A Photo Teacher |

“But Mom, I Want to Play in the Middle of the Street”

Posted in PHOT 167 by Paul Turounet on September 9, 2008


When Garry Winogrand passed away in 1984, many thought that street photography had passed as well. From Jacques-Henri Latrigue to Henri Cartier-Bresson to Robert Frank and William Klein, to Elliott Erwitt, to Garry Winogrand, and Lee Friedlander, the genre of street photography represents a significant place in the history of photography. These photographers roamed the streets like stray dogs, wandering relentlessly and aggressively, making life reveal itself for their camera. Their photographs exposed the rawness and beauty of the everyday and commonplace. When asked why he was so interested in street photography, Winogrand remarked, “I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.”


Considering contemporary street photography, photographers such as Philip-Lorca diCorcia are now utilizing techniques from the studio, including staging and controlled lighting, to make photographs on the street while Josef Koudelka, Danny Lyon, and Nan Goldin have utilized small camera aesthetics to reveal personal narrative concerns. Paul Graham has used multiple-image presentation strategies and scale to reveal their conceptual concerns and the everyday experience. With the prevalence now of digital cameras and technology, photographers such as Pedro Meyer are digitally constructing street photographs while Beat Streuli is using surveillance techniques with long telephoto lenses.



© Pedro Meyer, Untitled, 1999


So with this in mind, how does the young photographer interested in revealing their curiosities of the everyday experience deal with that history and make work that reflects their own personal vision and photographic sensibilities?

On his website, ZoneZero, Pedro Meyer has written extensively on the contemporary state of street photography in a time of transition with technology and issues of privacy within a public context. Specifically, in two of his editorials, Editorial #16 – Street Photography by Pedro Meyer.pdf and Editorial #51 – Revisiting Street Photography by Pedro Meyer.pdf, he offers some thoughts on the current and future state of the genre.


Consider and respond to the following:

  1. In considering street photography’s impact on the history of photography, is it possible for the young photographer to continue to work within the context of this genre and create work that reveals a contemporary personal vision?
  2. What kind of issues does today’s photographer face working on the street?
  3. And what are the possible ways of working within such an environment?



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