Depending on your perspective, street photography is either one of the easiest or most difficult types of photography one might pursue. The barrier to entry is low, with a small camera and fixed lens being all you need to get started shooting. Just step outside your door and capture what is happening on the street in your town ,and you are a street photographer. The problem is, although it is simple to get started in street photography, it is not easy to create compelling imagery.
Many street photographers operate in stealth mode and seek to capture candids without asking for permission. The goal of the candid shooter is to capture scenes exactly as they occur naturally. Any interference by the photographer ruins the possibility of creating an image that is 100% authentic.
Many street shooters feel their images are best when captured using a 35mm or wider focal length. This requires the photographer to be physically close to the subject. If the subject notices the photographer standing close by, the subject may alter their behavior making it difficult to capture what would have taken place had the photographer not been present.
Another approach is to be more direct and simply ask for permission before taking someone’s photograph. This may appear to be easier since the photographer does not have to develop the skill of being discreet while making photographs. In practice, however, the direct approach is difficult for many photographers since it demands the shooter deal with rejection if the subject does not grant permission. Many photographers label themselves as introverts and are most comfortable hiding behind their cameras in social situations. Walking up to strangers and asking for permission to create a portrait is not their idea of fun.
I recently filmed a video with The Raw Society Co-founder Jorge Delgado-UreñaI, in which we showcase both of these approaches to street photography. Although Jorge demonstrates a candid approach in the video, he has a special affinity for street portrait photography. “Portraits humanize a story and put a face directly in contact with your viewers. The story starts being something very personal because there is someone directly looking at you through the lens or the lens of the frame. The important part here is to understand that doing portraits is a beautiful thing and people will usually tell you that being photographed by you was a great experience they are going to share with you things that you wouldn’t imagine, without your even asking,” said Jorge.
Check the video for insight into both approaches as you watch Jorge and me make photographs on the streets and subway tunnels of New York City’s Times Square.