» The World Atlas of Street Photography

The World Atlas of Street Photography

source: blog.wsj.com

Memory Lane - Peter Funch Memory Lane – Peter Funch

Street photography has an irresistible allure, bringing out the voyeur in the viewer. A new book, “The World Atlas of Street Photography,” has pictures by 100 established and emerging photographers, working in more than 50 cities on five continents.

Jackie Higgins, the author of the book, says for many people the term “street photography” conjures up artists with a signature look from a particular era, such as Henri Cartier-Bresson or Garry Winogrand. But the genre is experiencing a renaissance, she says, grappling with issues like inequality in Africa and the growth of megacities in Asia. The 400-page book has more than 700 images and costs $45. Below, an edited interview with Ms. Higgins:

With smart phones, is everybody a street photographer these days?
Let me answer your question with a pair of images from the book. Peter Funch’s ‘Communicating Community’ and ‘Memory Lane’ show people on the streets of Manhattan either on smart phones or busily snapping their surroundings; the level of coincidence is uncanny. These pictures depict the urban theatre in a radically different way from street photographers of the past. …Smart phones may have exponentially increased the amount of street photographs taken. Various jaw-dropping stats are bandied about, for example, ‘Every two minutes today we snap as many photos as the whole of humanity took in the 1800s. Yet I would argue that only a minute fraction of these have the ability to arrest interest, to provoke thoughts, conversation and to take the genre of street photography forward.

What are the worst street photography clichés?
Taking great street photographs is a tougher challenge today than ever before precisely because of our rich heritage. You mention the legend that is Winogrand. I agree it is difficult to follow in his footsteps, even if only literally speaking, to find a street corner or park bench in Manhattan that has not been immortalized by him, or for that matter Friedlander, Frank and Meyerowitz. Similarly, a shop window or busy rail station in Paris that has not been immortalized by Atget, Cartier-Bresson, Doisneau. Yet the artists I have chosen manage to cast the same old settings and the same old scenes in a radically different light, one that resonates with contemporary concerns.

What characteristics do the best street photographs possess?
Essentially the best street photographs need to arrest both our eye and our mind. They need to leave us thinking, questioning and wondering. We may be struck by the raw emotional energy of a human encounter. Or by the exoticism of another world, such as Julio Bittencourt’s flamboyant and surprising Rio favela beach scenes. We may be awed by a decisive moment and impressed by the art of seizing an uncanny moment from the flow of everyday life. Or we may be mesmerized by an artist’s alternative vision of the streets we walk every day.

How do the photographs differ from country to country? How are they the same?
I have not noted similar styles / traditions coming out of cities / countries but I have noted certain themes and preoccupations within continents. For example, without doubt inequality remains a focus in Africa. Graeme Williams’ series ‘A City Refracted’ takes a personal tack and aims to describe what it is like to feel like a foreigner in your hometown.
A different concern preoccupies artists drawn to Asia. The rise of its gargantuan megacities has prompted artists to muse about our urban future: what it means and feels like to live in these urban juggernauts. In contrast, various practices in North America and Europe are aimed at interrogating the genre of street photography, what it means and could mean.

Based on the photos in the atlas, is there any particular country’s streets you would prefer to avoid?
There is nowhere I would avoid. The process of researching the book opened my eyes to all manner of captivating and colorful stories, views and thoughts. It was an armchair journey that has inspired travel.

(c) by Erwin Winkelman Photography Up