I still come across some people who believe that Street Photography is about photographing the “freaks” and degradation of society. I find that those people tend to fall into three camps.
The first camp consists of photographers who dabble in something vaguely resembling SP, and only focus on such elements of a community for some twisted thrill and opportunity to show how they are supposedly superior individuals over the subjects they record. The second comprise paranoid individuals who assume that all street photographers are dirt; obsessed with posting embarrassing pictures of people online and engaging in child pornography. The third group approaches street photographers with recommendations to trawl certain neighbourhoods of cities to find more denizens who don’t seem to fit the norm of society.
Real street photographers aren’t so antisocial. We don’t photograph communities and hold mirrors up to them to be salacious and gratify ourselves on corruption. We have a genuine interest in our fellow human being and the myriad ways we survive or thrive. The images are produced creatively; that is, in more than just a bluntly objective photojournalism sort of way, so that just maybe others will be inspired to take a healthily curious and more compassionate interest in the human condition too.
SP is not about only showing the bleak aspects of a society. You reflect the joy and pleasantness of a community as well. This too is of profound value to the health and wealth of a city.
Yes, there are times when it can be difficult to find such moments that are worthy for recording in this specific genre – an indication that there is social, political and economic work to be done in the area, but it’s still there. I always hope that I’ll be in the right place at the right time to capture that part of any community, and I deliberately seek out events in which such public displays of communal happiness are highly likely.
I will not seek out subjects who are the stereotype of homelessness, mental illness, dire poverty, criminality or what have you but I may shoot one if such a subject happens to be present and of significant importance in my mind while I’m out photowalking, driving or using public transit. For every shot I’ve made of such people or circumstance, there are ten to twenty more that I have purposefully ignored out of a personal concern that an image may be exploitative and one-sided.