Street photography can help us become more virtuous.
Street photography is a wonderful genre to practice. Going out for long periods of time, walking without a planned route, and creating images is a fun thing to do. Creatively, street photography encourages you to pay more attention to your environment. It pushes you to feel the atmosphere you find yourself in. There are certainly more benefits to shooting the candid frame, and they include making you a better person.
You Should Shoot Street Photography with Good Intentions
Before we get into why street photography will make you more virtuous, let’s begin with a quick disclaimer. Street photography will not turn you from a total douche into a flying angel. Anyone wanting to start shooting candidly should do it with good intentions. Street isn’t your opportunity to shame or humiliate, nor is it your chance to be a creep. Be respectful, just like we hope you would in any other corner of life.
But what the practice of street photography can do is help you improve certain qualities you should already have. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle claimed there are certain traits (virtues) that, when executed, make you a better person. These traits make you a more attractive and valued member of society.
Some of the virtues listed by Aristotle also crossover with religious virtues. On the religious side, things like Chastity and Temperance do not relate to candid photography. So, I’ve taken the best (and most important in my opinion) virtues from both a philosophical and spiritual sense. And below, I’ll show you how they relate to shooting candidly.
Street Photography Helps Improve Patience
Maybe the most important trait you need for street photography is patience. Firstly, it’s going to take a while to get good at it. Secondly, you may have to wait a while before you see a shot worth making while out shooting. But by being patient and methodical, you can shoot calmly and not rush or force an image.
Street Photography Forces You to Be Honest
One of Aristotle’s virtues is truthfulness. As street photographers, I believe we are obliged to tell honest stories. Sure we can play with angles for all the arty street stuff. But for those who want to document society and the people who make it, we should not bend the truth for our own creative gain. By creating authentic photography, we can feel confident we’re doing the right thing.
Improving Our Diligence
Most people I meet in the scene seldom leave it. Instead, they commit a lot of their time and life to perfecting their craft. Because of their dedication to the scene, they become valuable players, creating bodies of work that become sources of inspiration and education.
Look at the likes of Bruce Gilden and Joel Meyerowitz as examples. They have dedicated decades to the craft and serve as role models to the rest of the community.
Shooting Candidly Allows You to Be Charitable
Many street photographers evolve their process and begin making street portraits. These are not planned shoots but off-the-cuff portraits of people who seem interesting.
Those who make good street portraits can offer something back to the public. People love having their photo taken, especially today, where everyone wants a good photo of themselves. Stopping someone in the street, telling them they’re perfect for a photo, and then giving it to them for free is a lovely act of charity (and kindness).
These Virtues Won’t Only Apply to Street Photography
While street photography can improve your virtues, it doesn’t mean they will come into action exclusively when shooting street. The practice of being patient, diligent, truthful, and charitable can spill over into all corners of your life. Street photography is just a tool to help you perfect them and evolve as a person.
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