Updated: Dec 9, 2022
Every photographer has aspirations and an ideal that they strive toward in their work. I have always had a desire to be even decent at street photography in my personal work as I really believe there is a beauty and art to quiet observation and the capture of the little moments of people and places you love.
For the past five years I have been in university in North Carolina getting my undergrad and master's in communication, shooting as much as I could the entire time. I took the opportunity to explore a new city and try my hand at developing my observational and compositional skills. Did I succeed in reaching my goals in street photography and the way I can tell a story with my images? No.
In this post I will go over the factors behind why I did not develop my vision and compare the work from North Carolina with my work from Tennessee. Below is what I consider one of my best images following my vision of street photography:
This image fits all of my personal qualifications for a good street photograph as it includes dynamic lighting, a human element and a clear narrative based on composition and framing. I took this image years ago in downtown Nashville and I honestly have only made one image in the time since then that fits the same parameters. Below is the second image taken on film that I believe is another successful street photograph of mine:
This image adds an element of character being on film as it creates a sort of nostalgia for myself toward my hometown. It also tells a story about the city by including elements very much unique to Nashville. These two images act as my baseline for my work and the standard I hold myself to every time I go out to document my surroundings and community.
Below is a short gallery of 10 images that I have taken in North Carolina in urban settings. There are only a couple of these images from the past five years that fit the qualifications that I listed above for my own street photography and those are image five and image 10. Even then, the subjects in image 10 are not entirely prominent so it barely fits my standards.
Most of the images in this gallery are abstract urban images that have interesting lighting, composition or colors but do not qualify as street photography in my book. I recently came to this realization that after years of walking around and taking pictures of what I thought looked interesting, there is only one image in the past five years that was purely capturing a moment that tells a story and that is a hard thing for me to accept.
I by no means want to say that I have wasted my time, efforts and film all that time because if I had not made mistakes then I would not be growing as a photographer and storyteller. I want this post to be a reminder to myself of how I can improve my street photography to be more like the work of my inspirations such as Fred Herzog and Vivian Maier in that I truly tell the story of wherever I may find myself in the future.
The takeaway from this story is that it is important to have a goal and standards in the genres of photography you are passionate about. However, you won't be able to discover those goals unless you first find out what you don't like to capture.