Even writing about Street photography cliches is a cliche, I mean if you google it you’ll come across a lot of things to avoid on the street so it’s a wonder we manage to shoot anything. Thing is, over time and the longer you’ve spent on the street, you’ll keep seeing these same things over and over again.
I’m absolutely not saying, “Don’t shoot this stuff,” but if you are close to bringing your finger up the shutter button, just think to yourself — “Have I seen this before ? “ and if so, what’s my interpretation of the scene. If everybody is shooting it, that’s probably a good enough reason not to.
I’m also going to try and show some good examples of where it’s really worked. Sometimes even a cliche can be wonderful if it’s thought of in a new way.
Through a bus window.
Even before Nick Turpin shot his “Through a glass darkly” project, London buses and their windows have been covered so much that it hurts my eyes to look anymore. It really does have to stand out and be special if you’re going to create this image as it’s been done so often.
Where it works and why.
Filling the frame with the subject, the hands on the head and the condensation on the windows are a recurring theme through his images so they have a feeling of continuity. Nick spent 4 years shooting this project, which equates to a lot of time on the street plus quite an extensive selection of misty windows. Key to why it works, is in the edit, and the sequencing of the images.
Anyone with an umbrella.
I love umbrellas. I really do. They are a magical invention to keep the rain off one’s head. Thing is, they do have lots of different colors, are a great abstract shape and usually look good from lots of different angles. Problem is, Rihanna wrote the song, and just about everybody with a camera on planet earth has taken a picture of one. Unless it’s magical, just use them to keep the rain off your head.
Where it works and Why.
Craig’s ability to isolate a scene and bring an almost minimalist approach to his work makes his shots of the umbrella’s really stand out. He’s consistent with the way he edits, has a keen understanding of how color works and notices space within a scene. Keep it simple and don’t over process.
Anyone with a phone.
You can spend hours on Instagram looking at people on phones, no days, no years! I mean I’m not sure of the purpose of these images other than to remind us ourselves that we’re constantly attached to these addictive devices. I think I’m a Luddite at heart, take me back to the days of landlines and pagers. Things were simpler them….sigh
Where it works and Why.
You can make your images have a phone in them and still be interesting. I just think you need to have other things going on in the scene other than someone walking down the street on one. Try layering your images so a phone is just part of the scene, maybe a foreground or background element. Shoot through things and try to make more abstract images, which in turn will hopefully be a little more interesting for you, me and everybody.
It’s human nature that we all see the same images, but rather than just press the shutter blindly, try and think about what’s gone before, and how you can avoid shooting the same thing as everybody else.
This video pretty much sums all it up rather succinctly.