Introspection is the basis of your own unique personal style as a street photographer.
Today I want to talk about introspection as it relates to street photography. Introspection can help you improve your street photography. We’ll define introspection. What introspection does. How introspection improves street photography. And how you can draw inspiration from introspection. I’ll also relate two stories that illustrate how introspection affects my street photography.
I watched a video on YouTube the other day and this guy was shooting street photography in Tokyo. When he photographed an elderly gentleman who looked like he was in his eighties, he commented:
‘This is me 50 years from now.’
The street photographer saw himself in the old man. That’s introspection.
Introspection will help improve your street photography by:
Encouraging you to work on a theme
Sharpening your observation skills
Giving your images a voice
Follow your own style
Making your photos memorable
What is introspection?
“The contemplation of your own thoughts, desires and conduct ” – WordWeb
“Many people suffer from the fear of findingoneself alone, and so they don’t find themselves at all.” – Rollo May
“Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.” – Lewis Carroll
“You can’t lie to your soul.” – Irvine Welsh
“Your vision will become clear only when you look into yourown heart.” – C.G. Jung
“The only journey is the one within.” – Rainer Maria Rilke
How Introspection Improves Street Photography
It’s natural to think about aging or growing old. I see myself in aged people when I see an old man and think:
‘I wonder how old he is. Will I live long enough to reach that age? Do I want to live until I’m this old?’
You may remember that I expressed similar sentiments about John Free the other day.
Thinking in this way can help you find subjects for your street photography project. You might want to photograph old people to make a specific point. For example, you can decide to document people in their seventies or eighties to highlight the challenges they face or characteristics they have. Such a project can produce memorable images that set you apart from your peers.
Introspection will help you improve your street photography because it motivates you to focus on specific ideas or projects.
The photo below help to illustrate this point. Let me explain. I’m a delivery driver. That’s what I do to pay the bills. I’ve worked for the same employer as a delivery driver for 10 years. My job takes me to Johannesburg every week. As a delivery driver I see other drivers everyday. We meet at some of the places where we collect or deliver goods. Drivers from same industries know one another because they meet at these spots regularly.
My eye is automatically drawn to delivery drivers when I’m out shooting street photography. We all see delivery drivers everyday in our lives.
Do you have any photos of delivery drivers in your archive? Have you ever thought of capturing these men and women and thus immortalizing their contributions to the economy?
It was New Year Eve in 2015 when I captured this photo of two delivery drivers in Middelburg.
It was particularly busy in town on that day as people were rushing around buying food and beverages to celebrate the New Year. When I left home to go and shoot that day I wanted to capture the vibe of last-minute shopping.
But the only keeper that I came back with was this photo of two men delivering meat.
My inner delivery driver alerted me to these guys as their truck slowed down next to Jumbo Butchery in SADC street. I watched them for a few minutes . While waiting for them to park their vehicle, I set my camera in preparation for this shot. I then walked briskly towards them.
When the man outside of the truck looked up and saw that I was pointing my camera at him he was almost shocked. He had this heavy chunk of meat on his shoulder and did not know how to react. I liked the eye contact as it makes this photo more interesting.
Introspection Improves Street Photography – Unveils The Farm Labourer In Me
Whenever I see a farm-worker my heart sinks. I think about the plight of men and women who toil on the farms for a pittance. I think about the poor living conditions these people have to endure. The poverty of some of South African farm-workers pains my heart.
How do I know the plight of our brothers and sisters on these farms? I used to work as a farm labourer myself. I remember the poor conditions, the squalor and the oppression I used to endure on the farms around Groblersdal and Marble Hall.
This photo depicts women who work on a farm about 13 kilometres north of Middelburg. They sleep on the floor. There are no mattresses, no beds, no television. These women work six days a week in return for bags of maize meal. No money goes into their pockets or purses. And yet they’re expected to buy what is commonly refered to here as Sesheboor relish. Their employer is kind enough to give them pap only.
Images like this trigger sad memories of my earlier years when I was a farm boy. My heart goes out to people like these.
Introspection thus let me think of specific events or ideas that I can capture with my camera as a street photographer. Introspection can help you decide on what to shoot, what message to convey and why you shoot. And since your experiences are different from mine and from those of other people, introspection will help you capture unique images that will set you apart or make your work stand out.
Embrace Introspection And Release Those Creative Juices
Introspection is the basis of your own unique personal style as a street photographer. Embrace it. Don’t be afraid to face your own demons or those skeletons in the closet.
Discover street photography style and skyrocket your hit rate!
How far do you have to go to discover your own unique street photography style? How long does it take for one to develop a style in street photography? What is style? This blog post will give answers to these and more questions on how to discover street photography style.
“Style is more about the content of what you shoot than necessarily in the look of the photographs.” – James Maher
“Style in street photography, for me, is being able to display a message from your mind, through your photograph. We all have different ways of thinking and viewing and that is why, when we are truly ourselves, our street photography differs. To find your style, you must first find out who you are. I always try to find powerful colours, strong light and the humorous in my work. This relates directly to my personality – vibrant, outgoing and lean heavily towards comedy.” – Dan Ginn
Style is “whatever you concentrate on, it could be lighting, composition or subject.” – Harry Teasley
Style is “one’s personal signature on a canvas of chaos.” – Craig Boehman, Streettog.org.
“Style is about the subject, how you look at it and how you approach it. It’s your vision refined. It’s about what you’re drawn to shoot and how you go about shooting it. Being consistent. Style is what defines you.” – Ross A.Wilson
Style is just a shorthand expression meant to encompass distinctiveness. – Gilker Kimmel
“Style is an outward expression of your inner self.”
According to this definition, style is you.
Style is who you are.
The best way to understand style is to ask yourself:
Who am I?
It is clear then that only you can define what style is for you.
Ask yourself these questions:
Why do I like street photography?
What subjects do I like to shoot?
What subjects do I want to avoid shooting?
Do I prefer to shoot during the golden hours?
Do I enjoy shooting at night?
Do I prefer to shoot in extreme weather?
Do I enjoy shooting at any time of the day?
Is the decisive moment more important to me?
Does composition matter to me?
Am I fascinated by the human element in my photos?
The most important question is:
Let me tell you a story that will help you appreciate this question.
I recently sat down to look at all my photos. I went through all my folders on my computer. I checked the images on my external hard drive disk and those on DVDs/CDs.
I wanted to see if there was a thread or pattern in them. Something that could point to my style of street photography.
I used different cameras to shoot all these photos in my archive. So I was not interested in seeing which camera helped me take better photos. Or whether Black and White was better than Colour. Rather, I was looking for a pattern of pictures that were the same in terms of subjects.
I needed to do this because I noticed something unusual in my street photography lately.
I shoot only with my smart phone, and this forces me to look for specific subjects. There’s only so much that one can do when shooting with a cellphone.
As a result of relying only on my smart phone (I don’t have a camera at the moment), I realised that I mostly shoot a certain type of subject.
I caught myself shooting only people who were alone. These people have something in common. They are mostly seated when I photograph them. And they’re either stranded, lost or for some reason, deep in thought.
Some of my subjects look lonely. Others are most probably waiting for somebody or something. The words that I can use to describe these people include:Alone, forsaken, loneliness, solitude, forlornness, isolation, lost, waiting.
I find it easier to photograph these people because they are not alert to their surroundings. They’re so wrapped up in their thoughts that I can get close and photograph them without raising any suspicion.
When I looked at my old images in my archives I noticed the same thread. Even when I was using real cameras I shot the same type of subject.
Why was I so eager to photograph lost/distracted/lonely/solitary people?
It took me a long time to figure it out. But eventually I came to this conclusion:
I was photographing who I am. Or who I’d been in the past.
Who Am I?
My street photography is not only about who I am. It’s also about my past. My history.
I’d experienced hardships in my life in the past. These included or stemmed from my marital problems. My wife and I separated for about eighteen months in 2004/2005.
I moved out of our house in Johannesburg and went to live in the Vaal Triangle town of Vereeniging.
The experiences I had during that period contributed immensely to what I am shooting today. While in the Vaal…
I was lonely. I was lost. I was hopeless.
I was alone most of the time. I knew no one in the Vaal. I did not speak the language spoken there. I did not know the area at all.
At some point I found myself living on the streets.
I even tried to buy and sell goods on the streets. Yes, I was a hawker before being employed by a Financial Services company in Beaconsfield Avenue, Vereeniging.
The point here is that we all have our own styles. Style emanates from deep within our psyche. All you have to do is recognise or acknowledge your own style. And one way of doing that is to study your own work, analyse it and categorise it.
What if you’re just starting out and do not have any photos to analyse?
Depending where you live or work, think about something that really irritates or surprises you. Something that fascinates or frustrates you. If you had a camera and the time, would you like to record or capture it and share that with your friends?
As an example of this idea, think about Black African women smokers in South Africa. Let me explain. In Black African communities in this country it’s almost taboo for women to smoke cigarettes. One expect to see women enjoy their snuff or drinking traditional beer. Smoking is simply taboo. I’m not saying that it’s not done at all. But it’s so rare that when I see a Black African woman smoking a cigarette, I cringe.
It makes me want to capture that moment so I can show people I actually saw a Black woman smoking a cigarette. To put this matter in its proper context, I see White, Coloured and Indian women smoking a cigarette almost everyday in South Africa. This does not surprise me at all. It’s their thing, as far as I’m concerned. It’s just not so prevalent in my community.
Now if I decide to go out with a camera and photograph only Black African women who smoke cigarettes, that would be my style. I would be focusing my attention on this particular topic or theme.
Another example involves the same group of women. This time they’re not smoking but are riding bicycles. Not exactly a taboo. But something very seldom done. The other day I saw this woman riding a bicycle to work. It was at around 05h30 in the morning. Two things came to my mind.
Why would this woman be riding a bicycle? And why would she be doing this so early in the morning? The mere fact that she was on a bike attracted undue attention to her. In addition to that, this was an unholy hour. People get mugged or raped in this part of the township.
As a street photographer, I now have two ideas of subjects that I can concentrate on for a project. This could very well be my style of street photography.
Study Other Photographers
I quoted a number of street photographers at the beginning of this blog post. You can learn a lot from other street photographers. Take a workshop with a street photographer of your choice.
Read books written by those whose work you admire. Check their portfolios. Read everything written about them. Listen to their podcasts or interviews. Better still, interview them if you can.
In preparation for this article I stumbled upon the work of Troy Holden. This San Francisco based photographer is the epitome of street photography for me.
Troy relies on serendipity or happenstance for his work. And it works for him. Unplanned and unposed interactions of life on the street – this is what Troy aims his lens at. I love and am very fascinated by this accomplished snapshooter. His is a classic street photography style.
What Troy does in San Francisco is what I want to do in my home town of Middelburg. A glance through my archive reveals several photos that resemble those of Troy. He’s my hero.
This is how Troy defines his work: “No choreography. Candid photos of strangers in public.”
Who do you admire? Who is your hero or ‘master’ in street photography? Why do you like his or her style?
Discover Street Photography Style – Components of style
Think of style as something tangible. Think about things like, if you have to choose between Colour and Black-and-White, which one appeals to you most? Do you have to make that choice at all? Or are you happy with both mediums?
Your answer to this question will help you find a style.
