Anyone who has ever been interested to learn about street photography, should have come accross the “decisive moment” term at least once. The term was coined and explained by the father of street photography Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908 – 2004) who believed that good photography largely depends on good timing. “Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative,” he said. However, the genre has greatly evolved since the time Cartier-Bresson started “stealing images” on the streets of Paris. The life itself has changed and keeps changing as well as our perception of it. Alive, as it is, street photography evolves following and reflecting the ever-changing life on the streets.
Besides capturing a once-in-a-lifetime moment, Cartier-Bresson’s definition also indicates that the way of seeing things, and not just seeing and capturing them as they happen, makes a photograph good. However, his standpoint differs significantly from the attitudes of his successors in one crucial (decisive, if you like) thing. Cartier-Bresson shoots with his eyes, not with the heart.
Today’s street photographers believe that the ability to express the energy and temperament of the street is much more relevant.To succeed in this, one has to be associated with the street experientially and emotionally. To feel its rush and neurosis. To love that wierd mashup of cultures and temperaments inherent in modern cities. Being out there, watching and capturing life as it happens in engaging way, means feeling the pulse of the street, experiencing it and loving it.
Some try not to be noticed by their subjects while discreetly studying human behavior almost anticipating their actions as Joel Meyerowitz’s approach is. Others, on the contrary, like Bruce Gilden for instance, approach people in the street and snap them intrusively instigating actions. Some are voyeurs like Jeff Mermelstein, others interact with the people and speak to them before taking the picture. Some chase the craziest things in life on the street, others like William Eggleston look to find the beauty in the mundane. Basically, they pick up all those things which flow by us without notice. And more. Street photographers, like Boogie for example, try to get closer to those out of sight.Through his bold photographs, Boogie exposes people on the margins of society, such as drug addicts and gang members.
Street photographers of our time are part of the whole mess and are as diverse as their subjects. They are hitting the public space leaving the unpredictable life on the street to lead them to a perfect shot. The approaches are different but all share the same aim – to tell a story about the things we often overlook.