Is This The End of In-PUBLiC? Questioning What Street Photography Really Is

The question ‘what is street photography?’ has caused a divide within the community for decades. It could now be causing destruction.

iN-PUBLiC has been a long-standing and respected collective in street photography. For the best part of 18 years, it has featured some of the most applauded and successful street photographers in the game. However, could one simple photograph be about to bring what has been a strong source of education for so many to its bitter end?

This week two of the collectives photographers, including the founding member, made the decision to leave iN-PUBLiC. Sources have suggested that both Nick Turpin and Nils Jorgsensen (who have both been removed from the website) were unhappy with the collectives current selection in their ‘Photo of the Month’ category.

Panoramic Street Photography

© Blake Andrews

The image was taken by fellow member, Blake Andrews. He shot the image on an iPhone using the panoramic feature. The subjects in the image are clearly distorted. This is due to the way the image is processed through Apple’s algorithm.

Unhappy with the inclusion of the image, Turpin felt it was not following the code of authenticity that is commonly associated with street photography. “I created In-PUBLiC because I saw street photography as a very specific way of working in its own right, based on observation.” states Turpin. “Blake is using the iPhone panoramic feature to create distorted images. I actually like the images but I don’t consider them to be street photography”.

Turpin has long been protective of what street photography means to him. In rejection of the overused hashtag #streetphotography, he created a new term to recognise the craft – Candid Public Photo. The hashtag #canpubphoto, has been used over 45 thousand times on Instagram.

Keeping Street Photography Real

It is evident that Turpin wants to keep street photography as true to life as possible. For him, the image should show what the eye naturally sees. My own experience within the community tells me he is not alone with this notion.

With Blake Andrews photo, although the scene is candid and all he did was hit the shutter button, the image outcome isn’t true to life.

However, it is a skill in itself to shoot in panoramic mode. Because of the algorithm used, most of the images taken on the street end up in the bin. Here is what Andrews himself had to say…

Getting a good one is hard. I realize that for some it’s not their cup of tea. But I’ve grown to embrace serendipity, to need it even. Risk is fun! Playing poker is fun! Sure, there’s luck involved. The skill is overcoming it.”

Granted the image looks strange. Yet, I can also see the accomplishment in creating an image that can tell a story, whilst it is portraying the human body more in a way that would have been common at a circus.

What is Street Photography?

With the plethora of equipment and tools available today in the photographic market, could it be time for the street photography community to shift its stance on what constitutes as street? Could we not just agree that if a photo is taken candidly, no matter the tools and setting, than it should be classed as street photography? Well, that would be boring now, wouldn’t it?

You see, it is because of this diverse opinion that the medium is so great and intriguing. We all know what a portrait is. We all know what a landscape is. But we will argue until night is day before we can conclude what a street photograph is. There is a romance in that. The passion to stand by what we believe our love to be.

The end of In-PUBLiC

As the members of In-PUBLiC remain divided, Turpin went on to say…

“Right now, the argument is over a digitally manipulated image. Half the group have already voted on it. I am now organising a vote that all 22 members will take part in, about whether or not we accept digitally manipulated images”.

If the vote doesn’t go in a way which is aligned with the collectives original values, Turpin feels it may mean the end of what was once his beautiful creation.

“I’m now deciding whether or not to take down the whole site,” stated Turpin. “The In-PUBLiC project may have run its course.”

It would be a sad day if the collective that has meant so much to so many came to an end due to a definition. Hopefully, no matter which way the vote goes, an agreement within In-PUBLiC can be made on how to move forward in a way that celebrates everybody’s definition of street photography. We will have to wait and see.

The question remains, however; what is street photography?

All images were used with permission.