What Is Street Photography?


There are many ways to define street photography. One of the best definitions I have come across is quoted by International street photographer, Fred Fogherty. Fogherty defines street photography as, ‘A non-formalised genre of photography that features subjects in candid situations within public places such as streets, parks, beaches, malls, political conventions and other associated settings.’

He then goes on in detail, ‘It typically uses the techniques of straight photography to show a pure vision of a situation, as if holding up a mirror to society. Images can often be ironic or emotionally detached from the subject matter, focussing instead on a particular context or detail. Framing and timing are key aspects of the craft, with the aim of creating images at a decisive or poignant moment. Alternatively, the street photographer may seek a more prosaic depiction of the scene, as a form of social documentary.’

20th Century French photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson (also known as the ‘father’ of Photojournalism) was considered to be a professional candid photographer, creating dramatic street photography on his 35mm format.

Examples of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work:

6a00d8341c82c653ef00e54f4652678833-500wi henri_cartier_bresson_children henri_cartier-bresson-sunday cartier-bresson

“Street photographs are telling objects, portraying how individuals perform their identities in public”, Marianne Hirsch and Leo Spizer quoted by Jennifer Tucker Eye on the Street: Photography in Urban Public Spaces Radical History Review September 2012.

A more modern Street Photographer who’s work is incredible, is New Yorker, Markus Hartel. He captures day to day life in the big apple, not glamourising the city like the majority of photographers/in the media, but capturing truth and reality.

Examples of Hartels work:






Surreptitious Photography

“A penitent spy and apologetic voyeur”, Walker Evans quoted by Geoff Dyer The Ongoing Moment 2005.

“A pervert, voyeur and flasher all rolled into one”, Bruce Davidson quoted by Geoff Dyer The Ongoing Moment 2005.

“I felt that one could get the quality of being through the fact that the person did not know he was being photographed”, Paul Strand quoted by Geoff Dyer The Ongoing Moment 2005.

Walker Evans was an American Photographer best known for his documentary photography capturing effects of the Great Depression.


‘Between 1938 and 1941 Walker Evans made a series of portraits of passengers on the New York Subway using a 35mm Contax camera set at a wide aperture and a 50th of a second shutter speed, with the chrome parts painted black, hidden beneath his coat. Evans rode the subway and waited until, he guessed, the person opposite him was appropriately framed.  Then, using a shutter release cable running down his sleeve, he would steady himself and take a picture.’ – Geoff Dyer The Ongoing Moment 2005



American photographer and writer Diane Arbus quoted (by Geoff Dyer The Ongoing Moment, 2005) about street portraits; ‘Everybody has that thing where they need to look one way but they come out looking another way and that’s what people observe.  You see someone on the street and essentially what you notice about them is the flaw.  It’s just extraordinary that we should have been given these peculiarities.  And, not content with what we were given, we create a whole other set.  Our whole guise is like giving a sign to the world to think of us in a certain way but there’s a point between what you want people to know about you and what you can’t help people knowing about you.’





Fred Fogherty quotes: http://www.fredfoghertyphotographer.com/definition-of-street-photography/

Cartier-Bresson images: http://www.ilex-press.com/2012/11/klein-vs-cartier-bresson-street-photography/



Hartels images: http://www.public-life.org/portfolio/angles/49/







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