I’ve been wanting to get back in here but I've had distractions. This is just one terrific discussion!
DUCK, you replied to my questioning the need for any
definition by writing:
Definitions are important in society in general, not just in defining art terms. It clarifies ideas and focuses discussions so the conversants are clear as to what is being discussed.
Then you gave several excellent examples. You concluded by saying:
Because we understand photographic language (hopefully) we know there is a big difference between a portrait, a corporate headshot and an environmental portrait. Those distinctions need to be crystal clear in order to provide the customer with the exact product they need. Imagine if the customer told you, "just take my picture in a variety of ways. I'll tell you which one it is when I see it."
But all your examples assume a photographer/client
relationship. I still question the necessity for a stricter definition of “street” because to my knowledge no one gets commissioned to do “street.” It is an art form, a unique art form that I doubt can be commissioned, excluding photojournalism which I think may be a close relative of “street.” Photojournalists are pretty much unconstrained as to what they may shoot and publish of people in public. If you are in a newsworthy shot you are not even asked for a model release. Which reminds me; on some stock sites it seems to me that they will reject "street" shots lacking model releases. If that's true then it strikes me that street really can not be a moneymaker if you can't even sell it as stock.
I don't think that street photography can ever be strictly defined, nor should it be. [...]
If you produce a picture and call it "street" be prepared for others to say that it isn't street. It's the nature of the beast that is "street".
So if one of the best street photographers I've ever seen can't define it, is it indefinable? I think it might well be.
There have been many wonderful
pictures posted as examples of (maybe) street (or not). By my own I-know-it-when-I-see-it definition I consider that Ernst’s initial ferry shot is not “street.” Ernst doesn’t think so either. But if it isn’t “street,” what is it? I’m inclined to pigeonhole it as “candid,” but what do I mean by that? I dud-doh. I think the loosest definition of "candid" is simply "not posed." But "street" photographers asking permission of a subject will very often get a pose struck, and 'snap' they've got it. So! What exactly is that? If by definition it's even slightly posed it's no longer "candid?" Yes? But it's on a public street...
It's posed so it's not candid, but it's only very loosely "posed," one of those cocked-hip-hand-behind-the-head-grin things. So what is it? More to the point, do we really have to define it?
Minnie’s first two shots on page 1 I think are street. The shot of the Sousaphone isn’t. Or is it? But that's why I continue to wonder if there can ever be a "definition" of "street, or if it's necessary or even desirable.
On page 2 Duck’s awesome shot of the Repent sign is, I believe, quintessential Street! The pictures I put up I have already categorized as Candids, definitely not
street, even had they all been shot on an actual street. My subjects were not aware of me because I was just quietly circulating with my camera completely silenced (lurves me mirrorless). I was in among them rather than using long focal lengths except for a few picked-off portraits. I guess I was behaving like a good street photographer, there, but not there. Unobtrusive.
I am a physical coward. I can work this way only in situations where it's unlikely that someone will want to feed me my camera, although in many years of shooting quiet candids at wedding receptions I can twice recall being threatened by a guest who was very offended at being photographed! Really! It happens!
Piet’s picture of an arcade on a boardwalk is, in my view, absolutely street. Or maybe boardwalk.
Ernst shows that Fan Ho is indeed a Master of Street.
I showed Margaret Bourke-White’s hugely ironic 1937 picture of people lining up for relief, but it was made on assignment for LIFE. Is it street? Or not? (I think it is.)
Minnie shows three more. The first, of two Amish girls on bicycles, I consider is not “street” even though it’s on a road. But the last two I think ARE “street.”
Graham’s next two examples are, so far as I am concerned, Quintessentially Street, especially the first of the two young women very fixedly looking at a (map?) on a tablet. Graham I consider also a Master of Street.
Matt Quinn shows an amazingly
ironic shot of a pile of literal garbage outside a McDonald’s with his breakfast sandwich in the foreground! (Did'ja lose yer appetite? I might have!) Is it street? I think maybe. Of his six shots I think four may be street, including the mannikins.
Dave Chinn’s three shots are, in my opinion, absolutely Street! And extremely good, but would anyone expect less? It’s Dave.
So I've yammered on and gotten nowhere. Maybe Street is indefinable because it is so very many things.
I contend that I "never" do street, but do I? This is a shot made at the start of a charity run in a drenching downpour. It was made on assignment. Is it street?SplopSplopSplopSplopSplop
by Charles Haacker
, on Flickr
This one I think is pretty solidly "candid." It was made indoors at a Holocaust memorial. The gentleman is a survivor, with generations of his family that would not exist had he been gassed. What if the event had been held outdoors? Even on an actual street? Would it be Street (I don't think so).Survivor With His Family
by Charles Haacker
, on Flickr
This one is at a farmers' market on an actual street. These young people are, I guess, buskers. So is this street? There seems to be some ambiguity whether buskers are "street" or not...Andi Dancer at the Farmers' Market
by Charles Haacker
, on Flickr