Let’s take a look at the following portfolios of three street photographers who each have a distinguishable style.
I will refrain from using their names because I want you to try to figure out who I’m talking about here.
Style: Black and White. Clean, detailed and natural looking greys. This is how the man describes his style: “My street photography style over all centres around Black and White renditions of public life, more mid-tones than contrast with an emphasis on pixel-clean imagery with less grain (noise).”
Style: Black and White. Focuses on quality of light and composition as his strong points.
Takeaway point. They all like Black and White. But Black and White is not the same thing to all of them. Each street photographer prefers a certain look of Black and White. What’s the look you like most? I like Portfolio Z. This does not mean I want to imitate him. I just love his take on light and composition.
There are images that look best in Colour. This is why street photographers such as Vineet Vohra shoot in this medium. Forrest Walker also shoot in Colour as does Rammy Narula. Again , these street photographers see and treat colour differently.
You can settle on your own street photography style based on aesthetics alone.
The subject of your street photography depends on many things. Like where you live, your childhood experiences and your current state of mind. As Hugh Ardoin would put it: “Style comes from your cultural baggage.”
I mentioned solitude and loneliness above. These are two aspects of human life that are almost similar but vastly different. What moves me to photograph on the streets is loneliness.
Nicholas Goodden however, prefers his own company. That’s solitude, not loneliness. Which one of these would like to work on as a personal project to see if you like it?
Still on the issue of feelings, there’s a second style of street photography that I discovered from my archive. This one emanates from my time as a hawker. Hawking refers to buying and selling goods on the street. Hawkers sell their wares from a stall or they walk around looking for customers.
I used to do this to make a living. And this manifests itself in some of my photographs. To illustrate this point, sometimes when I go out to shoot I allow the streets to surprise me. By this I mean that I do no have a specific theme to work on. I just explore the streets to see what will happen.
And what usually happens is that I come back home with pictures of hawkers. Why? Because hawking is something I understand. It’s edged in my psyche. I understand what these men and women are going through. I sympathise with them. I appreciate their plight. I know why they’re doing this.
Takeaway point: It’s possible and acceptable to have more than one style. You don’t have to stick with one style. Keep exploring and challenging yourself. You might discover something new and interesting to work on. Who knows, that might be the style that will set you apart from your peers.
Without getting lost in the Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS) debate, equipment does play a role in your street photography. What camera you have will dictate your choice of subjects. It will affect your decision to shoot at night or during the day.
If you shoot with a smart phone you cannot get the same quality as someone who shoots with a DSLR.
The society you live in or want to live in will also help you refine your style. You may like politics or religion. Or you may hate these two ideologies. Perhaps you’re a tribesman or woman in a village somewhere in Africa or Afghanistan. That will influence your style. Your work will differ much with that of a street photographer based in New York.
It’s Not Out There – It’s In Here
Street Photography Style or Style in Street Photography is not something that you need to travel around the world to find. It’s within you. It’s personal. It’s what you like. What you want. What you hate. What you despise. It’s your take on life. Your commentary on the things as they are.
Have I left something?
How would you define style in street photography to a complete beginner? What’s your take on my attempt at defining street photography style?
How did you discover your own street photography style? How long did it take you to recognise your own style?
I hope I did not leave you with more questions than answers on this topic. Do you have any street photography related topics that you would like me to write about in future?
If you enjoyed this discussion of street photography style please share it.
I had much fun shooting street photography at fundraising events in my neighbourhoods of Mhluzi and Middelburg, Mpumalanga. You too can enjoy shooting street photography at sporting events in your area. The photos featured in this post are from my archive. I captured them several years ago. My aim is to show you how fun it is to shoot street photography at these events.
Street Photography Events – Gallery
If you don’t have the time to read this 900-word post, please take a few minutes and look at this photo gallery. I included photos that I took at several sporting events in my neighbourhood.
In today’s post I want to share with you my experiences as a novice street shooter in Mhluzi township and Middelburg.
Shooting street photography at sporting events is more pleasant than fearful. I suggest you take this route as you gradually learn and get used to photographing strangers.
This is how I garnered the courage to shoot in public.
I started shooting street photography at sporting events in Mhluzi and Middelburg long before I realised it was a recognised genre.
Shooting street photography at sporting events is an excellent way to learn. You’re not the only guy with a camera. And most people love being photographed. Some of the participants will gladly pose for you if you ask nicely. This is also a great place and time to shoot street portraits.
Street Photography Events in Mhluzi Township
There are two major sporting events that take place in my small mining town of Middelburg.
The Rotary Greatest Train Race and The Paul Mthimunye Bursary Fund Big Walk.
The GTR happens in August while the Big Walk is held on the first week of September.
I started covering the Big Walk in 2009. My best camera then was the tried and tested Fujifilm S5700. I had just bought this device and wanted to test drive it.
September 1 fell on a Saturday that year. A perfect date for the event.
I got up early and walked to the Eric Jiyane Hallin Ngwako street. It was a bit chilly for a cold-blooded person like myself.
When I got there at 06h00 a few people could be seen approaching from all sides. They were teachers and parents of children from the local schools.
Soon more people arrived.
I blended in with the crowd and started taking photos.
I was shooting in AUTO mode and the camera made all the decisions for me. All I had to do was compose and then press the shutter release button.
From the Eric Jiyane Hall the participants started walking towards Botshabelo. Some of the more energetic children and their teachers started running.
I walked and ran with them. Taking as many photos as I could.
We crossed the Klein Olifants River and joined the N11 towards Groblersdal and Botshabelo.
Street Photography Events in the Middelburg CBD
The Rotary Greatest Train Race attracts people of all races. It’s a race between two local towns. The participants race against a train from eMalahleni (Witbank) to Middelburg.
This race is a major fund-raiser for orphaned children and other charities in the Highveld region of Mpumalanga Province.
Its supported by mining companies and other industries.
These companies send teams of athletes to represent them in the race.
Members of the public are also allowed to compete by running or walking specific distances. The two mining towns are about 30 kilometres apart.
When I attended the GTR for the first time in 2010, I had my Nikon D3200 and two kit lenses. I had just acquired this gear and felt like a pro.
This was the right place for me to test my new camera and kit lens that came with it. I also had the 80 200mm zoom.
Fear of photographing strangers at the race was simply out of the question. I was really excited to shoot at the GTR.
People posed for me to photograph them. Some of them thought I was a journalist from the local newspaper.
The real fun for me was capturing candid moments before and after the race. There some interesting characters who took part in the race.
Most of the runners and walkers had sporting apparel with the names of their company or club on them. Others wore extravagant regalia to attract attention.
This race begins early in the morning and ends at around 14h00.
The GTR Spills into Mathole Park, Mhluzi
For most of those who attended the GTR in Middelburg the real fun begins after the race. They flock to Oliver Tambo Park in Mhluzi Township. Commonly referred to as Mathole Park, this is where most people come to relax and have a good time.
What sporting events take place in your area? Why don’t you go to one of these and hone your shooting skills?
You might be pleasantly surprised how relatively easy it is to shoot street photography at public gatherings.
Just remember, be respectful and blend in with the crowd as much as you can. Don’t act like you’re doing anything wrong. If you’re still nervous to shoot discreetly, ask for permission and shoot street portraits.
Shooting street photography at sporting events is definitely one thing that can help you improve your skills. Try it.
Please connect with me on Twitter and let me know how it went.
Let me tell you how crazy I am about Street Photography in South Africa. But first, here are some CrazyStreet Photography Tips for South African Street Photographers:
Some Crazy Street Photography Tips For South Africans:
You can enjoy street photography without a camera.
Street Photography is about seeing.
If you own a camera – any camera, you can start shooting street photography today.
People of all ages can enjoy street photography – there are no age limits.
People of all races and social standing have the right to shoot street photography.
Street photography knows no geographic boundaries. Anyone anywhere can enjoy this craft.
You can shoot street photography with your smart phone.
You can use your point-and-shoot to capture candid moments.
Even your bulky and shiny DSLR is suitable for street photography.
But if you’re crazy enough and can afford one, get a Leica or any mirrorless compact camera.
Street Photographer South Africa – My Irrational Passion
Like irrational fears, such as acrophobia, (fear of heights) claustrophobia ( fear of confined spaces) and agoraphobia, (fear of open spaces) street photography is difficult to explain.
Only crazy people like me will understand the irresistible urge to photograph strangers in public spaces. If you’re that crazy, street photography is a way of life for you. And you don’t need to explain to anyone why you’re roaming the streets looking for something that may or may not happen.
As an African Street Photographer living and shooting in South Africa, I often get asked why I shoot street photography.
People just don’t get it.
And that’s OK.
So, I just tell them that I’m crazy.
You should see the look on their faces when they hear that.
Some are actually puzzled at my response. Others angrily agree with me and say: ‘Yeah, of course you’re crazy.’
‘Why would any normal person take pictures of people who won’t pay him for his work? Why are you doing it anyway? Can’t you find a better hobby out there to immerse yourself in?’
To that I say: This is my best hobby.
Not only that. It’s my irrational passion.
Street Photographer South Africa – My Passion and Fear (Acrophobia)
I also enjoy or suffer from something called irrational fear.
Otherwise known as acrophobia, this one does not really make me happy. Instead, it makes my life miserable.
Sometimes I use my passion for photography to control this fear of heights. Let me explain.
In 2010 I was in Midrand, Johannesburg and while driving along the Allandale road, I saw men working on electrical pylons.
They were doing their thing at such dizzying heights that I felt my tummy grumbling and I suddenly found it difficult to continue driving. So I stopped on the side of the road and started taking photos. That did the trick for me.
The act of photographing these workers at such heights made me feel better. One of those photos went on to win a competition in PIX magazine. The first prize was a small Nikon s3000.
As my Afrikaans speaking friend would put it: Dis lekker om so mal tewees.
Another time when my irrational passions worked together was when I was at a steel factory in Witbank. I had to deliver some goods at the Highveld Steel And Vanadium Corp.
The security guard send me to the Electrical Foreman at the steel plant. I had to climb this long stairway that winded upwards to the top of the structure. My destination was at the top floor.
I remember being so scared that I rested at every floor level. Young and middle-aged steel workers walked passed me on their way upstairs. When some of these energetic guys came back an older man noticed that I was struggling.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
“No.” I said.
“What are you doing here?”
“I need to deliver these goods to the foreman. But I’m scared of heights”
“You must tell your boss not to send you here again.”
That was not very helpful. I could lose my job!
So I psyched myself up.
I imagined I was the official photographer at this giant steel factory. What would I do if asked to document the factory and tell it’s story?
The mere idea of me carrying my favourite camera and photographing The Highveld gave me strength.
I walked up like everyone.
As I sat and waited for the foreman to sign my papers I felt the structure shaking. I looked at the foreman and he remained as cool as a cucumber.
I asked him if the office was shaking.
“Yes”. he said.
“Why?” I asked.
“There is a crane moving overhead.”
“This happens everyday?”
I sat there, thinking about my way down.
Again I assumed my imaginary role as the industrial photographer and then walked away peacefully.
So you see, I’m crazy as a South African Street Photographer. I can’t help it. It’s who I am and no one can change that. No, I don’t expect people to understand.
