Street photography has grown in popularity in recent years. As cameras became more accessible and social media became integrated into our daily lives, more people fancied trying their hand at photography. Street photography, although difficult in practice, is extremely easy to access. Once you have a camera, you only need to step onto the street and begin making pictures. I wonder what impact this has had on the street photography community, and the quality of work we see.
My Words on Street Photography
I have been rather critical of the street photo community over the years. In 2020, I suggested that street photography had lost its soul, and I also called out those who were giving the scene a bad name. Back in 2019, I called out some of the older generations in the street photography community. Those that only ever complain and say street photography “is finished.” I told them it was time for them to leave and find something else they’re passionate about, rather than ruin the experience for others. I’ve called out lazy street photography and faux social media interactions just for the sake of seeking attention.
I’ve seldom held pulled punches when talking about street photography. It has landed me in spots of bother at times. I’m no stranger to a disgruntled email. A full street photography collective has even targeted me in the past.
Sometimes you’ll ruffle some feathers in this game. But that was never my intention. Every word I wrote about street photography, the good and the bad, has come from a place of passion and love. I’m not exaggerating when I say I love this craft. Have I been brash at times? Sure. Has the tone sometimes been slightly off on occasion? Yes. You don’t always hit home runs when you cover a topic as much I do. But again, the main motivation for me is to celebrate street photography and do my little bit to ensure the community remains healthy and happy, even when that means calling out some things I question or don’t like.
I have also had a lot of positive things to say about street photography. I’ve written extensively about how it helps improve mental health and depression. Each year, I’ve helped give a platform to the best street photographers in the game, something I’m extremely proud of.
However, I’m just one person. My views are mine. Of course, other people share them, but many of us see things differently. That got me thinking, what do other street photographers feel about the current state of the community? To answer the question, I got in touch with two street photographers I admire who are prominent names in the street photography scene.
Speaking to Others About Street Photography
Alison McCauley is a member of street photography collective UP Photographers. Her work has garnered attentionworldwide , and she’s been featured by the BBC, The Telegraph, and more. Melissa O’Shaughnessy is also a member of UP Photographers, and her book, Perfect Strangers, was a huge success in the scene, with the foreword being written by Joel Meyerowitz. Both McCauley and O’Shaughnessy are authorities in the community, and they were the perfect people to offer their thoughts.
I asked the pair two questions. My first question was How strong do you feel the street photography community and scene are in the present moment?
“I think that because street photography is such an accessible genre (requiring no more than a camera or phone and maybe a pair of shoes) it is an approach that attracts a huge number of people. It could be hard to feel a community within this (usually online) rabble, but those who work long and hard enough within the loose definition of the genre do seem to gravitate towards like-minded individuals, who they can communicate and collaborate with. I certainly have this with UP Photographers. So to answer your first question, for me personally, the community is a small number of people who’s work I admire and who I have gotten to know, on and offline, over the years. However, I really think of it as a photography community and not a street photography community.”
“I can only speak to my little corner of the community, obviously. After the long pandemic hibernation, I am now starting to run into many friends out shooting on the streets of Manhattan. I think most of us still feel a bit dispirited, since the crowds and energy–in New York at least–have not returned to their pre-pandemic levels, and many people are still wearing masks in public (which is great for public health but not so great for street photography). But there’s life in the old dog yet. Most street photographers I know are trying to make the most of it.”
The Future of Street Photography
The second question I posed to both photographers was: How do you hope to see the scene and craft evolve in the future?
“…I would like a clear dialogue and guidelines for anyone interested in photographing strangers in public spaces. I’m against curtailing the rights of people who want to take photographs of strangers in public spaces, but I think there should also be more awareness of what could be considered a defamatory portrayal of a person or group of people. Luckily, I don’t see a lot of these types of images, but it is the people (street photographers and Paparazzi) who take these offending images and post them online or publish them that will lead to the rights of other photographers shooting in public spaces being curtailed further.”
“Street photographers are a friendly bunch, and I think the “scene” will continue to be a lively one. As to its evolution, I have can’t predict, though I hope to see women and other underrepresented photographers in the genre gain more recognition and attention in the years to come.”
Street photography is a wonderful genre. It changed my life for the better. And the community, once you ignore the toxic few, is a joy to be a part of. I hope the genre keeps going. I’d like to see more originality. I want to see more personal identity in street photos rather than people following trends. Inclusivity is always a good thing. Anyone who feels they don’t belong in the street photography community, let me tell you that you’re more than welcome to join in the fun. If you’re on the fence, pick up your camera and go outside. The future is bright. The future is street photography.