Why Street Photography is like fishing

Digital photography is in an interesting place. There are more people producing fantastic images than ever before, just look at Flickr if you want to see some exceptional talent but so much of it for me is over Photoshoped, cliched landscapes.

You know the thing – a Devon seascape shot on a 5 second exposure so that the sea goes milky, totally over saturated and about three hour of level adjustment, dodging and burning and the result just looks too over-worked.

Nils Jorgensen

But for me Street Photography is different. I’ve been passionate about Street Photography since seeing the work of photographers like Nils Jorgensen and Matt Stewart. They combine Cartier Bresson’s ‘decisive moment’ with a real sense of humour that I love.  I’ve been lucky to briefly meet them both and talking with them, the thing that links them is extraordinary observation, an ability to see the sureal, the amusing or the unique in everyday life.

Matt Stewart

So in doing it myself what are my observations?

  • It takes real patients. Like fishing you have to be prepared to wait all day for a nibble and more often than not you’ll be unlucky.
  • You will always talk about the ones that got away.  A perfect capture is 1/500th of a second in a whole day.  That’s a small margin of error.
  • The angle will nearly always be wrong, the light will be in the wrong place and the ideal position will be in the middle of the road when a large bus is coming.
  • The subject may notice you and may want to kick your head in.
  • The police will view you as a terrorist.
  • You will be so focused on the shot that you’ll miss the reflections on the windows or the lamp post in the way.
  • You will always want to get closer…closer….closer.
  • You will never be able to sell the work to photo libraries as you’ll never be able to get a model release form.

So it’s a branch of photography that won’t make you money, is essentially uncontrollable, fraught with frustration but when it is done right it is inspiring and uplifting.



2 thoughts on “Why Street Photography is like fishing

  1. Mark, you’ve hit the nail on the proverbial head, I’ve shot half million dolllar Ad campaigns in the US, I’ve shot front pages for The Independent but nothing is as hard or as rewarding than making a remarkable street photograph.

  2. Thanks Nick. I remember your stunning Tate Modern series and one in particular (Girl with orange hair and basket balls) talk about patients. Sadly can’t find it online due to copyright issues I imagine. Good luck in Florence.

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