Street Photographer Documentary Photographer

What Can Street Photography Do To Help?

Street Photography Skills Are Transferable

It's the hardest genre of photography to pick up!

Firstly, the genre of Street Photography is the single most difficult genre of photography to do, be good at and to practice because you're simply pointing your camera at strangers in the street.  In today's society, people are becoming more and more aware of their image appearing on the internet and usually, object to having their picture made by a stranger on the street.

Paul Hands (2013).

In this picture above, I noticed the man approaching this painting and realised that he looked incredibly similar.  The moment happened in slow motion and I couldn't believe what was happening at the time.  I was completely tuned in to the environment when I came across this scene in Artists Square in the Montmartre district of Paris.  I had to make sure the exposure was right, using manual controls on my camera, get the focus in the right place, frame the shot and make the picture, all without being creepy, obvious and with respect.

Paul Hands (2018)

I noticed this dog in the window, while scouting the centre of Birmingham, looking for street photographs and because there was a reflection in the window below, I had to position myself so that I wasn't in the picture as a reflection but wait until the right person passed the scene to get them in the picture.  This was a necessity for the image because the general consensus for a street photograph to be classed as that, there needs to be a human element in the frame.

Paul Hands (2018)

Most of the time a street photograph works best in black and white.  There's an old saying that when you photograph people in colour, you photograph their clothes but when you photograph them in black and white, you photograph their souls.   For a picture to work in colour, the colour in the picture has to matter.  The colours in this picture (above) matter because they're quite striking and demand attention.  In black and white, this picture would just be a very average one, even now, it's still an average picture by comparison to others work.

Paul Hands (2018)

Where I've said that Street Photography skills are transferable, I'll explain.  You see, to make a street photograph, you have to really tune into your environment, slow life down and watch humanity passing your eyes.  You're effectively people watching but looking at the world and these people with an artistic eye.  You look for meaning and a way of making sense of life.  You have to be very quick with your camera too and learn to move unseen around the city.  Using the skills of a street photographer, you can learn to apply them to a commercial setting.  For example, I do a lot of documentary photography for my clients, telling real stories with my camera for promotional and positive reasons.  I often get commissions that require my street photography skills because it tells a certain amount of truth as opposed to designing a photograph and this is a valuable commodity for certain organisations.

Paul hands (2018)

The above picture is purposefully blurred because it was made in Amsterdam and it was towards the end of the evening, with this demonstrating how I felt at the time.  There's a human element and it's not close up but I've photographed the environment and placed a person for the human element within the frame.  

Paul Hands (2018)

This picture is also blurry and was made in the red light area of Amsterdam.  The blur is from an intentional camera movement designed to create a hectic vibe in the picture.  Its design is to create tension in the frame, to make the viewer feel the chaos of the night in that place.  

Paul Hands (2018)

I made the above picture in my hometown of Hinckley Leicestershire at the end of the LOROS Colour Fun Run.  The light was low and casting long strong shadows.  The floor was covered in paint powder from the race and it made an interesting picture.  I stumbled across a child rolling around on the floor in the paint and loved the frame with the bollards, almost creating an invisible box.  

Paul Hands (2018)

The above picture was from the same fun run as the photograph before and catches a very unique moment in time where these three girls are holding hands passing through the place where they're doused in pain powder.  The paint itself is flying through the air and offers strong evidence of time stopping.  There's also an element of the environment in the top left corner for reference, it also provides context as opposed to the paint blocking out any visual reference as to where it is.  These are strong skills that can be applied to photographs for a commercial setting, especially within the events genre.

So in essence, Street Photography skills are the hardest to acquire and learn.  I remember the first time I pointed my camera at a stranger in the street.  I was so worried that they'd be offended and it wasn't until I learned how to do this properly without them realising and even noticing me that my pictures started to work.  It's all about getting close to the subjects and telling the real story or even making up your own.  To make a picture instead of taking one is the difference.  Anyone can take one but making one is the difficulty and why only some pictures work and others don't.

I don't shoot weddings anymore, I used to but fell out of love with it through some awkward clients being painfully interfering with the process.  My point here is that if you shoot weddings, Street Photography can really help your style, it's how you need to shoot a wedding really.  Once you've done all of the portraits and the time comes to make natural looking pictures of the guests and wedding party enjoying themselves, these skills come in very handily.

I've always found that by learning to shoot street, it's sped up my decision-making process and the way in which I think visually, happens so quickly now.  I can only put this down to the skills being transferable.

Try it for yourselves.

