A New York Photographers’ Thoughts on Street Photography by Daniel Norman
As a New York Artist and Photographer, I am passionate about Street Photography. There is a constant 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 and hope that I never miss a good street photography moment. Street photography that represent the fast paced hustle and bustle of New York appeals to me the most, all reduced to a 35mm image on film, worth about 1000 words.
Street Photography with a Rangefinder
The ultimate photography tool for me for street shooting 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 and focus. While shooting photography with a rangefinder, you can approximate the distance of the subject and adjust your focus accordingly. I enjoy using a rangefinder like the Leica M7. Manual focusing allows me to have a little more input and control of the final image that I am trying to capture. Rangefinders are also great for street photography because they are more compact than SLR’s and lighter.
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 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 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
Shooting NYC photography with film is challenging but fun. A photographer is totally allowed to separate the actual taking or making of the image with the processing of the image. You are allowed to be more in the moment. 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. 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. I do also shoot street-photography in digital, but film is my preference. When practicing photography, both mediums can allow an artist to express themselves.
Creativity in Street Photography
Street photography is about a photographers artistry and expression. One shouldn’t try to stick to any narrow set of rules to fit into a genre. Is this image of a dog, which ran up to me while I was shooting the NYC skyline during a snowstorm, considered “Street Photography?”
At 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.