Empty Street

by Philip Bourke 28th Sept 2015

Blind Faith- Blind leading Blind

You have a camera and you find yourself taking pictures on the street. This does not make you a street photographer.

Even more so if you are out with a Camera Club that deems itself street worthy because generally they are far from it. The recent groups that have popped out of thin air and jumping on an already tired scene, these so called street groups in particular are culprits when it comes to the new wave of empty and pointless street photography, never paying any service to the history of a medium. Generally vacuous and devoid of any inspiration, no depth, no character no meaning. Lazy puns, laughable post production or sheer guess work is the high water mark shown by anyone in these groups as leadership is lacking. The blind leading the blind as some are simply unable or just have a fear to point out failings, or offer just pure and simple mentoring that just may be valuable.

I know this because all I have to do is scan Facebook, for example, and watch in real time as the “quality”, and I use that term lightly, gets weaker by the image yet others in the groups will row in with spouts of “SUPER”! “POWERFUL! “A GREAT STORY!” None of these superlatives actually matter or make sense yet are dished out by the second for any umbrella, escalator or just a man walking transformed through the wonders of post production filters. Never is there any critique given, trundling analysis, yup, but no real substance that may deliver a thought that could aid the progression of photography for many in the current wave of “street” photography, and while many of these folk have cameras and are out on the street, are they really street photographers? Are they photographers on any level?

Since when did spot colour or HDR have anything to do with street? When did a highly sharpened image become more important than actual content? It does puzzle me when an image with strong content and one which will reveal, in a subtle way, something of the person behind the camera is ignored (or to be more accurate just not sensed) for an image which contains nothing outside heavy Photoshop post production. Any honesty that may have been there is eroded by amateur like post production masturbation, and in fact it has now become more about post production to a fair few followers. Perhaps this is easier than having a point of view or an attitude to share as the drones are insulated from having a point by those like minded types with little to say yet are saying it quite often.

The likes of, for example, HCB’s words are taken out of context daily. Perhaps if some would just study the man’s work they could then try to achieve something themselves right in the camera view finder frame and not in Photoshop later, in fact, while many of these current street shooters are more PS than HCB and to me that is pure BS.

And suddenly it’s all right because Vivien Maier has come out of the woodwork, or her images have, and within five minutes she’s held in the same breath as a Winogrand but isn’t the story more fascinating than the pictures?

It’s a time to get back to basics, get down to brass tacks, ask questions, discover more about the person behind the camera, see it in their work, demand it, how do they relate to their surroundings? Is it evident? Or is it more lazy ass puns, the visual equivalent to a Christmas cracker joke?

Everybody is a photographer today.

And when you are encouraged by those who are equally blind it is a recipe for mediocrity, sure, it is a fad and like all fads will soon disappear and that in the end will allow the rest of us to carry on producing work in a quiet way and with purpose, and generally that purpose is a self examination.

The frustration is right now very palpable with the current wave of empty vessel street in all it’s passive and harmless nature. But is it the be all and end all? Far from it, as many of us already know and have witnessed and continue to do so. As a member of one of these groups once foolishly spluttered to me, “it’s a picture, it doesn’t mean anything… It can’t…”.

There’s a world out there to be explored, it means everything.


One Comment

  1. Very thoughtful article, my friend. My only disagreement is being concerned about those who supercharge their images. They’re just desperate for likes and deeply unsure of what their images are all about. I give about 5 years before most of them extinguish silently out in the woods. What’s also funny are the photographers who try and control the perception and function of street photography. Their agrandized egos are humorous to watch since most have passed the 5 year tripline and have now turned towards those wishing to hop aboard the soul train and train them how to fly. I’m amazed at the proliferation of workshops and lectures and what not. Again I’m amused more than alarmed. What’s most ironic is my hoping that I don’t get lumped in with them, but that’s out of my control. All I want to do is grab a couple of my cameras and take a slow walkabout.

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