Incidentally, just last week I happened to visit the Highveld Steel And Vanadium Corporation again. This time, to deliver supplies at the Structural Mill. Now, most of you who know this former industrial giant will remember that it closed down several years ago, resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs.
Street Photographer South Africa – Are You Crazy?
If you’re a Street Photographer like me and live in sunny South Africa, please call me and let’s compare notes. Leave a WhatsApp voice note on this number: 063 342 6141. Send an SMS if you like. Whatever you do, just get in touch with me. Connect with me on Twitter and let’s have a chat.
Even if you’re not as crazy about street photography like me, but you want to learn more about this genre, please get in touch with me.
Have you got any stories or experiences about street photography that you would like to share with me?
18 Street Photography Links That Will Make You Happy
The following street photography links should put a smile on the face of any novice street photographer. I know that most people prefer the word amateur or beginner instead of novice. Whatever word you like. I mean you, if you’re new to street photography and are hungry for more information that will help you improve your skills. This blog post aims to help you learn more about your favourite hobby. Perhaps you like the word pastime instead of hobby.
Anyways, let’s begin.
I believe that no one can learn everything from any one source. For example, we all know that for everyone learning street photography they’ll be better advised to start at Eric Kim’s blog for more in-depth study of the genre.
But we’ll all benefit more if we expand our search for knowledge and information. We need to search for more sources of ideas and different approaches by other photographers and writers.
I have therefore decided to bring you more street photography links that will help you to do just that.
18 Street Photography Links That Will Make You Happy
On Why I/You/We Like Street Photography
Why do you shoot street photography? Why do I shoot street photography? you might ask. Indeed why do people like to shoot street photography?
It’s fascinating to hear how different photographers answer this question. Their answers or explanations help me refine my understanding of this genre of photography. I hope it’ll also help you enjoy this hobby/pastime even more.
What camera to use for street photography is a hotly debated topic online. And this is very interesting in that it encourages me to learn more about other cameras. This debate pushes me to accept that there’s no better camera out there. But who am I to make that statement? Let me give the following street photographers a chance to tell you what they think about this topic.
Last but not least, how you define street photography might be a source of serious debate. But who cares? I think this debate will go on and on for a very long time. But it helps to learn how others define street photography. Their definition may not match yours or add anything to what you know already but still, you can learn something.
There are those who prefer a traditional or strict definition of street photography. And some of us welcome a more relaxed and accommodating definition. How do you define street photography?
Find out what these shooters think about this superb genre of photography.
I hope you’ll find at least some of these 18 Street Photography Links useful. And I genuinely believe that they will put a smile on your face. I loved Satoki Nagata’s definition of street photography. She definitely made me chuckle.
It’ll be interesting to hear what you think about these Street Photography Links. Share your ideas with me in the comments section below.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Philemon Nkadimeng is a Street Photography Blogger based in Mhluzi Township, South Africa. Contact him on his website, or follow him on Twitter. See his African Perspective Street Photography on Instagram.
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Increase your enjoyment of this pastime by shooting those who spend most of their time shooting or photographing other people. Yes, I mean those who take photos like you do. Shoot them. With your camera, of course! Take Photos Fun.
In this blog post I’m going to share with you the photos of photographers on duty. I had great fun taking these pictures and hope that you’ll find them interesting and hopefully learn how to have fun taking photos of other shooters.
Did you take any photos today? If so, was it for fun or for profit?
Most of us take photos for fun. And we’re always looking for photo opportunities where we can just click away!
I use my smart phone to take photos during the week. On weekends I prefer to take out my most prized toy. The real camera. There are many advantages to shooting with a real camera than when you use your cellphone.
The image quality to start with is great when compared with that of a cellphone camera. My smartphone cannot zoom, or at least, I don’t know how to use the zoom function. Another thing that I really enjoy when using a camera instead of a phone is the ability to use the burst mode. I just love the machine-gun-like sound my camera makes when shooting in this continuous mode.
But ultimately it doesn’t matter what you shoot with. As long as you get the opportunity shoot. Go ahead and capture those rare moments.
As a street photographer living in one of the townships in South Africa, I enjoy shooting people when they least expect it.
Candid photography makes me happier than old-fashioned, posed snapshots. You know the ones I’m talking about.
In South African Black communities we used to have a family album. It contained pictures of our loved ones during happier times like birthday parties, get-together, weddings and so on and so forth.
One dominant feature of these albums was the awkwardness with which people would pose. Some simply stood still like statues. Others looked like they don’t know what to do with their hands. A few would make gestures or fake a smile. Photographers in those days would just say ‘smile’. Or they would ask you to say ‘cheese’ and then click the shutter. Boring stuff, if you ask me.
Which is why I mostly prefer to shoot the streets. Shooting the streets has its own problems or challenges. First of all you’re not guaranteed a subject. I mean you’re not sure if there will be someone worth shooting. So you’re constantly on the watch, searching for suitable subjects.
Another challenge presented by street photography is the way people react when they see you with a camera. People just don’t know how to behave or react when they see you with a camera.
Oddly enough, this also applies to those of us who enjoy photographing others. Yes, a photographer on the other side of the camera is a totally different person from the one who shoots or captures images of other people.
Do you like being photographed? How do you react when someone takes your picture? And, if that person is unknown to you, how do you feel?
I find this phenomenon of watching photographers cringe when being photographed very entertaining indeed. I find it particularly amusing when a street photographer or a journalist dislikes being photographed.
It’s ironic isn’t it?
Here is someone who cherishes the idea and opportunity to shoot freely and yet becomes dumbstruck when the shoe is on the other foot.
You can have great fun by focusing your camera or phone to the shooters themselves. Shoot them and see how they react. I for one find it rather unsettling to be photographed. I mean you should look at some of my photos where I was the subject. I simply don’t know how to pose.
Sometimes I get confused about the ‘look’ I want to portray. I also worry too much about the shooter’s intention. What ‘look’ does he or she want?
How do you react in front of a camera? Do you like being photographed?
I think we photographers should set a good example for our subjects. We must be OK with being photographed. And if you’re a street photographer like me, you have no choice but to like being photographed. We must taste ourown medicine.
Take Photos Fun. Taking photos of those who take other people’s
photos is even more fun. The next time you go out to shoot, look for
other shooters. Shoot the shooter and have fun.
Why do you shoot? Do you do it for fun or for profit?
I do it for fun.
Cheers, and have more fun today!
PS. If you like this blog post please share it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Philemon Nkadimeng is a Street Photographer based in Mhluzi Township, South Africa. Contact him on his websiteor on Twitter. Check his Township Photos on Instagram.
Welcome to the Street Photography South Africa project. This project is about Street Photography In The Townships Of South Africa. Using Mhluzi Township as a model of all townships in this country, it will feature images taken exclusively in Mhluzi by yours truly. This is my way of sharing with you what life is like in these ghettos. I live here, so I believe that I’m better positioned to portray the life of a street photographer in the Townships of South Africa.
Street Photography South Africa
This post is very different from all the other posts that I’ve written before.
My earlier blog posts sought to inspire and motivate you to shoot more.
Starting this week, I’ll be telling you a lot about my Street PhotographySouth Africa project.
My stats show that most of you guys and gals are reading this from the USA, Canada, the UK and the European Union.
I know that this is a generalisation, since some of my readers are in India and Italy.
The point is that this blog appeals to Westerners more than to my
Hence my decision to write more about my work in South Africa and to help you understand this country a little better.
In this post I’m going to share with you what it’s like to shoot
street photography in a South African Township.
I’m hoping to give you a mental picture of life in the townships of South Africa. Hope you find it interesting.
Please feel free to tell me what you think about this slight change of focus. I value your opinion and am looking forward to hear your reaction in the comments section.
South Africa is a land of contrasts. And for a street photographer this country is like paradise.
There are two extremes that cannot be ignored or overlooked here – extreme wealth and abject poverty. There is a First World and Third World South Africa.
In South Africa you get World Class African cities such as Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. Each of these cities and every other town and city in the country is surrounded by townships.
Also called Locations, eKasi, Skomplaas, or Lokshini, this is where Black people live. The economic disparities and contrasts of this country are clearly apparent in the Townships.
I live in Mhluzi Township. Mhluzi means gravy or soup in the Ndebele language. It’s situated about 5 minutes’ drive to the west of the mining town of Middelburg in Mpumalanga, one of the nine provinces of South Africa.
The other eight provinces are:
Kwa Zulu Natal
Gauteng, Western Cape and – Kwa Zulu Natal are major tourist destinations and loved by many Westerners.
Mpumalanga is also an attractive tourist area. It’s home to the Kruger NationalPark, God’s Window and the Echo Caves, to name but a few.
Street Photography South Africa
The people of South Africa speak 11 official languages. Afrikaans, English and Zulu are the dominant ones. If you speak one of these three languages you’ll have no problem communicating with the locals.
In addition to the official languages spoken in this country, there are many foreign languages spoken, such as French, Portuguese, Swahili and Amharic.
Street Photography South Africa
As far as street photography goes, South Africa is no different from other countries. This is especially true if you restrict your visit to the cities and towns. But if you go to the Townships, you’ll discover a totally different experience.
If you’re visiting the country from the USA, Canada or the European Union, you’ll find the townships very fascinating indeed. A word of warning, though. Don’t do it alone. You must have a local tour guide or host.
There are many things to see and experience in the townships, but if you’re a tourist it’s advisable to not venture there alone. I remember Thomas Leuthard bemoaning the fact that, as a white person, he stood out in the crowd when he was visiting Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. That’s exactly the problem. White people in the township stand out.
This attracts shady characters who might want to rob you of your possessions. They might be tempted to grab your bag or steal your camera. But if you have someone showing you around you’ll be safe and you don’t need to worry too much about safety. I think this is just plain common sense.
A local knows the area better and will avoid so-called crime hot-spots while taking you to areas that will be of interest to you.
Street Photography South Africa – Mhluzi Township
Street Photography in Mhluzi Township
Shooting street photography in the Mhluzi township is both exhilarating and scary. The township is home to people of different ethnic groups and nationalities. Life here is both boring and exciting at the same time.
One moment there’s absolutely nothing to shoot. The next moment things happen so fast you’re spoilt for choice about what to shoot. Depending on what you like to photograph, you can do so peacefully or face danger from unexpected quarters.
African people generally don’t mind being photographed. Especially when there’s something important happening. Such as a party, sports games or protest marches. But things can turn ugly without warning. For example, some people might expect to be paid for their photos. And if you don’t have the money to pay them or you just prefer not to do so, they will ask you to delete their pictures.
Protest marches present a good photo opportunity for street photographers who like documentary or photojournalistic images. But it’s important to understand why people are protesting. Some of these protests turn violent when some participants don’t want to be photographed for fear that their employers might see their pictures in the local newspaper or even on television.
Photographing a Stay-Away might be a bad idea unless you do so with extreme caution.
If you like street portraits you can find many willing subjects in the townships. Ask them about their life experiences, their dreams for their children, their political affiliation etc. Keep them talking and you’ll win their hearts. Show them the photos on the LCD screen of your camera and promise to send them the photos via WhatsApp or email. If you’re adventurous you can promise to make them famous by publishing their photos on the internet or in the Local newspaper.
Organise yourselves into a small group of no more than 10 people and ask your host to also act as your security guard. Yes, your tour guide will know how to protect you and who or what to protect you from.
Street Photography South Africa – How I Shoot Street Photography In Mhluzi Township
I started shooting street photography in 2009. At the time I did not know what street photography was. I photographed anything and everything.
From religious rituals to political marches. I did not know what to shoot or
what NOT to shoot.
So I experimented with everything.
I also shot portraits or general snapshots. But these were the least of
my favourites. So I purposely avoided shooting people because I did not
really enjoy doing so.
There are several DVD’s in my cupboard full of photos of Landscapes, Flowers, Insects and other things except people.
Shooting people was like an inconvenience to me.
There was a time way back when I actually loved to shoot portraits for a fee. It was during the Film days and I used my camera as a source of income where I would photograph someone and charge them something like R10 per photo.
This business model worked. But not perfectly.
Some people did pay me for the pictures that I had taken of them. Others refused to pay because they either did not have the money or they simply did not like the photos.
Some of the photos came out under, or over-exposed. Or the
entire film came back from the lab blank. It was a tricky business.
Making money in this way was frustrating and a waste of time.
But this is how most cameramen (freelance photographers) operated.
And some made a killing this way.
In the Townships you walk around with your camera hanging on your neck or shoulder. People approach you and ask for a photo. They ask how much you charge for a card (postcardsize) snapshot and then you shoot. No one pays on the spot.
You can ask for a fifty percent deposit, but some customers won’t have any money to pay you there and then. In that case you shoot and hope that when you deliver the end product after a week or two, they will then pay.
I ended up with stacks of unwanted photos.
This frustrated me so much that I decided I don’t want to shoot people anymore.
Which is why in 2009 when I bought my first digital camera (Fujifilm S700)I avoided photographing people with the exception of friends and relatives. These I would photograph for fun and as an experiment. I did not expect my subjects to pay. And none of them offered to compensate me for the snapshots that I would give them from time to time.
As part of my quest to improve my photography skills, I bought and
read various photo magazines.
One of these was called PIX and it was my favourite. In PIX magazine I stumbled upon an article on Street Photography. I enjoyed reading that piece so much that I would read it over and over. This was interesting stuff. Photographing people without their permission allowed the shooter to capture candid moments.
The author of the article pointed out that in South Africa Street
Photography would be easier to practice in the townships. I did not
understand his reasoning at the time.
Here was a White guy who lived in town or in the Suburbs, telling me, a township dweller, that I can shoot street photography in the township. Incredible! I knew what life was like in the Location.
And street photography seemed a dangerous approach to the craft. As time went on I slowly mustered the courage to shoot strangers.
I started practicing with my acquaintances, friends and colleagues.
The results were inspiring and soon the fever caught on.
One day I was walking around looking for photo opportunities and
something extraordinary happened.I was not looking for candid moments.
Rather, my aim was to shoot locusts or grass-hoppers and see if I could
replicate some of the photos I had seen in a magazine.
I was alone in the veld, or so I thought.
As I sat on a rock looking at these tiny creatures, someone not far
from me was performing some religious ritual.
I was completely unaware of this person or persons. When I got up to walk back home I saw a smoke. The grass had caught fire. There was no one around.
Terrified, I went to investigate the cause of the fire. That’s when I discovered a burning candle. Next to the candle was a tub of snuff. I realised then
that a person or persons were ‘communicating’ with their ancestors
Communicating with the dead is an African custom and most people in
the Township believe that this is the way of getting in touch with
their dearly departed.
I couldn’t resist the urge to take pictures. In part because I wanted to prove to my wife what I saw. But also because I was intrigued by this practice of communicating with dead people.
Russian Tourists Visit A Sangoma In Mhluzi Township
A few days ago a ProTours bus transporting visitors from Russia
stopped in Mhluzi.
The tour guide for this leg of their journey was Ms Sarah Mahlangu, owner of the world renown Something Out Of Nothing. She had decided to show her guests something out of the ordinary for foreigners.
The bus stopped at Mrs Ngoasheng’s house. A well-known sangoma or
traditional healer, Mrs Ngoasheng is a spirit medium and people
consult her for their fortunes.
People also go to Sangomas (aka iNyanga) if they feel that they’ve been bewitched or need to communicate with their dead.
At the Sangoma’s place these tourists saw how the initiates or
student sangomas are trained. Listening to the beat of the African
drums, the Russians and their fellow travellers took photos and
recorded this experience on Video.
The Street Photography South Africa Project In A Nutshell
The Street Photography South Africa Project will showcase my photos captured in Mhluzi Township between 2009 and 2016. It will also feature a Bonus Section that will discuss current street photography in the township. So, it is not only about the past but also very much about the present.
The Street Photography South Africa project will feature more of my work as a street photographer in this country and tell you about streetphotography in the Townships of South Africa.
I’m eagerly awaiting your opinion on this topic. Do you want to read more about street photography in my country or would you rather read about How To Improve Your Own Shooting Skills?
Please leave your answer to this question in the comments section below.
Your Homework: Please share this blog post on your favourite social media platform. Thank you so much for your support.
Till next time.
PS. You can connect with me onTwitter, FacebookorInstagram.
Shootcandid street photography without getting into trouble
When I first read about candid street photography in magazines I asked myself three questions:
‘How did the photographer manage to capture these images without getting into trouble?’
‘How can I shoot candidly without inviting verbal or physical abuse?’
‘In the worst case scenario, how can I enjoy candid street photography without having someone smash my camera into pieces or being arrested for violating someone’s privacy.’
These were not idle questions. For example one day many years ago during the Apartheid days in South Africa, a White man confronted me for taking a picture of someone in the parking lot of a shopping centre.
This was the most innocuous photo that I could take. But this patriotic ex-soldier obviously did not share my point of view. Where I saw a subject who wanted a picture and was equally ready to pay me for the photo, this member of the Afrikaner Broederbond saw a terrorist in me.
I don’t know if he was a member of the Broederbond. But that’s what I thought of him at the time.
This ‘terrorist’ was, according to this stranger and uninvited guest, taking pictures of the Land Bank. The Land Bank building was in the background and did not even feature in the photo that I intended taking.
But in those days infrastructure such as the land bank building represented the ‘system’ and were thus targeted by those who were fighting the unjust government.
The point I’m trying to make here is this:
Taking pictures in public, whether candidly or otherwise, can and sometimes does invite trouble.
Trouble can manifest itself in various ways. For instance, you can get piercing stares from those who disapprove of your actions if they believe you’re taking their picture without permission.
People react differently to different situations. Some may shout and hurl obscenities at you. Others may get physical and attempt to confiscate your camera or phone. They may even succeed in damaging or completely destroying your gear.
The internet is full of stories of street photographers who got beaten up for taking pictures of strangers without asking for permission.
How then, can you shoot candid street photography without getting into trouble?
Avoid trouble when shooting candid street photography
In this blog post I want to share with you my take on candid street
I will also help you take a stand on candid street photography.
And then we’ll take a look at techniques and strategies that we can
follow to minimise the possibilities of conflict.
By the time you finish reading this piece you’ll have a clear
definition of candid street photography as it pertains to you
Candid street photography does not and should not mean the same thing
to all street shooters. It should of necessity mean one thing to Bruce Gilden and another to Rui Pahla.
Thomas Leuthard’s candid street photography is not the same as Marie
The likelihood of confrontation in candid street photography
depends on your approach to the topic. If you’re Bruce Gilden or Chuck
Jines then you must expect that sooner or later someone might just
lose it and smash your face or camera.
What Candid Street Photography Means To Me
The word candid means:
” informal, or caught off guard.” – Wordweb
My own definition would add: unposed, unprepared, unpretentious.
To further clarify my point here, let me tell you something about
myself. I like children. I absolutely adore the young ones. And the
reason for this is simple. Children don’t pretend. What you see is what
you get with kids. I love that. Their straightforward approach to life
is the number one reason I love them. Children are Candid. No hidden
agendas here. Just truthfulness. Reality, untainted reality.
Candid street photography to me thus means photos of people. They may
be strangers, friends or relatives. I can take a candid street photo of my wife or
of my son, brother, sister, mother-in-law, etc. As long as this person was
not acting or posing when I clicked the shutter release button, that
picture is candid. Yes, street in this case may mean the beach or a forest.
The determining factor here is “caught off guard.” Not “street.”
Why I Shoot Candid Street Photography
For me candid street photography is nothing more than a hobby. I don’t shoot the streets with the hope that one day I will be able to sell my photos. I understand and fully appreciate the fact that I cannot sell my street images to stock libraries, or use them commercially in advertisements.
In the same breath, however, I believe that some of the photos I take in public places can be sold as Fine Art Prints. This applies to those pictures that don’t show a person’s identity. Where the subject cannot be recognised or identified, the image can be sold without you having to produce a model release form.
But street photography for me is not a means to earn a living by selling photos. I shoot street photography mainly to use these images for editorial purposes. I see myself first as a blogger who blogs about street photography.
But why street photography, you might ask?
I love photography in general. At the beginning when I chose to learn photography I wanted to make money or to earn a living through photography. That dream never materialised. But the love for photography remained.
It’s this love for photography that moved me to shoot Landscapes, Flowers, Insects and Sports. I photographed anything that crossed my path, including weddings and birthday parties.
I’m also very fond of cameras. I love cameras and cannot cope without a camera. A camera opens ways of communication and makes it easier for me to talk to people.
But I love working alone as a photographer. I enjoy taking pictures that make me feel good about myself. Photos that make me feel like I created something of value. Something that no one can reproduce.
Street photography provides me with countless opportunities to produce such images. It also allows me to learn more about people. I love people and I’m always intrigued by the human race. As a street photographer I spend most of my time observing people. A camera is a tool that enables me to record what I see.
How I Shoot Candid Street Photography
Intent or Purpose
Street photography begins in the mind. It starts as an idea of what I
want to do. I ask myself what it is that I want to create.
Sometimes I shoot purely from an aesthetic point of view.
This means that I imagine the result before going out to shoot.
For example, on Christmas Eve of 2015 I wanted to experiment with high
ISO in daylight. My aim on that day was to see what my photos
would look like if I set high ISO, the smallest aperture and the
fastest shutter speed that my camera was capable of.
Before I left home I set my camera settings as follows.
ISO – 1600
Aperture – F: 16
Shutter Speed – 1/4000
White Balance – Auto
On this day it did not matter that much to me what my subject was doing.
I just wanted to see the look of my images with these settings.
Sometimes when I leave home in the morning on a photo walk, I don’t worry
too much about camera settings. I let the camera do most of the work
for me. For example, I would set my camera in P-Mode so I can focus (excuse
the pun) on my subject.
What motivates me on days like these is a wish to document life in my
neighbourhood. This documentation is largely motivated by my life
experiences or as a commentary on life as it happens.
Happenstance or chance also plays an important part on my street
photography. It’s these serendipitous moments that I enjoy most. I derive
greater pleasure from photos that happen by chance because this means
that no one will ever be able to steal my picture and pretend it was their work.
It is this kind of work that I treasure most and look out for when I
walk the streets. Often I discover afterwards that I have captured
something worth keeping. A keeper as we say in street photography
Avoid Troublesome Situations When Shooting Candidly
Don’t Let Trouble Follow You
People react differently when they see you with a camera.
Some may pose for you.
Others will avoid you like a Leper. Still others will want to steal your camera.
And if you’re seen taking photos in a sneaky way some people may get
They might ask such questions as: ‘Who’s this guy (or woman). What’s he/she doing taking pictures of everyone on the street?’
Don’t attract unnecessary attention to yourself. Avoid dodgy areas.
One huge advantage of shooting street photography in your own town or city is that you get to know it very well. You end up knowing all the hot-spots that you want to avoid.
Avoid shady areas. If you see a drug deal taking place, don’t shoot.
In South Africa shady areas may include taxi ranks, which are
frequented by all sorts of shady characters. Gamblers, Nyaope
boys, hawkers, etc. are all found there.
There are watchers all over the place. Pickpockets, Pimps, Drug
dealers, and security guards. Don’t forget the police and undercover
Work in places where you feel relatively safe.
Such places may include shopping centre parking lots. Shoot in crowded areas. Try and blend in with the people on the street.
How To Blend in When Shooting Candid Street Photography
Your primary tool as a street photographer is the camera.
And this tool is also the one thing that draws people’s attention.
To draw less attention to yourself you must start doing something
about your camera. But what can you do about it?
Choose wisely. It’s true that as a street shooter you can use any kind
of camera. But a smaller camera is far better than a huge DSLR. If I
had to choose between a DSLR and my Fujifilm XF-1, I’ll always pick
The reason for this is simple. For street photography a small camera
is very important. My advice to any budding street photographer would
‘Get a small camera.’
The Advantages of a small camera.
1. It’s easy to carry around.
2. It’s less intimidating.
3. Since it looks like a toy, it makes you look more like a tourist.
Next, you must pre-set your exposure settings.
For example, set your aperture to F:8 and the shutter speed to 1/500.
Get used to the focal length of your lens. If you work with one lens you’ll
get used to its coverage. You’ll be able to easily estimate the distance that
you must shoot from.
Avoid making eye contact with the person you’re shooting.
Also try to look as normal as possible even when you’re a little nervous.
Shooting Candid Street Photography in South Africa
Important points covered in this discussion include the following:
You must decide on a sub-genre of candid street photography that you like.
Street Photography Novice – How To Get Super Inspired
We all need inspiration. Especially at the beginning of our pursuits.
Novice street photographers need inspiration more than newbies in
other fields of photography.
When you start your hobby as a street photographer, you need as many ideas as you can get.
You ask many questions and wish that someone can answer all your questions.
But street photography is a lonely pursuit.
I mean, street shooters tend to work alone. You’ll get more work done if you work alone than when you’re part of a group.
This is why street photography novices need more inspiration than others.
I know because this happened to me.
When I was just starting out I knew what I wanted to do.
But I didn’t know how to do it.
Or when to do it.
In street photography it is also very important to know where to do it.
The good news is that you can shoot street photography wherever you
Whether you live in New York, London or Paris. You can also enjoy
street photography in small towns, such as Oshkosh, (USA), Kapunda
(South Australia) or Hendrina (South Africa).
Another good thing about street photography is that you don’t need
advanced and expensive equipment to start shooting.
As I indicated in my earlier blog post, you can use any camera that you have to start practising your street photography.
Practice makes perfect, they say. And that’s exactly what you need to do.
We get inspiration from our actions. So if it’s inspiration you need, start acting. In this case, start shooting.
Perhaps you’ve been practising or shooting for some time now but still
are not happy with your results. Street photographers are seldom
satisfied with their own work.
And that’s good.
But if you really feel that you need more inspiration to improve your work, it’s about time you start looking elsewhere.
Street Photography Novice – How To Get Super Inspired
In this blog post I’m going to share with you how I super-charge my creative juices. You’ll also learn how you can get inspiration from various resources that are available online. But most importantly, I want you to remember that your biggest source of inspiration is yourself.
Your Biggest Source Of Inspiration Is Yourself
Yes, everything begins with you. You’re the catalyst in this game. You make things happen when you grab your camera and go out to shoot. Street photography is not an armchair activity. You need to go out and take or make some photos. If you do that regularly you’ll be inspired to produce astonishing work.
How And Where I Get Inspiration
I don’t expect you to derive inspiration from the same resources that I rely upon to recharge my batteries. But I’m sharing these with you to show that I’m also human.
When I started shooting the streets I so desperately needed information about this craft but did not know where to find it. So I just grabbed my DSLR and went to town. I started shooting the machine-gun-style hoping to get some useful shots. Soon I realized this was not working.
At about the same time I stumbled upon Valerie Jardin’s Street Focus podcast. I learned most of what I know about street photography from that podcast. When Valerie moved over to start her new show Hit The Streets With Valerie Jardin I followed her. I still listen to this podcast every week.
There are other street photography podcasts that I find inspiring, such as StreetPX and Street Photography Magazine.
As most of you guys know, I’m hugely inspired by Eric Kim. I read his blog religiously and consume his eBooks to learn as much as I possibly can from this most prolific street shooter. I can’t thank Eric enough for his generous spirit and vast knowledge of street photography which he shares free of charge on his website.
Last but definitely not least, I get enthralled by watching John Free’s VideoTutorials. I just love this old man’s passion for photography and his entertaining style of teaching. Perhaps I like him so much because I see myself in him.
No, I’m not at Mr Free’s age. I’m 56 years old and younger than this theatrical master shooter. But I imagine myself at his age and think: ‘That’s what I’ll be doing when I reach that stage in my life.’
How To Get Super Inspired
Sources Of Inspiration
I believe that you’re your own source of inspiration. You are naturally inspired to shoot street photography. Shooting the streets is the one thing that makes you happy. It helps you relax. It soothes your soul and releases all your creative juices.
But once in a while you may feel flat like a punctured tyre. Or feel enthusiasm ebbing away from your system.
This is when you really need a push. This is when you want somebody to hold you by the hand and say: ‘let’s do this.’
Grab an eBook.
Start with an eBook.
I’m writing this blog post thinking about novice or newbie street shooters. As a beginner, I suggest you get yourself a copy of Valerie Jardin’s eBook:
Street Photography: First Steps AndBeyond. Read more about it here.
Follow your favourite street photographer on Twitter. Start with this account and see what they post and what they say about their work. You can even connect with them and ask some questions. They’ll be only too glad to help.
Choose an Instagrammer
Most of your favourite street photography practitioners are also on Instagram. Follow them there and study their work. Don’t copy what they do. Just watch and learn. Something in the work of this instagrammer might trigger a spark in you. It might inspire you to go out and shoot.
Attend a Workshop
If you can afford to go to Amsterdam in July, do yourself a big favour and book a workshop with VICE. Or look for street photography workshops in your town or city. Workshops can open your mind to new possibilities.
Join or organise a photo walk in your area. If there are no street photographers in your neighbourhood, go it alone. Yes, do this yourself. Just grab your camera and take a walk. Don’t expect to come back with tons of images. But do it.
Observe and talk to people. Approach strangers and start a small talk with them. You’ll soon realise that most people are actually friendly.
If you don’t want to talk to anyone, no problem. I understand.
We get inspiration from different sources. Some get inspired by attending street photography workshops. Others get their creative juices flowing after reading a good book or watching a video tutorial.
What inspires you? How do you super-charge your batteries? What advice or tips would you give a street photography novice?
Whatever floats your boat, please share it with me in the comments section below.
Or connect with me on Twitter and engage. I’m also on Instagram and Facebook
How can you as a beginner cope with all these ridiculous street photography rules?
If you’re totally confused by the seemingly conflicting teachings of different street shooters, don’t worry.
In this blog post I’m going to help you find your way and maintain your sanity as you learn street photography at your own pace.
We’ll take a look at the following puzzling street photography rules:
What Camera Is Perfect For Street Photography?
Do You Shoot Candidly Or Ask For Permission?
To Crop Or Not To Crop?
Perhaps the most puzzling rule in street photography is that there are no rules.
Yes, there are no rules. And yet street photography has so many rules.
Absurd, isn’t it?
OK, calm down now.
You see, street photography is an art. And as such it is interpreted differently by different practitioners. This means that you also have the right to define it the way you understand it as an art form. Or, as your art form.
For example, if I ask you to define street photography to me you’re only going to give me your take on it. Your version of street photography.
That’s what happens with other street shooters out there. They define street photography according to their own understanding of the craft.
Hence the confusion.
There are no set rules. But there are many rules set by many people.
I hope you understand.
Let me try to clarify some of the clashing street photography rules so you can decide what street photography means to you personally.
Ridiculous Street Photography Rules
On The Best Or Perfect Camera For Street Photography
As you search the Internet for more information about the best camera for street photography you will find the term Gear Acquisition Syndrome. Or its opposite Gear Avoidance Syndrome.
These terms symbolize the never-ending battle that you’ll have to wage and win to maintain your sanity as a street shooter.
The answer to the question: ‘Which camera to use for street photography?’ brings up some of the most baffling statements.
Get a Compact Fixed Lens Mirrorless Camera like Fujifilm X70, Ricoh GRII or Sony RX1R.
Use your iPhone or any Smartphone you have.
Use whatever camera you own right now.
On The Subject Matter
If you photograph a stray dog and categorise your image as a street photo, some people will agree with you but others will disagree.
This is because the ‘rules’ say that street photography should only show people. According to this school of thought, a dog does not qualify as a subject for street photography.
You might be tempted to ask: ‘what are proper or suitable subjects for streetphotography?’
Again, the answer to this question will depend on who you ask.
The purists will say:
“Street photography is about people.It must show people. There should be a person or persons in your street shots. Rui Palha said: ‘Without people my pictures won’t exist.'”
The Modernists will say:
You must at least show proof of humanity.
The picture of a dog on a leash or with a shadow of someone walking the dog will qualify as a street shot.
On Candid vs. Posed
Talking about people, do you shoot them candidly or do you ask for their permission? And do you pose them?
Let’s ask the purists:
“Street photography must be candid. It must be unposed. The subject must be completely unaware of the fact that they’re being photographed.
This is why street photography is synonymous with photographing strangers in a public place or space. No talking or eye contact. If there’s eye contact, it must be spontaneous or accidental and unprovoked.
Talking to your subjects, posing them and making eye contact will turn your images into street portraits.
The Modernists’ Point of View:
“It’s all about connecting with people. Meeting strangers and making friends. It’s about good-fellowship. In this case it’s perfectly OK to make eye contact, talk to your subject and pose them if that’s what you want.
Whether you call this street photography or street portraiture doesn’t matter.”
To Crop Or Not To Crop?
Obviously cropping has its advantages and disadvantages.
Some photos will definitely benefit from cropping. But cropping can also ruin a picture if it’s done excessively.
If you decide to take a street photography workshop with some of the most respected photographers today they might teach you that cropping is not allowed. No cropping.
This teaching applies where the aim is to help you improve your composition skills. It forces you to think carefully before pressing the shutter release button.
Street photography is a very challenging genre. And sometimes things happen so fast that we don’t have enough time to react and frame the shot as we would like.
Therefore this cropping rule should not be regarded as Gospel truth.
Some of the photos on this page are cropped. Some so-called MastersOf Street Photography cropped their images.
How To Cope With These Ridiculous Street Photography Rules
1. What Camera to use?
Use whatever camera (or your smartphone) you have now or whatever you can afford and you’re completely happy with. 2. Candid or posed?
