I’ve recently been gathering my thoughts and materials to teach a two-part workshop on street photography beginning this Saturday at the Center Gallery.
Taking pictures of strangers in pubic places takes guts, quick reflexes, simple gear and the ability to pre-visualize what an image might be. It can be in-your-face or from-the-hip; up close with a wide lens or sniper style with a telephoto (although everyone knows telephotos are for chickens).
Three classic street photographers with entirely different styles and sensibilities come to mind.
At first blush Garry Winogrand’s images seem random and chaotic (toward the end of his life, critics agree, most of them were). But a closer look at his work during this prime will reveal many different layers of elements woven together within the frameline of a single photograph. I am unaware of anyone more able to see so many things at the same time than Winogrand.
Elliott Erwitt is the master of the visual pun, photographing those everyday things people see but seldom notice. “All the technique in the world doesn’t compensate for the inability to notice,” he said, which I am considering having tattooed on my chest.
Henri Cartier-Bresson developed the concept of “the decisive moment,” when all the compositional elements come together in the viewfinder and are frozen in time. Bresson was also French, which pretty much sums up his sensibilities.
Street photography today is alive and well as skilled shooters continue to build and the tradition evolves.
Wichita’s own Cary Conover, now in NYC, or European photographers Matt Stuart and David Gibson are some good examples. Matt Weber is a machine of excellent work. The list goes on, but this will get you started.
At the workshop we’ll discuss ways of working, public spaces, private places & private property, technique & style, photo gear and mustering the guts it takes to poke a camera in somebody else’s face. Two weeks later, on May 23 we’ll come back and see what we’ve got.
It is not coincidental that the Wichita River Festival falls between the two workshops. It’s a mostly friendly, festive atmosphere and people are less inclined to get worked up if they catch strangers taking their photograph. Like Erwitt says, “If you’re going to shoot fish in a barrel, you might as well go where there are a lot of fish.”