Okay, well the title may have slightly over-exaggerated just how close I was to my subject – but we all have to start somewhere! Let me set the scene. I was walking around the city when I saw a man, face scrunched in anger and leaning against a wall. This alone was interesting but not enough to get me out of my comfort zone
,so I released the grip around my camera – that was until I noticed a potential ‘cherry on top’ (as Mr.Kim would say).The man was leaning next to a poster of a male model doing a similar ‘pose’. At this point I was around three meters away and broke out of my bubble of introversion, raised the camera, composed the shot, focused the subject and made the picture. Now I realize you probably aren’t buying the level of serenity that I’m selling to you and that may be because I’m not being completely honest with you. You might have to picture all of that among a little sweat, a little shaking and a little fear for some accuracy… Anyway, I made the picture, he stopped talking on his phone and gave me the ‘what the fuck?’ look. Now at this point my many hours of training in the virtual street photography land known as Eric Kim’s blog kicked in. So I merely smiled, said ‘thank you’ and walked away; the city carried on as it was. This got me thinking about the pros and cons of the main two approaches to street photography. Extroverted and introverted. ‘The Hunter’ and the ‘The Fisherman’. Pointless analogy not making sense? Think of it like this:
‘The Hunter’ is active and stalks his prey. He searches for the right prey, the right moment and the right spot to strike. In terms of street photography I am talking about photographers like Bruce Gilden, Garry Winogrand etc. These people are crouched in crowds of people using a flash to get stunning, gritty street portraits.
‘The Fisherman’ on the other hand, meticulously searched for a nice river bank to setup. He knows there river is full of fish, he knows what fish he wants. To make sense of this in relation to street photography think of the master Henri Cartier-Bresson or Alex Webb. These guys find a scene, study the light and then wait for the right subject to enter the frame – like a man waiting for a fish to bite.
Pros and Cons: ‘The Hunter’
- Make gritty and raw candid/street portraiture that conveys a lot of emotion and character
- Their photographs are full of life which is very important to street photography
- Less focus on composition and framing
- Less thought process on juxtapositions of concepts
Pros and Cons: ‘The Fisherman’
- Composition and framing
- More thought about the message of the photograph and the bigger picture of a project etc.
- Hesitance and lack of courage can make you miss potentially great shots
- More difficult to get a lively and absorbing photograph
Of course, we know these two ‘personalities’ are not completely clear cut. Nearly all street photographers combine both of these approaches. However, from my personal experience, I can say that some of us favour one approach over the other – for me its ‘The Fisherman’ however I am actively trying to explore into the other approach which proves how I think that neither approach is better than the other and most people will agree with this. After all who can deny the beauty of Cartier-Bresson’s surrealism and the thoughtful complexity of Alex Webb’s compositions, while loving Gilden’s raw flash work and Gary Winogrand’s ability to pack a frame with beauty at a 28mm focal length. Both approaches are great, you can produce great work with either so choose and experiment with both whenever you can. I mean, just think of the images you could craft with Gilden’s ‘courage’ combined with Bresson’s eye for the intricate. So all in all, I need to get out anf get shooting!
Please share anything you have to say about this in the comments!
I know this has already been discussed a lot, I just wanted to include my two cents on a topic that I find very interesting.