99% of the time when shooting on the street, I hit the shutter unannounced, completely candid. When I fist started, not asking was this moral operative that somehow purified my practice, as if the Street Photography God was watching and doling out brownie points. Kind of weird, I know, but I was new to the genre and wanted to adhere to its rules as I perceived them — “I insist you take me seriously!”
I’ve loosened up a little since, hallelujah, now occasionally first asking a subject to make a portrait. I’d classify it as “Street Portraiture,” something I consider wholly separate from Street Photography, but certainly related and adjacent (and certainly worth exploring as a self-identified “street photographer”).
I didn’t start dabbling in photography, via my marketing job, until 2010—well past the technological shift from film to digital that occurred in the early to mid aughts. A half a decade later, the summer of 2015 was when I began focusing on street photography. So, needless to say, I’m a “born digital” shooter who’s only known capturing 1s and 0s to CF and SD memory cards.
If you’re a digital-only shooter too, then maybe like me, you’ve heard a steadily growing chorus of fellow street photographers touting film (that supposedly antiquated medium from the dust bin of photographic history) for its “purity,” its “look,” its “process,” etc. Of course, all I could think about was the expense, the waiting, and the learning curve. Plus, don’t we have VSCO filters that create that filmic look? Pssh.
Well, I finally caved in. And I was wrong. (Not completely, but we’ll get to that later.)
At the end of 2015, Instagram moved away from its square-only emphasis, and began displaying landscape and portrait modes as well. Up until that point, users had to rely on third-party apps that essentially let you add white borders to the top and bottom or left and right in order to fit landscape and portrait formatted photos into the app’s square presentation.
One reason Steph Curry can do those things: he sees the play before it transpires. The game moves in slow motion for the great ones.Jim Barnett, Warriors Broadcaster
A couple months ago, I wrote about the key to capturing the Decisive Moment: anticipation. The key to snapping it isn’t seeing and reacting (as that’s usually too late), it’s sensing when it’s about to happen.
As handed down by street photography forefather Henri Cartier-Bresson, The Decisive Moment is the precise time and place street shooters hope to uncover and capture. The street is a public stage, with passersby as the actors stepping into its sun-lit spotlight. However, for most who walk through it, both as participants and unconscious witnesses, the curtain is still closed.
As street photographers, it is our role to pull back this veil, inviting an audience to see the drama unfolding—not by scripting and performing it, but by framing and freezing it.