The Mental Game of Street Photography

For some of the photographers I work with, taking pictures of people in public is a bigger challenge than learning all of the technical details and camera features.  I totally understand their hesitation as it can be quite unnerving to point a camera at a stranger, focus a long telephoto lens, and shoot without asking their permission.  To further complicate things, some potential subjects would prefer not to be photographed for any number of reasons.  Maybe they are homeless, sick, or simply don’t want their privacy invaded. Still, if they are in public, it is absolutely legal and fair game to photograph them.  The question is why should you take their picture


This internal dialogue must be resolved in order to overcome the fear of photographing people on the street.  As an Instructor, I can only encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone as it can lead to personal and artistic growth.  

As photographers, I believe we are part storyteller and historian. Our job is to capture the human condition of the world around us in both good times and bad.  Besides the historical value, there is potential to make unique art from people in public.  Just yesterday I came across a rather unique example by John Schabel with his new book "Passengers". It's grainy, slightly out of focus, and yet each image draws you in and allows the imagination to roam.  

You won’t have to look far to see the contradictions of our society.  Here in New York, I often see high powered business people stroll past someone begging for money or food on Park Avenue.  There are similar stories to be told in all parts of the world, including yours.  The bitter irony can be sad to see, but the internal struggle lends itself to photography.  The camera itself can be used as a vessel of truth either by including something in the frame, or excluding it.  As the artist, you have the ability to create your own reality.  Is it all sunsets and roses, or will you choose to show both the Ying and the Yang?


Chris Corradino