It’s up to you. In street photography you’re your own boss. You make up your own rules as you go. Remember you don’t have to please anyone but yourself.
3. To Crop Or Not to Crop?
This should be your personal choice. It’s your photo. It’s your art. You be the judge.
NB. In this blog post I used the terms Purists and Modernists. These words do not refer to any particular person. I’m using them to help you understand the different schools of thought in street photography circles.
I hope this piece has empowered you to take charge of your own art. But it’s also OK to learn from other people and take what makes sense to you while disregarding the nonsensical stuff. Remember you don’t even have to call yourself a street photographer. But if you like the term, why not?
Can you think of more street photography rules that you find confusing? And how would you explain them to a complete beginner?
Please share your wisdom with me in the comments section below.
If you’re a man or woman of few words and prefer the 140 characters of Twitter, please connect with me there and keep this conversation alive.
If you don’t want to look stupid as a street photographer you must avoid these 3 street photography mistakes.
Those who know me might be shocked to hear me calling anyone stupid.
No. I don’t believe you’re stupid.
But if you make any of these 3 street photography mistakes I might just be tempted.
I made most of these mistakes.
So you might ask: ‘Who’s the stupid one then?’
Guilty as charged.
Which one of these 3 Street Photography Mistakes are you guilty of?
These 3 Street Photography Mistakes Will Make You Look Stupid
Street Photography Mistake #1: Forgetting To Read The Camera Manual
This applies to all newbie photographers. Not just street shooters.
When you first get a new camera you’re so excited you just want to take it out of the box and start taking pictures. There’s no time to read the manual.
Prior to buying your favourite gear you spent hours on the internet researching. You compared many camera models and decided this one was just what you needed.
Now it’s finally here and you just can’t wait to test drive it.
You unbox it and start snapping around. You fiddle with as many controls and buttons as you can. But you forget one thing. This one thing that you’ve got no time for is the camera’s manual.
You don’t read the manual.
Who reads manuals these days?
‘Manuals are for amateurs. Not for me. I know what I’m doing.’
You know the feeling, right?
It happened to me.
And I’ll never forget making this silly mistake.
It most certainly made me look stupid to this police officer who tried her very best to save my life. All she asked me to do was: “Delete the offending photosfrom your memory card.”
I fumbled with my camera and realised I didn’t know how to erase images from my camera. I wanted to delete those pictures. But how?
IDID NOTKNOW HOW TO DELETE PHOTOS FROM MY OWN CAMERA.
Avoid looking stupid by familiarizing yourself with the camera manual. Make sure you understand how every button works and what each dial does. Read the manual from cover to cover before you toss it away.
Street Photography Mistake #2: Leaving Your Camera In The Car On A Hot Day
Street photographers are always told to carry their cameras with them wherever they go.
Sometimes it’s impractical to follow this advice. But we try to follow this rule to the letter.
I tried my best to comply with this advice until one day I found myself without a camera to carry with me.
No. It wasn’t stolen.
It simply died.
I didn’t drop it or something like that.
I had left my precious cargo in the car on a hot South African day in Johannesburg. I closed all the car windows. This is what you do when you’re in Johannesburg.
You lock your car and close all the windows. Otherwise it might get stolen and you’ll have to walk home. Wherever ‘home’ is. I couldn’t risk losing my vehicle in the City of Gold. My home is some 200 kilometres east of Jhb.
So I locked it. And closed all the windows.
I thought to myself: ‘I will only be away from the car for a few minutes.’ An hour later I was still waiting for my parcel in this building.
When I finally got back to the car I reached for my camera. I had left it underneath the passenger seat, hoping the heat wouldn’t reach it.
I was wrong.
My little Fujifilm S700 was dead. It’s electronics had melted due to the unbearable heat.
I tried to switch it on.
I took out the battery.
I looked at it as if I knew what I was doing.
Put the battery back into the device and tried once again to switch it on.
Nothing but dead silence.
I was devastated.
Guess how I felt at that time?
I felt stupid because this was not supposed to happen. I could have taken my camera with me instead of leaving it in the car.
TAKE AWAY POINT: Don’t leave your camera in the car on a hot day.
Street Photography Mistake #3: Believing That Street Photography Is Black and White.
Street photographers love to shoot in Black and White. We are so obsessed with this medium that beginners tend to believe that this is the number one rule of street photography. It’s NOT. There’s no rule that says: THOU SHALTSHOOT ONLY IN BLACK AND WHITE or the one that says: THOU SHALT NOT SHOOT IN COLOUR.
It’s perfectly OK to shoot street photography in colour if that’s what you choose to do. It’s a matter of personal taste. Don’t ever feel like you Must shoot in Black and White.
We see the world in colour and therefore colour seems natural to us. Black and White on the other hand strips colour away from what were looking at. It’s abstract and takes the viewer from the reality we know to something completely different. If Black and White appeals to you, fine. If you prefer colour, no problem. Just shoot the streets without the unnecessary burden of mistakenly believing that you have to shoot in Monochrome.
You don’t want to feel, sound or look stupid. So avoid repeating these 3 street photography mistakes.
Can you think of other street photography mistakes to avoid?
Please share them with me in the comments section.
Or connect with me on Twitter and keep this conversation going.
Street Shooters Shoot Street Photography For Different Reasons
Shooting street photography is a personal pursuit. Street shooters shoot street photography for different reasons. As a street shooter, why do you shoot street photography?
Reading about why people shoot street photography always fascinates me. What I find even more fascinating is listening to practising street photographers explain why they shoot street photography.
That’s why I am so eager to find out why you shoot street photography.
In this blog post I’m going to share with you my reasons for shooting street photography. And I’m hoping this will motivate you to share with me your own reasons for doing the same. Deal?
But let me first tell you why Ross Wilson, TylerNewcomb, Ryzzal Ali and Michael Ballai shoot street photography.
Street Shooters Shoot For The Following Reasons:
“Why do you shoot street photography?”
I asked this question on Quora and these are the answers I got:
“A good street photograph reveals a wonderful choreography that existence weaves into every moment and that seems to connote meaning in the most fleeting of otherwise unnoticed tenths of a second”
“I do street photography because it captures the everyday scenes that is happening around us.”
“When I do street photography I get this indescribable feeling of satisfaction. The diversity in street photography fascinates me and inspires me. Street photography opens my eyes to the world. Street photography is very intimate and personal to me. For me street photography is the only place I don’t have to please anyone or live up to expectations.”
“It’s kind of like being on a hunt with no guarantees. You still hope to find some particular juxtaposition of people and objects. Sometimes there’s nothing more than some arrangement of objects. I’m a beggar and take what I find.”
As A Street Shooter, I Shoot Street Photography Because…
There are many reasons why I shoot street photography.
Freedom to shoot what I like without worrying about pleasing anyone. The number one client in my street photography is no one but myself. That’s why I can afford to go out and shoot when I feel like it. No deadlines to meet. No client requirements to satisfy.
Freedom to shoot in Black and White. Freedom to shoot in Colour. Freedom to shoot in RAW or JPEG. Freedom to combine both formats and then decide later whether I want to spend more time in post processing or just a few minutes on my jpgs.
Freedom to shoot with any device I have. I can shoot street photography with a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex). I can do so with a Point-and-shoot or with a Smartphone. No one will say to me: ‘But I don’t like the quality of your smart phone photos’. If I’m happy with what my phone is capable of, that’s what I’ll use to do street photography.
My advice to new street photographers is: Take your time. There’s no need to rush. Learn street photography at your own pace.
This is why I shoot street photography
I love street photography because it gives me a licence to shoot. To shoot anything and everything. I’m not restricted to shoot only street photography. Being a street photographer doesn’t stop me from shooting other genres.
In addition to street photography I also enjoy shooting Abstracts, and Urban Landscapes.
And I love shooting inanimate or still objects.
As a street photographer I love people. I love the human race. I love life and spend most of my time observing people as they go about their lives. Humanity never ceases to fascinate me.
Street photography gives me the chance to learn more about people. This learning never stops. Everytime I go out to shoot I learn something new. Even when I’m not shooting I still learn a lot by just observing people.
Sometimes I feel like an undercover police officer or a spy. I see things most people take for granted. I can spot a mugger before he sees me. I can predict people’s actions or movements without them noticing or being aware of my presence.
Street shooters shoot to immortalise mundane activities
Last but definitely not least, I shoot street photography because it brings me immense pleasure. The feeling I get each time I capture a great image is almost indescribable. It is a soul-soothing feeling that fills me with a sense of accomplishment.
The hallmark of a great street shot is that it’s unique in the sense that it cannot be replicated. Not even by the author.
Street photography is both an art and a craft. It makes me an artist and a craftsman all rolled into one. But I prefer to describe myself as an Observer ofHuman Behaviour.
There you are. I nailed my colours to the mast.
Now it’s your turn to tell me why you shoot street photography.
Use the comment section below and keep this conversation going.
You can also connect with me on Twitter and ask me any question about street photography.
I want to close this blog post with a BIG THANK YOU to these street shooters: Ross Wilson, Ryzzal Ali, Tyler Newcomb and Michael Ballai for inspiring me to write it. This they did by answering my question on Quora:
Let me put it this way: Can I teach you how to shoot street photography? Can anyone teach you how to shoot street photography?
There is a school of thought that says street photography cannot be taught.
For example, Bogdan Neagu believes that photography CAN be taught. But NOT street photography. Photography in this instance refers to how cameras work, composition etc. Bogdan reckons that street photography is the product of one’s “own experience and style + skills that get developed with experience.” His answer to this question is: “No, it couldn’t be taught on its own.” Source: Quora
Bogdan is not the only person who believes that street photography cannot be taught.
For example, Ellis Vener says: “No, it cannot be taught.But it can be learned but only by doing it and learning to edit (choosing good photos and tossing bad ones)” Source: Quora
How to shoot street photography
How would you answer this question? Do you think that street photography can be taught? Is it possible that I can teach you how to shoot street photography? And if I can teach you how to shoot street photography then you or someone else can teach me how to shoot street photography.
Here’s what Mathew Mehta thinks about this topic: “Who says street photography can’t be taught? It’s true that you cannot teach someone your own or someone else’s style… but you can certainly help people figure out their own style, and their own methods.”
Can Street Photography be taught?
Can you teach me how to shoot street photography?
This topic is inspired by Eric Kim. Eric complains that he’s being criticised for charging a lot of money for his street photography workshops. His critics claim that street photography cannot be taught. I know one such critic who devoted a podcast episode to critiquing Eric Kim. Among other things this critic accused Eric of being a lousy teacher anyway. Now most of you know how much Eric has contributed to the street photography community. I for one have learned a lot from his writing. It’s not my intention or wish to either defend or support Eric on this criticism.
I’m only interested in discussing the topic: ‘Can street photography be taught?’And I’m looking forward to read your answer to this question in the comment section. I know you have your own take on this topic.
What’s your take?
Since Twitter limits you to only 140 characters, please use the comment section on this blog to teach me. Yes, educate me on this topic.
Share your views.
There’s no need to attack anyone. Just discuss the topic and share your wisdom with the street photography community.
Can street photography be taught?
