Is Street Photography Still Important in the Art World?

Image by Cosyspeed, Shot by Chris Gampat

Image by Cosyspeed, Shot by Chris Gampat

Before you begin this piece, calm down. No seriously, calm down.

You’re calm, right? Okay, that’s the closest to calm you’re probably going to get. To hop right into this, you should know that I (like many of you) love street photography. It’s a wonderful way for photographers to be able to hone their skills, express oneself and it’s a great way to improve your artistic eye. But considering all of the different types of photography that there are and where street photography’s position is in the world, it’s tough to believe that street photography could actually still be very important in such a saturated photography space.

Let’s analyze and break this down:

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Ilford Delta 400 scans image samples review (6 of 13)

  • Landscape photographers: important for documentary of land, global warming, and overall beautiful adornments for a home or apartment. Plus it helps tourism commercially.
  • Portrait photographers: headshots, the list can go on and on here. It breaks into fashion, dating, social media, and so much more.
  • Wedding photographers: yes, that’s all.
  • Photojournalism and Documentary: this will always be needed

Those are some big photography genres, but another large one is street photography. Street photography has no real commercial value except for an artistic print of a beautiful moment or one that can be stared at for a while by people. However, street photography doesn’t serve any major commercial reason for professionals if you really think about it–and the people that find some way to do this professionally are often doing it by selling prints or licensing images. If you’re licensing though, that goes into advertising and photojournalism in most cases. So that’s when street photography legitimately stops being street photography and instead about having a different major purpose.

Processed Kodak Tri-X

Processed Kodak Tri-X

Street photography’s main purpose is to just record life as it happens in public. It can embrace art and geometry, or it can embrace elements of landscape photography, portraiture, etc. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that–taking photos in public isn’t a crime in most places and it certainly isn’t a crime against humanity.

But as far as advancing the professional photographer, it doesn’t really seem to do much else than improve one’s own skills. For the amateur, hobbyist, and loads of folks on Instagram, it’s a way for someone to share a moment that they captured by applying their own creative vision to the scene.

chris gampat the phoblographer 7d street photos (4 of 6)

What street photography can do though is expose people to new locations to go shoot, teach people about lighting, geometry in a scene, and to embrace the artistic side of photography rather than being fixated on pixels and bokeh.

In the art world, it can be very much argued that street photography can have its place when done very well. But a strong argument can be made for many other genres. In the commercial world, street photography seems to have a tougher uphill battle.

What are your thoughts? How is street photography important to the art world and the photography community as a whole? Let us all know your comments below.