RANT: If You Only Complain about Street Photography Then It’s Time to Move On

There’s a certain type of person in street photography who, no matter what new work they see, never has anything good to say about it.

The street photography community can be a funny little place. Lots of street photographers divided into their own groups (otherwise known as collectives), some believing their art is more precious and important than everyone else’s, while others bring good spirit, inspiration, and support to all. Among these are the ones that spend most of their time talking down everything they see and never having anything positive to say. This makes me wonder why are they even involved with street photography.

Maybe They Can’t Let Go?

Throwback

I’ve often questioned if street photography is an addiction. Think about it; it has a lot of negative elements to it. The practice of it comes with stress, failure, fatigue, confrontation – yet the hit of getting the shot keeps us craving more. Then there’s the community: plenty of over opinionated douche bags (hello), who believe their perspective is worth more than everybody else’s. Not to mention the pretentious “if it’s not shot on film, underexposed, and out of focus then I’m not interested” crew. Let’s also not forget the constant debate of what street photography is and isn’t. Oh, and the “we were here first so we’re more entitled than you” mentality of some. All of this makes street photography a rather toxic practice and community to be in.

“…there’s a lot wrong with street photography. But there’s also a lot that is right.”

But we love it. We love being creative. We love seeing the work of others. And, maybe most importantly, we love the rough with the smooth. However, for those who don’t love anything about it, honestly, it’s probably time to say goodbye – unless, of course, they’re addicted.

Understanding the Gripes People Have

I always try a have a balanced opinion and see both sides. Granted, it has got me into bother in the past but I believe that balance is important and I will continue to strive for. So here goes…

Street photography has become extremely cliche in many ways, however, I do not believe anyone is to blame for this. Cameras are quite accessible and the craft has existed for so long that it’s hard to offer anything different than what has been done already. (That’s not to say there’s no original work being created at all. There certainly is.) So, naturally, people who have been in this game for a long time may feel deflated and lack enthusiasm.

“I respect any person prepared to pick up their camera and walk for hours and hours with the hope they have something interesting at the end of it.”

Then there are the get rich quick types. Okay, rich is a stretch, but there are plenty of new street photographers (and I class two to three shooting years as still being new) charging hundreds of dollars for workshops and online tutorials. This is insane. Especially when you can get seasoned (10 – 20 years) street photographers who are prepared to share with you their wisdom for half the price. So yes, there’s a lot wrong with street photography. But there’s also a lot that is right.

Seeing the Good in Street Photography

There’s some great work being created. I’ve been fortunate enough to feature plenty of amazing street photography. So many awesome, creative minds in this field that I find it hard to understand why some people struggle to say anything good about it. And let’s put the quality to one side; street photography is difficult. I respect any person prepared to pick up their camera and walk for hours and hours with the hope they have something interesting at the end of it. That’s a positive. We can all support each other and make this a friendly environment.

“It’s as if they get off from putting people down.”

And in fairness, plenty of street photographers are putting in the effort to make this a positive experience for everyone. For all the miserable folk that still associate with the craft, there are plenty of other groups and individuals that create a great atmosphere. I’ve made some great friends in street photography. People who have helped me and supported me since day one, and that’s not just with pats on the back. People who are genuine and who wanted to give constructive feedback with the hope of making me better because of it. But, going back to the miserable sods…

We Don’t Need You Anymore

Honestly, why do they stick around? I keep asking because I’m genuinely curious. It’s as if they get off on putting people down. They have their little internet groups, which they believe to be the mecca of street photography, boasting about how they enjoy “tearing people apart when they submit photos”. Calm down guys, it’s a social media group.

“Street photography is boring. It’s stale. Nobody does anything good. The new breed is so annoying.” On and on and on with the negativity. I don’t only ask why they put us through it, but also why do they put themselves through it?

“…if all you’re able to offer is a terrible, negative, smelly scent, then it’s time for you to leave the room.”

People outgrow things. They move on and find new ventures that excite them. This is human nature and there’s nothing wrong with that. I have no issue with people no longer getting out of street photography what they once did. It’s life and maybe I’ll get there too.

Every scene and genre has its flaws: I’ve listed plenty above. They also have lots of positives which keep us going and keep us creating. I’d even argue that street photography is in the best position it has ever been in. Men and women from all over the world, all from different backgrounds, sharing the same passion, and creating and working together – that’s amazing! So I do take issue with this constant toxic negative outlook that offers nothing of benefit. And it may be a small pool of people compared to the positive ones, but it’s still big enough to leave a bad smell.

The community needs to be fresh, and if all you’re able to offer is a terrible, negative, smelly scent, then it’s time for you to leave the room. We don’t need you anymore. And by the looks of it, you no longer need us.