Street Photography vs Urban Geometry: What’s the Difference?

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What is street photography? That’s a question that a lot of photographers can’t really answer. Why? Well, when you think about it, it’s a term that could mean that you literally just go out into the streets and shoot photos. But that’s not what it’s recognized as in the art world and that’s also not how it’s associated amongst those of us who do it.

In recent years, another trend has popped up that stems from street photography. It’s called Urban Geometry: and it’s a different type of capture process that revolves more around art vs documenting the human condition.

For those of you who are confused, keep reading.

Urban Geometry

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When you look at this image, you can easily say that it is one of two things when it comes to classification:

  • Urban Geometry: because of the lines and shapes as well as the use of contrast and minimal use of colors.
  • Architecture/Real Estate: there is an argument here but it’s also not necessarily clear that the building was the main subject necessarily of the image.

And to that end, the issue then becomes over what the intent was during the creation of the image. Urban geometry is a bit more artistic in that it emphasizes the use of lines, shapes, contrast, etc in a scene and therefore doesn’t necessarily have a main subject at play. Instead, the subject is the entire scene. What’s important in urban geometry is how everything plays into one another. There can be people in the scene, but they’re not necessarily the main focus of the scene and there isn’t really a documentary process being pushed that tells a story about them.

The image above isn’t also necessarily an architectural image because if the building were that important, there would have been specific work to make it the absolute main focus and subject of the image. This means using things like a tripod to make the camera higher and maybe cut the streets out, a different angle or composition, etc.

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With architecture, the important thing in the scene is the building: and that’s not the intent of urban geometry.

I’ve interviewed a number of photographers who can fall into this category:

Jeremy Perez-Cruz: People aren’t the main focus of his scenes.

Simeon Rusnak: Incredible work

Nicole Struppert: Her work borders Fine Art

Street Photography

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Street photography: everyone wants to be a street photographer but most people are way too scared to actually do it and capture amazing moment as they see them unfold. The main focus of street photography is the people: it’s about capturing candid moments that aren’t staged and while there may be other things in the scene, they may not necessarily be important.

Edited in RNI Films

Edited in RNI Films

With street photography again comes your intent. If you are actively trying to photograph the people as they go about their lives and they are the main subject and theme in your image, then you’re doing street.

Photographers who clearly do street photography:

Eric Kim: Come on, that’s a given

C. Stephen Hurst: Such a big inspiration!

Michele Palazzo: He’s recently come up very strong in the photo community

Bruno Massao: He does a couple of Urban Geometry pieces, but his work is primarily street.