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street photography


Street photography isn’t the easiest discipline. If you’re a practitioner of the form, some of your friends might ask you if you ever talk to the people you photograph. I’ve asked that of many street photographers, and I’ve had it asked of me. The answer is, almost always, that the street photographer does not talk to the people in the frame. Definitely not before the shot, and not after. Yet, there are occasions when talking is unavoidable, when the person in your frame is more aware of you than you anticipated. While street photography is, in large part, the art of stealth in a public space, you have to be ready for the occasions when the person in your photograph talks to you.

Talking to your subject takes a good deal of confidence, both in yourself as a photographer and in your photography. We can leave the deeper questions to Humans of New York. For now, all you need to think about is explaining who you are, what you’re about, and inevitably, why you’re photographing them.

This isn’t necessarily the time for artistic statements, especially if you’re in a city where people are short on both time and attention. Perhaps you’re working on a project in which the person you photographed fit the bill for the next shot in your series. Give a quick synopsis of what the project’s about, and let them know they’re good for it. Or perhaps you’re just shooting on the street. There’s something about them that made you take their photograph. Tell them what that something is. People often respond well to flattery.

Of course, you may be caught offguard by someone who doesn’t want to be photographed, someone who takes a hostile approach to anyone who aims a lens their way. Be calm in all aspects of your practice, and be particularly calm if someone storms over to you after realizing you’ve photographed them. Keep it brief, and don’t stumble over your words. Simplicity and directness will, more often that not, be enough to defuse any hostilities.

Anything can happen on the street. If you’ve got quick feet and an unassuming manner, you can move from one shot to the next with ease. Just be prepared for when you have to talk.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon G1x product images (7 of 7)ISO 4001-50 sec at f - 4.0

When walking around the streets of any big city, the best camera is always the one that you have on you. But lots of us here at the Phoblographer love point and shoots. These cameras are lightweight, better than a phone, small, and so low profile that no one will think that you look like a creep. But what we care about a whole lot more is the image quality–and many modern cameras perform more than well enough to please even the most snobbish of shooters.

Here are our picks for the best cameras for street photography.

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All images by Fabian Palencia. Used with permission

“Growing up, I skateboarded with my friends, and we were always looking for new, undiscovered skate spots. Skateboarding really introduced me to NYC.” says Fabian Palencia when talking about how he became inspired to get into street photography in the first place. “By the time I was 10/11, I had been to every borough by train.” Fabian’s approach to street photography is very rooted in street skating and graffiti.

“I think about what kind of people live somewhere, what do they eat? How do they make a living, what’s their hustle? I grew up in Jackson Heights, which has a vibrant street culture. There was so much going on all around me, I wanted to explore it all. I still do. I want to understand.”

Fabian’s images are clever, candid, and capture moments that would otherwise have New Yorkers not thinking to take a photo. He touts around a 5D Mark II with a couple of prime lenses, an iPhone 5S and a Hasselblad 500CM. He uploads his images to his Tumblr, Instagram and Eyeem. Mr. Palencia states that he has an emphasis on travelling light–and so he’ll either just carry his iPhone or his camera and one lens. “Too much gear takes away from the experience, and my work is really about me experiencing the world around me.” says Fabian.

Mr. Palencia is drawn to characters that personify their environment. By that, he means that every neighborhood in New York has their own personalities and the area reflects on the people there. In order to shoot the images, Fabian practices the art of being invisible–or at least as best as possible. Then he gets close and tries to capture the scene. When asked further about the method, he explains that he isn’t into exploiting people, or their pain. He believes that there is enough of that out there, and in those same environments there is a lot of love. “I want to tell that story. A NY love story.”

Considering that most of his work is on platforms like Eyeem, Tumblr, and Instagram (though he is building a website) he believes that the social imaging world is very democratized in its current state of shooting, sharing, not using the best equipment, and not needing an art degree. “My education in the arts was passing blackbooks around to my friends, looking at graffiti, going to museums and looking at peoples work online.” states Fabian. “Without the internet, I’d have never become a working photographer. I’d still be shooting, no matter what, but knowing I’m part of a greater whole inspires me to push myself to make better photos.”

Here are more of his images.

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All photographs taken by Mike Kandel. Used with permission.

D.C.-based travel, music, and documentary photographer and world traveller Mike Kandel recently visited the City of Love and, awed by what he saw and experienced, captured Paris’ beauty as well as quirks through his lens. Also known as the City of Lights, it is a destination sought after by most–not only because of its richness in culture, arts, cuisine and romance, but also because, incidentally it’s also one of the most stunning. Expenses aside, we can all agree that it’s worth visiting at least once in our lives.

In his mesmerizing Parisian photo series, Mike undresses the city of its usual color and documents it in monochrome. Why, you say? Well, according to him,

“Paris is beautiful no matter how you view it, but through a monochrome lens, its true elegance and character become strikingly apparent. Removing color from a place so rich in fashion, art and culture impresses a fresh perspective upon both the tourist and seasoned resident. You see things differently, and find magnificence between shades of gray that you may have missed walking the colorized streets in person.”

By capturing the city in black and white, Mike effectively strips Paris down to its core perfection, proving once again that the city’s beauty is in its details, people, architecture, and charmingly-old streets, as well as brings forth a feeling of nostalgia reminiscent of Paris’ artistic glory days when legends like Hemingway, Dali, and Bunuel roamed its streets.

See Mike Kandel’s monochrome photographs after the jump.

See more of Mike Kandel’s beautiful work by visiting his website, following his blog, or connecting with him on Facebook. For his Paris in color series hit this link.


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Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony A7s first impressions photos (4 of 22)ISO 2001-60 sec at f - 5.0

While we’re currently in our testing stage with the Sony A7s, we’ve been seeing how it performs at high ISOs and out in the streets. And to be honest, the high ISO results make us believe that this single camera will change the street photography game. With results that are completely usable at levels we never even thought of (and those that aren’t can be worked with in Adobe Lightroom) it basically makes the traditional rules of photography obsolete.

Here’s why.

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julius motal dave keenan fair witness Parade, New York City, 2011

Parade, New York City, 2011

All images by Dave Keenan. Used with permission.

Dave Keenan’s re-entry into photography is a story of the natural order of things, rather than rediscovery. In his youth, he got to photograph on occasion with his grandfather’s Leica, which gave an early love for rangefinders. With his father, he built a darkroom where he often spent time developing and printing photos. His photography, however, fell by the wayside as he took up a career in computer engineering, and in the last ten years, he bought a Leica on a whim. His photographic passion, however muted, came back as he started a photo a week project, which gradually turned into his book FAIR WITNESS: Street Photography for the 21st century with the help of veteran photographers like Eli Reed and Elliott Erwitt.

Head on past the break for our interview with David Keenan, and check the Kickstarter campaign for FAIR WITNESS.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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