© 2017 WILLIAM KARL VALENTINE "Untitled" CHI-DSC 58974-20-17
I follow Street Photography International on Instagram, I follow numerous photography related accounts. Today they posted a posed portrait, I think it was a self portrait, of a woman's reflection in a rain drop covered window. It was a fine image, it got tons of "Likes" and emoji's, but it was not "Street Photography". I commented on the image, questioning if it was "Street Photography" and the photographer replied that it was because there was a street in the reflection... I chose not to continue my point there because I did not want a reply war on Instagram, opting to share my opinions here on my blog instead.
Doing a quick on line search this is one of the first definitions of Street Photography that I found: Street photography is a type of documentary photography that features subjects in candid situations within public places such as streets, parks, beaches, malls, political conventions and other settings. The basic concepts are the images are candid ( usually not posed ) and they document something. Yes I know every photograph documents something by the nature of the medium , but in this case I think good "Street Photography" documents the moment and has layers with deeper meaning created by the interaction of the different elements within the image. I am a Documentary Photographer, some of my images are "Street Photography" other images are just documentary in nature. Image quality is more important than a label.
I have seen a fair number of other images lately that people try to label as "Street Photography" and the images just are not, they are not candid nor documentary, and often they are not good. I think some people like the concept of Street Photography and adopt the label without knowing what is and what isn't Street Photography.
Above is one of my images from Chicago a couple weeks ago. I think this is a decent example of "Street Photography". I made the photograph while actually walking down the street, it's candid, it documents how these people looked on this date, plus the way the little girl is looking at the man begging while her mother is looking away adds that deeper layer of value for the viewer.
For those wanting a better understanding of Street Photography look for "Streetwise" published by Modernbook in 2010 which accompanied a MOPA exhibition on Street Photography curated by Deborah Klochko, its is a good definition of Street Photography. Garry Winogrand, Robert Frank, Danny Lyon, Bruce Davidson, and Lee Friedlander are Street Photography legends, look up their images. I do think is worth noting though, that I have seen a video interview of Winogrand where he ripped the term "Street Photography" and wanted nothing to do with it. That's why I will stick with the label "Documentary Photographer" and leave it at that.