How To Discover Your Own Street Photography Style
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.
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For further reading on style in street photography please check the following resources: