What is the definition of Street Photography? It can mean something different depending on who you ask!
The simple answer is: Any photos taken on the street or in public, usually depicting a truth about everyday life.
Street Photography is more than just documenting everyday moments, capturing snippets of life for the vain purpose of collecting. A good street photograph should be able to tell a story. It should be able to speak truth about the human condition.
“I believe that street photography is central to the issue of photography—that it is purely photographic, whereas the other genres, such as landscape and portrait photography, are a little more applied, more mixed in the with the history of painting and other art forms.” — Joel Meyerowitz, Street Photographer
I love that quote, Meyerowitz is stating that street photography is the starting point for telling truth. Other genres flow out from street photography and become more defined. If you grabbed your camera and went out your house or office and started photographing the things you seen happening, you have become a street photographer. There is no qualifying factor that allows you to start doing that. You can start anytime you like, you can tell whatever story you like.
“I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.” — Garry Winogrand
There are many conflicting definitions of street photography from the artists behind the pictures themselves. Garry Winogrand famously, hated being defined as a “street photographer”, he preferred “photographer”. He just happened to take photos of life on the street.
For me, I see street photography as way of documenting life as it is now from my point of view. I think its very hard to go any further than that. It should be reality presented however which way you like.
I think the comparison between Documentary Film and Narrative Cinema can be applied to Photography.
Street Photography = Documentary Film An attempt to present a reality from the filmmakers point of view.
Narrative Cinema = Landscape, Model, Portrait, Architecture Still an attempt to present reality, however there is more set-up involved. Its scripted. You plan to photograph a mountain range or river.
What matters most?
Your definition of street photography matters the most. What does it mean to you? There are no hard and fast rules of street photography! You can start taking photographs and begin your version of documented reality. The photographs you take are how you see and understand the world.