On my working days, when the clock strikes one, I venture into Leeds City Centre searching out moments to capture on camera. What started as a lunch hour hobby has turned into somewhat of an obsession. I’m talking about street photography. Henri Cartier-Bresson, perhaps the most respected exponent of street photography, best described the pastime:
“Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.”
This ‘decisive moment’ has captivated photographers ever since the camera was made more portable in the early 20th century. Those capable of capturing it include Americans Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand and Vivian Maier, the founding fathers of a movement that has become a worldwide phenomenon. In the UK, among my contemporaries, are Nick Turpin, Matt Stuart, and David Gibson, who continue to master ‘the moment’ today.
The attraction of street photography is that anyone can do it – all you need is a camera. It doesn’t need to be an all-singing-all-dancing piece of kit, a mobile phone will do! Just have it on you, and keep your eye out for situations worth capturing. The streets are busy places, though, and at first everything can seem like a blur. But it’s astonishing how quickly your eye becomes trained to the nuances of a situation as it’s developing.
Every photographer has their favoured compositional approach. Ultimately, it’s what you, yourself, find interesting that creates the image. When I grab my camera and get outdoors, I like to look for the extraordinary in the everyday. Whether that’s repetitions of actions or colours, odd juxtapositions of objects, or simply capturing the emotion of a couple as they look at one another.
One piece of advice I’d offer is to remember that what you exclude is just as important as what you include. That’s why most of my pictures are black and white – to focus on their composition, without distracting colours. Street photography is like marketing and advertising. Less is more. So give your audience something direct to relate to. Keep it simple and it’ll get noticed.