Let me close by quoting Michael Ballai, also from Quora: “People who do (street photography) well aren’t necessarily able to teach it. The problem isn’t that one cannot teach but rather that they cannot verbalize what they do.”
Do you agree with Michael?
I share the views of Greg Blomberg: “Anything can be taught. If you have an interest in StreetPhotography as many people do, there are Online Tutorials,Workshops, etc.” Source: Quora
If you can teach me how to shoot street photography, that’s what I’ll do for the rest of my life. But is that possible?
Please connect with me on Twitter and keep this conversation going.
I’ll appreciate it very much if you can also share this blog post on Twitter. Thank you in advance for your generous spirit.
How to buy a perfect camera for street photography
You’ve realized that your DSLR is a perfect all round camera. It never disappointed you in terms of image quality and you’re thrilled that it allows you to shoot RAW files.
But you’re a street photographer at heart and all you really want to do is shoot the streets. You tried doing that with your DSLR and are disappointed because it is just too big. It is too heavy to carry around all day. And you’re scared that it might attract unnecessary attention with its clunky shutter sound.
The shutter sound is so loud that your heart beats a little faster each time you press the release button to take a street shot. And when you shoot in burst mode it feels like you’re using a machine gun.
You like this camera. But not for street photography.
Which explains why of late you’re only using your smart phone to shoot the streets. But the mobile phone does not match your DSLR in image quality. And it doesn’t really feel like a camera.
Street Photography Beginner: Get A Compact Camera
As a street photographer beginner you want something smaller than a DSLR.
Something better than a smart phone.
It’s time to get a new camera. One that you’ll use to shoot street photography and nothing else. A perfect camera for street photography.
How do you go about choosing such a camera?
There are so many cameras to choose from. Most people talk about mirrorless cameras as being the answer to this kind of problem.
Micro Four Thirds camera makers such as Olympus and Sony produce excellent compact and extremely capable cameras.
What about the Fujifilm line-up of mirrorless cameras? And the daddies of street photography cameras – the Leicas.
A medium or large format camera such as Hasselblad, Mamiya or Pentax 645 are simply out of the question. These are bulky and cumbersome – definitely not recommended for street photography.
Street Photography Beginner:Stop agonising about which camera to buy for street photography.
I am going to make this decision-making process easier for you. Let’s just get one thing absolutely clear before we begin.
You want to buy a camera for the sole purpose of shooting street photography, right? You’re not going to use this camera for anything else, right?
Now let’s begin.
To narrow our search area, forget about all DSLRs out there. Also, forget about all interchangeable lens cameras on the market today – whether they’re mirrorless or micro four thirds.
Again, let’s eliminate all interchangeable lens cameras. We want to take a look at fixed focal length cameras. You know those cameras where you cannot remove the lens and replace it with another. With fixed lens cameras you get one lens and that’s it. You’re stuck with that lens for good.
Not only is the lens fixed, it is also non-retractable. No zooming capabilities. With this camera you zoom with your feet.
Reasons: Cost, street photography does not have to be an expensive hobby. I am not making any money from street photography. I can’t justify spending more than $700 on a camera for street photography.
Fixed Prime Lens, this will force me to be more creative as a street photographer. The limitation of one focal length lens will inspire me to think of unique ways I can shoot without the ‘luxury’ of a zoom lens.
Compact, easy to carry around. Unobtrusive, especially the black version.
Excellent image quality.
Of course any camera can be used for street photography. But beginners in street photography often suffer from Gear Acquisition Syndrome. I decided to write this piece in the hope that it will save you a lot of time and reduce your stress level as you choose what should be the perfect camera for streetphotography. You don’t have to take my advice as Gospel. This is just my opinion.
Use it. Don’t use it.
Please follow me on Twitter and keep this conversation going.
PS. I’ll appreciate it very much if you share this blog post on Twitter. Thank you for your generosity.
Minimize fear of shooting strangers: Follow these 3 easy steps…
Are you scared of photographing people in public spaces like streets, parks, and beaches?
If so, you’re not alone. And you’re in good company.
When I started shooting street photography with my DSLR I was constantly afraid. I worried that people will think I’m a voyeur or a paedophile. But I just wanted to shoot innocuous images of people going about their lives and thus turn their sometimes miserable existence into something remarkable.
The fear of shooting street photography is the one thing that all street hunters have in common. We are all afraid to a certain degree.
But some of us have managed to reduce this fear.
How can you minimize your fear of photographing complete strangers without asking for their permission?
Follow these 3 easy steps and see your fear of shooting street photography disappear into thin air.
3 Easy Steps To Minimize Fear of Shooting Strangers
Step #1: Analyse Your Fears
Ask yourself why you’re afraid to photograph people you don’t know. What exactly is the cause of your own personal fear? For example, what are the possible consequences of your actions?
If someone sees you taking their picture without asking for permission, how will they react? One possible answer to this question is that you don’t know how they’ll react. You don’t know what will happen.
Is it possible then to assume that you’re afraid of the unknown?
You assume that something bad might happen. For instance, your camera might be confiscated. Or you might be attacked. Perhaps you’re afraid that people will swear at you. Or give you funny looks.
Which one of these three scenarios are you more scared of?
Damage to, or confiscation of your equipment
Being sworn at, or shouted at.
Minimize fear by first shooting at places where most of the people know you. Such as at social gatherings like weddings, parties, family reunions or get-together.
Remember that the subjects of your street photography do not have to be strangers. The only criterion in street photography is that they should be unaware that you’re taking their photo.
Do you really think that a relative of yours or a friend will smash your camera into smithereens?
Can any of your colleagues or acquaintances physically harm you for having taken their photo without permission? Will they swear or shout at you?
I doubt it very much.
So practice with the people you know and hone your skills of shooting candidly without being spotted.
Step #2: Know The Law
Another reason you’re scared of shooting street photography might be that you don’t want to be in trouble with the law. You don’t want to be arrested or detained for whatever reason.
This kind of fear is based on your ignorance of the law as it pertains to street photography in your area.
In most countries street photography is not prohibited.
Read up on what the law in your specific city or town says about street photography.
As long as you are civil in your approach and do not act in a suspicious way, no police officer is going to stop you from taking pictures of strangers.
Street photography is perfectly legal in most countries. So stop worrying that you might get arrested for doing what you love. Do it respectfully and enjoy!
Step #3: Choose Your Hunting Ground Carefully
There is just one place in your city or town where you can shoot street photography without being noticed. It is your duty to find that place and make it your own favourite shooting spot.
The point here is: Know your area very well. And select a spot that will help you produce the results that you’ll be proud of, without having to worry about your personal safety or the safety of your equipment.
I have followed the 3 steps outlined above to reduce my fear of photographing strangers.
Can you add just one more step that helped you reduce your fear of shooting street photography?
Please feel free to connect with me on Twitter and keep this conversation going.
And, just before you go, can you please share this blog post on Twitter?
Thank you for your generosity. I really appreciate it.
How to discover your own street photography style.
Your street photography style reflects your true personality.
Street photography is about self-expression. Your work as a street photographer tells us more about you than it does about your subjects.
When I started shooting street photography I did not understand this fundamental truth. I would take my camera out and start shooting randomly hoping to get something interesting. I did not know what or how to shoot.
Most of my photos were useless.
I thought long and hard about how I could improve my street photography. And then it dawned on me.
The secret to street photography style was to shoot how I feel. How I feel about my past. How I feel about my aspirations. About my prejudice, fears and world view.
So I started to shoot how I feel about any given subject.
Anything that I see when roaming the streets in search of images might remind me of something about myself. It might also trigger an emotion in me. Love. Hatred. Desire. Longing. Loneliness. Dread. Despair.
Personal Street Photography Style
This approach to street photography will help define your work. No two people feel exactly the same way about things. As people we also see things differently. It is this difference that will make your work stand out. Embrace your uniqueness.
A case in point is this photo above.
At first glance it may not tick all the boxes to qualify as street photography.
But a closer look and a little background may help change your perception of what street photography is or what it means to the photographer. The shooter’s personal approach to street photography is reflected in his or her work. Their style.
The place where this photo was taken is as important (if not more so) as the people depicted in the image. This was a Coffee House or Cafe at the corner of Market and Joubert streets in Middelburg. Older folks in this town will recognise it as the building opposite the Barclay’s Bank.
Today most of these names have changed. Market or Mark street is now called OR Tambo, Joubert has become Bhimy Dhamane and the Barclay’s Bank is known as FNB.
And Ons Koffiehuis (Afrikaans for Our Coffee House) is barely recognisable with its new name: Goofy.
This was the only place in town where one could buy the ultra right-wing newspaper called Die Patrioot or The Patriot. I loved to hate this mouthpiece of Dr Andries Treurnicht’s Conservative Party.
I was mystified by the logic behind the Apartheid Policy so much that I wanted to understand it from the horses’ mouth, so to speak. So I bought this journal and read it to find out what they were saying about Black people in general. It was an excruciating experience.
That was in the heydays of Apartheid in South Africa. And the Ons in the name refered to White people only. Black people were not allowed to enjoy coffee or anything here. For example, even though we could buy anything in this café, we would not be allowed to sit at the table and eat. That was reserved for Whites.
Seeing these two gentlemen sitting and enjoying a conversation here triggered a sense of déjà vu in me. It reminded me how I felt about this place in those days.
Today South Africa is a cultural melting pot. There’s no more segregation based on race or skin colour.
But my memories of Ons Koffiehuis will always be with me. This photo sums up my feelings about this place.
What are your earliest memories of a bicycle ride? When you see kids riding on their bicycles today, are you reminded of your own childhood?
I was attending a wedding in the Free States the other day when someone said to the groom: “I remember you when you were a little boy riding on your Tri-cycle. I can’t believe that today you’re a married man!”
There’s a picture right there in those words. Can you see it?
My earliest memory of a bike ride was when I was much older as a boy. I think I was about 12 or 13 years old. There were these men at a ‘watering hole‘ and they had parked their bicycles outside a shebeen. It was in the evening and the moon shone brightly.
I stole one of the bicycles and rode around a block or two before returning it to where I had taken it. Nobody noticed anything.
A bicycle features prominently in our lives. These two cyclists made me think of the role played by bicycles in my life. And of what a bicycle means to poor Black men in rural areas.
The picture of a bicycle therefore triggers mixed feelings in me. Photographing these feelings somehow soothes my soul. And I think this also dictates my style of street photography.
Look deeper into your own psyche and see if you can come up with a unique approach to shooting your own feelings. This might be a turning point for your street photography style.
Street photography style is a vast topic. I only managed to talk about one aspect of this topic in this blog post. My next blog post will cover a different approach to street photography style.
How did you uncover your own street photography style? Or, are you still searching for it?
Drop me a line in the comment section below and keep the conversation going.
You can also follow me on Twitter and engage.
For further reading on style in street photography please check the following resources:
10 Street Photography Workshops To Consider In 2017
I prefer to learn street photography at my own pace. I mean, I don’t like to be rushed. I want to take my time when learning. You might say that I’m a slow learner.
As an avid reader, I peruse online resources such as ebooks, blog posts, articles and videos courses to learn as much as I can. I also read hard copy books and photography magazines.
I’ve never taken, nor am I planning to take any street photography workshop with anyone.