Paul Hands (2018)

Where's the privacy line in Street Photography?

Can you cross a line when shooting street and is there an invasion of privacy?

Man in the Painted Mirror (Hands, Paul. Paris, 2013).

Man in the Painted Mirror (Hands, Paul. Paris, 2013).

In the name of art and the right to record in public places, is the picture that I created in 2013 (above) morally right to create?  The laws in France do not allow people to make photographs of other people in public without their permission, yet some of the greatest photographers from the history books including Eugéne Atget, documented the Parisian streets but long before the laws were changed.

The high court judges altered the privacy laws in France, making it illegal to take a picture of somebody in public unless you have their express permission.  Prior to these changes, some of the most famous photographers in the world like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau worked the streets, making pictures that would go on to influence the world and especially photographers interested in the genre of street photography.  Now today's photographers are strangled with red tape in France and have no chance to even emulate their heroes, that time has gone!

Henri Cartier-Bresson (1932, France).

Henri Cartier-Bresson (1932, France).

Robert Doisneau (1931, France).

Robert Doisneau (1931, France).

In todays current climate, each of the three pictures from Bresson and Doisneau would be deemed illegal and wouldn't be allowed to be created.  Publishing them on social media and or in print would also be illegal.

In Britain, the laws are an opposing reflection of those in France, whereby you can make a picture of anybody and anything, as long as you're stood on public land.  The laws is so relaxed purposefully to allow room for realistic journalism.  If the laws became alike those in France, a new culture of suing photographers would arise and a realistic view of our world would disappear and you'd only see designed pictures with heavy influence from the photographer, giving a false view.

Recently, I practiced some Street Photography in my home town of Hinckley in the Leicestershire county of the UK.  I feel that my best work has always been in different cities around the world where I'm unknown.  The first image in this article was made by me in Paris and is completely against the French laws of privacy.  If the man in the picture ever discovers this photograph, it could land me in a little trouble.  

However, my home town Hinckley is not as busy as Paris and a lot of people know each other, the community is tighter than that of a city and it makes it harder for me to practice my love for this genre.  I have been out and made some pictures, not all good and some only close to ok because it's the hardest form of photography I know of.

I created the above pictures in the town centre with my iPhone and then shared them on my social media page for a social documentary that I've been building for the past 7 years.  The body of work is huge and covers the people, events and changing landscape.

My page is open for the community to have conversations around my photographs with me and with each other and there's no censoring of the communications.  A lady who follows my page commented "I would be absolutely devastated and fuming if I found myself on a photo I knew nothing about, but maybe that’s just me!" (Deborah).  This leads me to wonder whether it's just a lack of knowledge that makes people feel this way but at the same time, forces me to question the entire practice of street photography.

Just because we can, does it mean that we should?

Is making the photograph ok but sharing it on Social Media the problem?

Should the photograph be made in the first place?

Photography always raises questions and so it should!  Without the questions, we could just keep making pictures without ever knowing why.  It's the why that's the most important thing to consider.  What are the intentions?

Bruce Gilden (1988, Haiti).

A New York Photographer called Bruce Gilden is very well known in the industry for his style.  A style that will see Gilden jump in-front of passers-by, with his camera and flash, yes he used flash in strangers faces.  His style is so aggressive that you will even see some photographers curl their toes when watching videos of him.

The UK's very own Bruce Gilden is called Dougie Wallace, a current practicing street / documentary photographer has adopted a similar style to that of Gilden's.  Wallace is no sucker and is far from afraid of shooting in peoples faces.  His aggression is so high that even when confronted by people not wishing to have their photograph taken, he refuses to delete the picture, citing his ownership over it.

Dougie Wallace (2016, London).

Dougie Wallace (2016, London).

Has the world lost it's way?

Why is everyone so offended by photography?

You see, I can't begin to close the questioning!

Another commenter on my pictures said "I agree with Isobel, taking photo's for your own use is fine, but publishing them on a social media platform is a different matter altogether. I know you say you would remove them if requested, but how would people know they are there . . . and if you've already put them on facebook or wherever, it's too late . . other people would have seen them." (Lin).

Lin makes a strong point in favour of not sharing the pictures on Social Media, although I feel that it is pretty much the only window to the world for a photographers work these days.  Traditionally, we'd use exhibitions. gallery spaces and printed books to show the work but nowadays, the work needs to have some kind of presence online before being seen in a show.  It's not the same in all cases but still, what other options are there?

Lucy said "If only people understood the "no permission is required" thing in street photography".

Lucy is right, the law states that we can make the picture if we're in public and the law believes that if you're out in public, how can you expect privacy?

In Britain, we're allowed the right to expect a certain amount of privacy, like if we're in our own homes.  You would think that we're safe from prying lenses.  Luckily we are and technically, if I stood on the street and pointed my lens in to your living room, I'd be legally in the right place but disrespectfully breaking your rights to privacy.

The law is not straight forward.  I'm a firm believer that as long as you have the right intentions and are respectful to those within your frames, make work that doesn't humiliate others, then surely there shouldn't be any objections, or strong ones anyway.

Paul Hands (2017, Birmingham).

Paul Hands (2016, Wirksworth, on a workshop with Paul Hill, Nick Lockett and Martin Shakeshaft.

Paul Hands (2014, Paris).

Paul Hands (2014, Paris).

So of course, there's no line in street photography.   There's just peoples opinions and everybody is right, it's always a 6 or a 9!

People do have a right to some privacy but not really in the street where you're on public view.  Photographers have the right to make art but I believe with that comes a great responsibility because after all, we are dealing with the image of people and in these days, they feel that they need to be more stringent with protecting their own image.  Possibly an inflamed state of paranoia brought about by the media and national news items of identity theft.  Theft of this, theft of that, invasion of privacy is something that can only be enforced if your in private.

The article that I wrote and shared my street photos can be found on the Facebook page I spoke about earlier and read the comments, here... 

 

 

 

 

Visual Stories From The Streets

Street Photography Around The World

By Paul Hands

I love to just walk around the city with my camera, watching people and studying their behaviours, trying to understand their stories or at least making one up about them in my head.

Oxford University, Oxford, England

I've travelled to some of the Worlds biggest cities and purposefully walked with my camera to learn about the culture of the city dwelling human.

River Seine, Paris, France

All of my photographs are made candidly and usually the people in my pictures (with the exception of the first one in this blog) don't know that I've made a picture of them.  That is my aim, I want pictures of their characters in the environment acting as naturally as possible.  This is of course, so I can tell a truth of that moment in time and in that place.

Troisieme Quarter, Paris, France

When I make my pictures, I know at the time of clicking the shutter whether it will be produced in black and white or in colour.  I look for contrast if it's to be black and white and the story has to be timeless.

The Clock Tower, Leicester, England

Of course I shoot street photography in colour too, look...

The Metro, Paris, France

When I shoot in colour, the colour has to be anchored.  For example, the anchor colour here is red but that's not all I look for.  There has to be something extra special and the image has to be layered in it's story or the graphics, like in this shot above with the red seats juxtaposed with the mans red bag.

Dadlington Church, Warwickshire, England

Even my own rules have to be broken because in this picture, colour isn't really that important.  The story is what matters here...  You'd never guess in a million years by looking at the picture and in fact that is sometimes quite good because when reading a photograph, part of the structure should be about your implied version of the story.  If you haven't guessed yet, this was a bunch of people waiting for King Richard The Third's reinterment in 2015.

Camden Market, London, England

This is purely about the geometrics of what appears to be a metaphorical time tunnel.  Well that's what was in my head when I stumbled up on the scene.  There's always a human element to my street photography and I don't believe without that human touch it belongs in the genre.

Montemartre, Paris, France

I always gravitate towards Paris for my street photography even though it's not legal to shoot people on the streets there without their permission.  I'm not sure if this is a good thing for me.

One thing is certain that I can't decide whether I prefer shooting street photographs in black and white or colour.  I do know that my favourite pictures are in black and white.

The Metro, Paris, France

Then there's my favourite of all time and one that has won me awards...

Artistes Square, Montemartre, Paris

I love street photography, it's probably the hardest form of photography and is something that usually only photographers understand.  It's like a blood sport but without the blood, usually!

I highly recommend it to anyone that wishes to improve their photography because it teaches you how to make those visual stories.  At the end of the day anyone can press a button and cameras these days make it so easy for anyone.  If you can't make the story though, where's the picture?

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Art Work For Sale

Photography Art For Sale

I'm having a go at selling some of my art work.  If you're an art collector, buyer or perhaps just want to have some great wall art for your home or work, please feel free to have a look at the microsite I use with the Print Space Hub to host the sales of my art work.

Here are some examples of my work that can be printed.

There are plenty of other choices to look through and with a good mixture of colour prints as well as black and white.

If you'd like to have a closer look at my artwork for sale, then please click this button to visit my microsite.