If I thought for one minute that I was a successful photographer slash street photographer I might be a bit more confident in offering you my top tips for better street photography. You’ll find lots of other websites and street photography blogs offering similar advice with maybe a proven track record in the genre; publications, sales etc etc. Nevertheless what you’re about to read I hope you’ll get something from. These are just my thoughts and feelings on the subject based on over 30 years of using a camera.
- As Winogrand said something like ‘When you put four edges around a set of facts you change those facts’. It really is as simple as that. Don’t make photography hard for yourself.
2. Know your camera. We had an acronym in the iT world RTFM … ‘Read the F**** Manual !’, the same applies to photography. Know your camera and get to a point like driving a car where you operate it without thinking.
3. Follow your intuition and instinct. If something catches your eye it’s probably good for a photograph. Shoot first, think later.
4. Anticipate the moment. Keep looking !
5. Make lists of what to look out for when out with your camera. Make notes. Carry a notebook.
6. Study the work of other photographers and in particular the recognised Masters. know and acknowledge your influences.
7. Put the miles in. The more you practise the better you’ll get. Photography is like fishing. You have to be patient.
8. Know what’s going on in the world. Yes that means politics. Politics gets played out on the street everyday and everywhere. Sometimes in grand eloquent gestures and sometimes very subtly.
9. Study human behaviour. Psychology and Sociology are good starting points but don’t forget there’s Anthropology !
10 Educate yourself. You never stop learning. Read books. Don’t just read about photography. Read about life. Read the critically acclaimed books about your own country and people. Read the classics of literature. I read John Steinbeck because I like his style of writing but read anything.
11. Photography and especially street photography puts you in a unique position. Some would say a powerful position because you see people in a way they do not necessarily see themselves. Be aware of this ! Think about this.
12. You’re never going to survive unless you’re a little crazy !
I’d forgotten how attractive my wife was until I took a photo of her yesterday and that’s taught me something.
I didn’t realise how handsome, distinguished and intense my brother could look until I took a photo of him the other day while we were out together and that’s underlined what the image of my wife taught me.
The BBC finally got around to talking about British Photography. It’s not taken them that long really. They’ve just given us The History of British Photography presented by notable sports photographer Eamonn McCabe, a very potted history of the medium in three parts. To quote the preview gumpf below !
” Eamonn McCabe explores the development of the art of photography in the UK, beginning by looking at how science and technology allowed pioneering photographers like Roger Fenton and Julia Margaret Cameron to create a new art form in the 1800s.”
It was actually quite good and no doubt informative for those mildly interested in the subject or those whose thirst for knowledge is never ending. It was great to see my University Professor Tutor and now friend Paul Hill MBE ( awarded the MBE for services to British Contemporary photography ) sadly not talking about his own photography but that of landscape photographer Fay Godwin. Godwin sadly no longer with us attended some of Paul’s Workshop weekends at The Photographers Place, Bradbourne, Derbyshire back in the 80’s. I wish I’d have attended some of them but I neither had the courage, confidence in my own work or, and perhaps more importantly, the finances. My Dad probably wouldn’t have given me a lift there either even though it was just down the road.
Martin Parr who also attended Paul’s Workshops back in the day was another notable image maker on this programme. He’s like the Banksy of the photographic world by which I mean virtually everyone knows has heard of him. Parr’s pretty much turned himself into a Brand and you can bet your sweet ass that whenever there’s a programme about photography Parr will feature in it somewhere in it. You’d be forgiven for thinking Contemporary Photography begins and ends with Parr. I often wonder what Tony Ray-Jones would be doing now if he were still alive.
I was fortunate enough to be in London when Parr presented his New Brighton work at the Photographers Gallery round about 1986 ( yes I’m that bloody old ) and I managed to somehow get into the Evening Private Viewing glass of wine nibble of cheese soiree bash. Parr who was a lot younger than he is now also gave a little talk followed by a question and answer session. Some BBC Executives turned up and gave his some flak concerning the invasive nature of his working methods. I seem to remember making some comment in defence of Parr’s work to the assembled throng but whose going to listen to a twenty year old Northern oik dressed in bumper boots, jeans and Harrington jacket when you’re a Beeb Exec and pursuing a successful media career in keeping the population happy. Even now I can’t help thinking if these middle class cheese eating munters had concentrated on making sure their own BBC house was in order Jimmy Saville et al the country might not be so ringing it’s hands right now.
I used to love going to the Photographers Gallery on Great Newport St back in those days whenever I was in London staying at my brother’s place. You could always get a decent bowl of salad and fresh orange juice but more importantly the toilets were always clean in which to enjoy a good dump in a morning before setting off into the West End. Somewhere in my negative folder I’ve got a self portrait sat on, taken using my OM1-N on self timer hung from the back of the toilet door coat hook. Must dig that one out sometime.
Right that’s it, I’m off to do some sewing !