The original title of this essay was “Street Photography Is Hard”. After a bit of thinking, I had to append “Good” to the beginning of the title. After all, it has been several weeks since I posted any street photography related content. That is because it was so difficult to find street photographs I took which I feel is decent enough to share.
The practice of street photography itself is not difficult. That is analogous to saying that running is not difficult – except for the physically limited, everyone can run! But running fast enough to qualify for the Olympics? That’s hard! In a similar manner, anyone can bring a camera out into the streets and take pictures of life and events around them. But taking a street picture that is actually good? This is where things get difficult.
In architecture photography, you have an architectural subject to describe. In macro photography, you have insects, flora, and all kinds of interesting stuff to photograph. In food photography, you have good-looking food dressed up by a food stylist to photograph. In sports photography, you have a really interesting competition between different groups of people to document. In fashion, wedding and portrait photography, you have clearly-defined subjects and it is your mission to make them look as good as possible. In landscape and cityscape photography, the land before you is your subject.
Street photography is the only photography genre where you have no clearly defined subject. In fact, you are totally reliant on random chance. That by some non-guaranteed random possibility, something interesting enough to be a good photographic subject will show up in your path, in the direction you are looking, at the time that you happen to be wandering the streets with a camera.
Which explains why there is so much bad street photography being shared out there. What is so difficult about taking a picture out in the street? Hundreds of thousands of tourists do that everyday. It is taking street pictures that are genuinely interesting which is difficult.
This brings us to another question. What is a “good” street photography picture? What is considered as “good art”? Isn’t this subjective? I agree that the qualification of “good art” is subjective – but only to an extent! Not every piece of art qualifies to hang in a museum. On the other hand, I also earnestly believe that quite a number of undeserving art pieces are hanging in museums. 😉 Oh the arrogance… But I will have more to write about this matter in later multi-part essays. – WY