Review: Everybody Street

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 7.14.15 PMSince first seeing the trailers over a year ago, I have been eagerly anticipating the release of Everybody Street, a documentary film which features conversations and the work of several great New York street photographers. Featuring interviews with photographers including Mary Ellen Mark, Joel Meyerowitz, Bruce Davidson, Jamel Shabazz, Martha Cooper and others, it provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of the New York street photographer.

Though street photography has been and continues to be practiced throughout the world, the Big Apple holds a special allure. The mashup of culture, class and race within a relatively small area has created a unique creative well from which these photographers have drawn. Everybody Street hopes to provide a glimpse into how an ever-changing and unpredictable city has been embraced and interpreted by a diverse group of photographic artists.

Directed by New York photographer Cheryl Down, the film quickly does away with the concept of there being only one type of approach or sensibility that defines street photography. Whether it’s the portraits of Jamell Shabazz, the documentary work of Bruce Davidson or the photo/video work of Clayton Patterson, the film reveals that the city as a subject can be rendered in myriad ways, some of which are often contradictory but always engaging.

The film offers conversations with numerous photographers many of whom have been rarely interviewed in depth. The results are insightful with regards to what drives each artist to pick up a camera and make the New York City their primary source of inspiration. However, some conversations are relatively brief and can leave one desiring to hear more before moving on to the next photographer.

Though the conversations with well-known legends of the genre are interesting, it’s the glimpses into the world of lesser known photographers such as Boogie, Jeff Mermelstein, and Rebecca Lepkof that provide some interesting counterpoints to the most familiar and iconic figures which often represent the niche of New York Street photography.

The film largely focuses on the world of street photography which traces its origins  to the work of Robert Frank and Henri Cartier Bresson. Though there are mentions of photographers such as Helen Levitt and Alfred Stieglitz, the film revolves largely the work of photographers from the late 20th and early 21st century. So, it’s less a comprehensive analysis of the history of New York street photography, but more an exploration of how individual artists shape the city into their own personal interpretations of life in a modern society.

Photographers Jeff Mermelstein, Boogie, and Rebecca Lepkof are as much characters as the people they photographs and I often found myself wanting to hear more from these photographers as they offered some insights into the personal choices that drive one to make New York street photography their life’s work. While each interview provided some wonderful anecdotes and insights, it was often these photographers that were more open in front of the camera and that provided a greater understanding of what drives one to pursue this most challenging of art forms.

The film is available for digital download rental ($5.00) or purchase ($13.00) from their website. I highly recommend making the purchase as it will no doubt be a film that you will find deserving of repeated viewing.

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