Is this PC?
In response to an article by David Schonauer, http://tinyurl.com/nruedfn, raising questions about “street photography,” this subject has bugged me for awhile. It seems the term, “street photography” was coined by art critics and gallerists, who misapplied it to the photographic act in an attempt to define all photography done outside the studio.
Pinpointing what aspect of the term bothers me has been difficult. One possibility is the trouble with definitions. They are labels that become definitions that become rallying flags for trends and false movements. Street photography – really? Of course photographers spend time on the streets. Unless we’re on the oceans, savannas, or tundras, we get around on the street, and we make photographs where we are.
I made photographs 3 years in a row in the Arctic. Does that make me an Arctic photographer, therefore creating an entire genre of photography? I worked for several years on an Indian reservation. OK, reservation photography. Should I go on? Nah.
Photography is, by far, the best medium for capturing the moment, or the fraction of a second. It captures the combination of shape, position, and light in a selected area at a specific moment. (I’ll use this statement in other articles.) That’s why the medium was invented, and that’s what it does. It is, therefore, just, that we use photography for that very purpose. It’s like using a chair to sit in or a pen to write with.
Probably, the most difficult kind of photograph to make is the one involving rapidly changing position. It also provides the greatest opportunity for just the right shot. It is not surprising, or even remarkable, then, that photographers would spend their time in situations where people are moving around in relation to each other and to fixed objects. Maybe we should define pens as paper pens.