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The evolution of street photography, and where its headed

The evolution of street photography, and where its headed

Since the invention of the camera, humanity has had endless ideas on how to properly use it. The result was the birth of an entire field of expertise: Photography. Many kinds of photography have since sprung up, one of them being street photography. The following article will explore its evolution and what its significance.

Definition

Street photography at its core refers to photographs taken in public surroundings. It’s often done without the knowledge or consent of the photographed persons. While this may sound like problem for some, it’s one of its fundamental elements. The ability to take authentic pictures of everyday lives is what give it its unique property.

Street photography differs from other type of photography because it’s not artificially designed or perpetrated in advance. This is crucial for a photographer trying to capture real moments. It’s there to showcase candid views of the general population which otherwise cannot be shown through organized photoshoots. 

Beginnings

When cameras first appeared in public, many photographers used to take pictures of streets. Some however did not define themselves as true street photographers. Some, like Berenice Abbot for example, took pictures of New York City’s architecture in the 1930’s. Those were intended to show the contrast between light and dark.

Only after cooperation between 19th century painters and photographers did the concept of urban street photography really come to life. This resulted in some early photographers attempting to capture people walking on the streets. Charles Nègre for example succeeded with this, however with some troubles with blurring.

Interwar Period

It was at this period between the first and second world wars that street photography had its first signs of booming. This period was marked by economic downturns which affected hundreds of millions across the world. This provided an ideal opportunity for urban street photography to catch a glimpse of real, intimate poverty.

Famous photographers such as Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange greatly influenced the field by documenting during the Great Recession. For example, Migrant Mother, taken by Lange, depicts a destitute mother with her kids. This picture came to symbolize the Great Recession and facilitated the popularity of the newly born field.

After World War II

After the war, street photography started showing its ability to document entire cultures in a candid manner. These can be clearly seen in works done by several photographers such as Roy DeCarava, Helen Levitt, and Robert Frank. They focused on documenting the daily lives of Americans and used it to showcase their cultures.

This period is often characterized by a more vulgar, irreverent approach to photography, through unconventional perspectives. This contrasts with earlier trends that supported the idea of “straight photography”. This approach promoted basic use of camera capabilities and more old – fashioned techniques. 

DeCarava for example focused on documenting the daily lives of the citizens of Harlem in New York City. This largely African – American populated neighborhood allowed for a peak at the community’s great jazz musicians through photos. His photographs allowed for an inside view to a largely closed off part of the population.

Late 20’s Century 

The trend of favoring realism as opposed to beauty in street photography continued in the 1960’s and1970’s and onwards. This was brought by several renowned photographers such as Garry Winograd, Lee Friedlander, and Diane Arbus. They all chose to depict American life as it truly looks, without any unnecessary cover – ups.

Arbus attempted to capture the setting of marginalized societies. She dramatically presented reality without any sort of filtering of the content to appease the audience. She aimed at bringing some otherwise neglected and socially shunned figures of the public into the forefront. This was her way of breaking barriers between societies.

Future

Urban street photography is showing sign of becoming more and more relevant in the coming decades. With human societies becoming more and more urbanized, the opportunities for capturing authentic moments become more frequent. Mega cities now host millions of people, each carrying their own stories and backgrounds.

With the recent global crises and social distancing resulting from technology, these moments could be amplified with photographs. Photography studios race to capture incidents of social injustices and economic inequality. These provide powerful spectacles that could potentially send messages across the entire world.

This is in stark contrast with earlier periods when photographers did not try to send any sort of messages through their work. Today, many understand that candid street photography has a role in shaping the way our society behaves and thinks. With social media ever on the rise, photos become more and more relevant in that matter.

Street Photography’s significance

Throughout the years the significance of street photography has been widely reevaluated in contrast with its beginnings. This is especially relevant in the historical sense. while photos of famous politicians and wars show a grander picture, street photography can document historical moments tied to the common man.

This has an ever – lasting effect on the way we view different historical time periods. Historical revisionism can come in many forms, and photography is by no means an exception. A time that might otherwise be depicted as peaceful and simple, can have its image shattered by a single street photograph showing its uglier facets.

However, this could go the other way. A period in history that might be perceived as full of negativity and suffering can be shown to contain some positive moments. Kids playing soccer in poor favelas, a couple embracing during wartime, and other moments that never would have seen the light of day were they not photographed.

Professional Street Photographer at Your Disposal

Capturing real moments is not a job for amateurs. Timing, steady hands and proper equipment are needed for optimal results. This is where Amir Chodorov comes in.

Amir Chodorov is an expert street photographer who developed special methods for photographing. By taking multiple pictures of the same view, (potentially up to a 1,000) he can create collages to make the pictures seems much bigger. These accurately portray the magnificence of a particular view which otherwise cannot be depicted with a standard photograph.

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