A huge chunk of learning street photography comes with practice, but it does help to get inspiration and tips from photo books and references on the topics from both established and budding street photographers. There’s already a lot of those out there, but if you’re open to checking out eBooks, among your options today is Street Photography is Cool by John Lewell.
First, some basic details about the eBook. It’s available on Amazon Kindle for $14.95, but is free if you’re already subscribed to Kindle Unlimited. The chapters are concise and to the point, but that doesn’t mean this book is a short read. It can actually feel very long since it has a whopping 89 chapters and a total of around 3,117 pages (or swipes, if you will). If you’re a busy person, it will most likely take you a while to get through all the chapters. If you’re not reading regularly, it will definitely take you a lot longer.
But then, there’s the convenience of having this book all the time if you’re using the Kindle app on your smartphone. And yes, you will want to take your time with this book. You may decide to give it an initial read-through, then jump between chapters later when you want to apply what you’ve learned on your next street photography expedition. It can also be a handy reference when you study your photos later.
A quick initial read-through is the path I decided to take, admittedly skimming quickly through many parts and paying more attention during others. Some chapters caught my interest as I’m someone who’s still learning the ropes of street photography. There are also those which I don’t relate to what I now find as outstanding street photography (or a street photography “style” I see myself adapting), so I paid less attention to those. So, you may want to take this review as a first impressions thing.
What do I like about this book? First, it’s an in-depth dive into street photography, what makes it cool, and what you may want to keep in mind when you’re out shooting. There’s also none of the basic ideas and concepts on street photography that you’ll already find everywhere else, so that’s a plus. There are some pretty informative insights here too, stuff that a lot of us probably never give much thought to when it comes to the genre. Perspectives on topics such as meaning, intent, composition, working with light and shadows, content vs. form, appealing to the viewer’s imagination, and attention to detail may help budding street photographers establish their own style. In fact, he does away with the authoritative tone and encourages us to make up our own mind about our work.
Of course, there are a few parts I feel could be improved. First, as someone who has a greater appreciation for physical pages, I found myself distracted by how the pages look and feel empty in some parts, which gives the book a weird flow as you flip through it. I guess that’s more the fault of the eBook format, but it could be a minor distraction for those who are just getting into the format like I am. There’s also the possibility that readers will see the book partly as an avenue for the author to promote or justify his photos and their motivations. I guess that can’t be helped since it’s a highly personal volume, and we’re essentially reading the author’s take on the subjects he tackled. One thing I feel would have made this book more solid and objective is if the author used a mix of his own photos and those by other photographers. That way, it doesn’t put itself in danger of being too self-promoting.
As for the photos, they do well to serve their purpose to illustrate the author’s points and ideas. As someone who sees a lot of outstanding street photography from both personal and editorial perspectives, I think some of the photos risk being overly simplistic or snapshot-like. But, I’ll let you be the judge of that if you decide to read it.
All that said, I do recommend you pick it up if you’re looking for an informative yet personal take on street photography and many of its well-known concepts. If your schedule limits your reading time to blogs and articles, however, it may not be for you. Otherwise, go ahead and check it out, take your time with it, and take what you feel best applies to the street photography style you want for yourself.
Grab your copy of Street Photography is Cool by John Lewell via Amazon or look for it on the Kindle App.