My first encounter with photography was through a correspondence course in the early 1980s. I enrolled for what was called Expert Photography course and received lectures by snail mail. It took me ages to complete that course. But I did get my diploma eventually.
Perhaps this explains why I prefer to learn by reading.
How did you learn photography? What is your most preferred way of learning? For example, do you like audio, like podcasts? Or do you feel more comfortable watching videos, as in video tutorials?
I’m told that nothing beats one-to-one learning when it comes to photography. Especially Street Photography.
Which brings me to street photography workshops.
What’s your take on street photography workshops?
Have you attended any or are you planning to do so soon?
Street Photography Workshops in 2017
I decided to compile the following information because I thought it might be useful to those of you who are planning to take street photography workshops this year or in 2018.
If you’re one of those who prefer one-to-one mentoring, as in workshops, I hope you’ll like this blog post.
10 Top Street Photographers To Learn From in 2017
Depending on your budget, place or subject, you can learn from any of the following top street photographers:
Spyros is offering a Flash Street Photography Workshop in Athens, Greece during March and April 2017. “Driven, creative, most of the times on the street in search for that perfect shot. Spyros Papaspyropoulos is a Street Photographer from Greece” – StreetHunters.net
If you want to Conquer Your Fears in Street Photography, Eric Kim will be happy to teach you how to do that in New York during the weekend of 4-5 October 2017. I respect Eric for his generosity and vast knowledge of street photography.
For a 3-hour private NYC Photo Tour and Street Photography Workshop contact James Maher and choose your preferred date.
“While I finished my degree, I spent my summers and the few years after graduation studying at the International Center for Photography and assisting for commercial photographers – until I decided to start my own photography business in 2006.” – James Maher
If I ever take a street photography workshop with anyone at all, it will be with this grandfather of street photography. I love his passion and knowledge of photography in general. John is, for me, simply the best.
For a private, one-to-one workshop with John in Los Angeles, contact him and indicate your preferred date.
“I am a social documentary photographer. I have taught classes and workshops at USC, UCLA, Pasadena City College, Newport Art Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.” – John Free
If you’re concerned about the Legalities Of Street Photography you should consider taking a 20-hour workshop with Ian. He will be running this workshop on the weekend of 11th – 13th August 2017 in Vancouver, Canada.
For those of you who want to learn to Shoot From The Heart and Mind, Linda offers 2-hour personalised workshops on the streets of London. Indicate your preferred date and this self-taught West Londoner will organise a 1-2-1 with you.
This one is for intermediate to advanced street photographers who are prepared to Agree/Disagree about Taking/Making and Hunting/Gathering poetic story telling in street photography. It’s an In-Public street photography workshop planned for the weekend of 28 -30 April 2017. It will take place in New York where Dirty Harry will be working with Gus Powell.
If you want to Live And Breath Photography in Tokyo, Japan, join “The Passionate Photographer” and Soichi Hayashi in Tokyo for an 8-day street photography Masterclass workshop on 23 March – 03 April 2017. Steve has been “capturing life as he encounters it in not less than 40 countries.
“Mostly deliberate, sometimes reckless
More physical, less cerebral
Love’s outdoors, hate’s cheese” – Soichi Hayashi
“The one-on-one workshops are catered to you and what you specifically want to learn. After you register, I start by asking you a few questions by email that will help me learn a little about you and plan the topics and aspects of street photography that you would like to learn and focus on. On the day of the one-on-one, we’ll meet in Downtown Los Angeles and start by discussing the topics of the day and then go for a photo walk so I can walk you through and apply the lessons for the day.” – Rinzi Ruiz
Choose a date that suits you and Rinzi will teach you How To See theLight in Los Angeles.
As I pointed out at the beginning of this blog post, I learn photography differently. I guess you too have your own preferred way of learning. I’m just curious to find out what that is. Do youlike street photography workshops? Or do you enjoy listening to podcasts.
Please let me know how you feel about street photography workshops.
You can DM me on Twitter or leave a comment below.
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Confrontation Is Not Synonymous With Street Photography
Confrontation can happen to anyone with a camera. You don’t have to be a street photographer to attract conflict.
While I agree that street photographers meet with opposition more often than other shooters, I also believe that confrontation is NOT peculiar to street photography.
In this blog post I want to share with you my own challenges that happened long before “Street Photography” became part of my vocabulary.
Those of you who have read my near death experience article will remember that I talked about how a rampaging, blood-thirsty mob had confronted me. They wanted me to deletemy photos or else. I also indicated in that blog post that I tried to face the same mob to defend myself.
That was by no means my first encounter of conflict as a photographer. Please note that I did not say ‘as a street photographer.’
Here is my point: As long as you carry a camera with you, conflict will follow you wherever you go. Whether you call yourself a street photographer, travel shooter or just a tourist, the camera will draw people’s attention to you. The camera is the weapon that raises people’s interests in you.
Long before I knew there was something called ‘street photography’, I endured resistance and hostility towards my photography. I did not mean to intrude on people’s privacy or to ridicule anyone.
But opposition followed me as I was trying to shoot innocuous Landscapes, Birds and Flowers during my travels around the Mpumalanga Highveld. I remember the following confrontational encounters so vividly as if they happened just yesterday.
5 Confrontational Encounters Of A Non-Street Photographer
1. The Paranoid Householder along the Klein Olifants River
I was on my way to work early in the morning. I had my camerawith me.
I had this habit of shooting some landscapes before and after work. As usual I headed towards the Klein Olifants River half an hour earlier.
I searched for interesting views on the river and started shooting as soon as I found something worth capturing. I took several shots, trying three different settings with each shot to improve my chances of getting the correct exposure.
When I looked at my watch I realised that I was running late for work. So I stopped shooting and started walking back.
As I ran I noticed a car driving parallel to me. It appeared as if the occupants were also rushing somewhere.
I ran faster as if I was competing with the car. There was no more road for the car. So they turned back. I wondered what these guys were up to. But concluded that they were new to the area and that they don’t know their way around.
As I approached the main road the car caught up with me. I crossed to the opposite side of the road because it was more convenient for me to walk on the sidewalk. The driver kept looking at me suspiciously. I did not suspect a thing.
Suddenly the car came to a complete halt and the driver got out. He came towards me. I stopped, wondering what he wanted.
He: What were you photographing down there?
Me: I was shooting some landscapes.
Me: I’m a photographer. I take pictures. I then proceeded to show him the photos that I had captured that morning.
He: Why do you take pictures at this time?
Me: (Irritated) Have you ever heard about the Golden Hour?
It turned out this guy had been a victim of crime the night before. And he thought I was a member of a criminal gang and that I was photographing his house for future attacks or whatever.
2. The Pimp Of SADC Street
My wife and I were shopping for shoes in SADC street, Middelburg. I had my Nikon D3200 with me that Saturday morning as I normally would shoot street photography on weekends. I hid the camera in my jacket as we entered the shoe store.
I would not allow the security guard to keep my camera while we shop.
An unknown man was standing next to the door and he saw me when I put the camera under my jacket. He suspected I was a journalist from the local newspaper.
Several minutes later when we got out of the shop the man was still there, waiting.
He followed us everywhere. We went to other shops, doing window shopping. My wife was not aware of the guy as he followed us from one shop to another.
Eventually we walked towards the Iraq Taxi Rank. The man was still monitoring us like a well-trained detective. He kept watching us until we boarded a taxi that took us to the Township.
That very weekend the local newspaper had published an exposé, detailing the problem of prostitution in town. The paper disclosed that the pimps had turned the old Middelburg Hotel building into a brothel.
I learned a week later that the guy who had followed me and my wife in SADC street was a pimp. This explains why he was so jumpy when he noticed that I had a camera with me. He must have thought I was a reporter.
3. The Stock Farmer of Breyten
A stock farmer stopped his van behind mine on the road leading to the little town of Breyten. I was busy photographing a windmill next to the road. There was a flock of cattle in the background.
“Jy loop rond met n kamera. Wat is jou probleem?“ (You’re walking around with a camera. What’s your problem?) He roared.
I sensed trouble coming, but I remained calm. And then I asked him: ‘Do you see how beautiful the weather is today?’ He looked skyward and said: “Ja?”
I then explained to him that I’m a photography student and that I was taking photos to hone my skills. I offered to show him the images on my LCD. He looked at my vehicle and noticed that it belonged to a company.
That realisation must have assured him that I had no ulterior motives. He asked me not to photograph his animals. And then he left.
4. The Hoboes Of Middelburg Station
If you visit the Middelburg Station today you’ll find it difficult to believe this story.
The place used to be like home from home for homeless people. They simply loved it there. They would spend their days and nights at the station. Nobody would bother them or ask them to leave.
To passersby the station was an eyesore. Overgrown grass, rubbish and dilapidated buildings all contributed to make the place unattractive.
I wanted to document this deplorable state of Middelburg’s long-standing landmark.
As I approached the area I saw a group of men standing and looking at me. I had my Nikon with its 80-200mm zoom and a lens hood. Thegearlooked like a gun. It was so conspicuous the guys spotted me from afar and were ready for me when I approached them.
One of them shouted at me. His voice conveyed a request and a command at the same time:
“Unga sishuthe!“ (Don’t shoot us) Of course he requested and demanded that I must refrain from photographing them.
I assured them that I won’t shoot. That discouraged me from going any closer to the station buildings. So I left the place.
PS. Today the Middelburg Train Station is a very attractive place. It was renovated, fenced off and security guards are watching the property 24/7.
5. The Nyaope Boys Of ‘Iraq Taxi Rank’
I mentioned Iraq Taxi Rank earlier when talking about the Pimp of SADC street. This is a taxi terminal where mostly Black residents of Mhluzi get their transport to the Location, or eKasi as it is known in Tsotsitaal.
Taxi drivers park their vehicles here during the day when it is quiet and they find the time to catch up on the much-needed sleep. Some of them use the time to wash their cars.
The Rank is also ‘home’ to what is known here as the Nyaope Boys. They are young unkempt boys addicted to Nyaope. If you want to know more about this concoction of substances and its effects on these boys, just Google the word Nyaope.
One gloomy Saturday afternoon I happened to pass through the area and I noticed a few Seagulls foraging for food. Some of the birds had perched on the roof of the building nearby.
I pointed my camera at a Seagull on the roof and started snapping away.
When the boys saw me with the camera they became agitated. Whispering among themselves, I heard them asking one another: “Ufunani lo?” (What is he doing here?)
Immediately one of them approached me and asked: “What are you photographing?” In response I said that I was capturing the birds. I pointed at the roof. He burst out laughing. “You think I’m stupid, hey? You’re a journalist!”
In this part of the world it makes no sense for anyone to photograph birds. That’s why the guy laughed at me when I told him what I was doing there.
Anyway, his friends joined him and said: “Ufun’u kushaywa lo”. (Let’s beat him up) That’s when I decided to leave the place. They were serious, and there’s no point in trying to reason with these junkies.
Confrontation Affects All Photographers – Not Just Street Hunters
Street Photography inevitably attracts confrontation as it deals mainly with strangers in public spaces. But all photographers experience resistance all the time – not only those who shoot the streets.
How To Minimise Confrontation
As a street photographer, you cannot avoid confrontation completely. But there are certain steps you can follow if you want to minimise your chances of being confronted by anyone. The following resources will take you through those steps: