with me at all times so that I never miss a good street photography moment. I love street photography that represent the fast paced hustle and bustle of New York, all reduced to a 35mm image on film, worth about 1000 words.
Street Photography with a Rangefinder
The ultimate Street Photography tool for me is a rangefinder camera. The leica M7 rangefiner, and the Voigtlander Bessa R3A are the two rangefinder camera’s I currently use. With a rangefinder, you align two image in the viewfinder in order to focus. While shooting street photography with a rangefinder, you can approximate the distance of the subject. I enjoy using a rangefinder like the Leica M7, because manual focusing allows me to have a little more input into the final image that I am trying to capture. Rangefinders are also great for street photography because they are more compact than SLR’s. A lot of modern digital camera’s like the Fuji X100 are being designed to look like a rangefinder. Rangefinders are more discrete than SLR’s for street shooting, so even the Digital Leica M9, Leica M9-P, and the Leica Monochrome use timeless rangefinder designs, blended with modern technology. Although rangefinder cameras are great for Street Photography, I still use SLR’s and DSLR’s as well, but the extra weight and bulk of these camera’s usually means that the rangefinder gets taken out for street shooting instead.
An Example of NYC Street Photography
A good example of the kind of street photography that I enjoy working on includes people at work in the big city.
This is an example of NYC Street Photography that shows a few workers renovating a brownstone in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. This photo was taken with a Leica M7 with Kodak TMax 100 film. In Fort Greene, Brooklyn, even the brick townhouses are called brownstones. This image was taken on Lafayette Avenue, between Adelphi Street and Carlton Ave. When I captured this photo, I wasn’t planning on shooting, but I had my camera with me and it was loaded with film and ready. I saw a dynamic raw street photo in my head and my instincts took over. One of the things that I love about NYC street photography is that these types of photo opportunities are around every corner.
Street Photography in black and white
I love shooting NYC street photography with film, because a photographer is totally allowed to separate the actual taking or making of the image with the processing of the image. One of my favorite street photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson, a famous Magnum photographer, wasn’t interesting in developing his own film or prints. Personally, I enjoy developing my own film and darkroom prints. The darkroom is a very meditative experience, and seeing your own black and white photographs slowly appear in the developing tray is magical. Seeing digital images instantly appear on the back of a camera milliseconds after it was shot is magical too, so I do also shoot street photography in digital. When practicing street photography, both mediums can allow an artist to express themselves.
Creativity in Street Photography
Since street photography is about a photographers artistic expression, one shouldn’t try to stick to any narrow set of rules. Is this image of a dog, which ran up to me while I was shooting the NYC skyline during a snowstorm, considered “Street Photography?” I believe that it is. The question, “What is Street Photography?” or “What is the definition of Street Photography?” has been asked and discussed many times, but the agreed upon definitions might better define what street photography isn’t. On my Raw Street Photography group on flickr, this topic has been discussed many times. A simple definition for me would be: candid photography in public. There are longer definitions of street photography on Wikipedia, but I like to keep it simple. The less rules you have to follow, the more artistic and creative juices flow.