Cities are strange places. They can be fun for street photographers, and they can be a burden.
We live in between the noise of traffic, the necessary “things” that make a city roll, stay alive, and grow.
Electricity generated in quantity. Fed through sinews of thick winding cables built just below our feet, under slabs of concrete that allow us to move freely through its streets. Cars, bikes, prams, scooters, skateboards, anything that makes you faster seems more attractive than walking.
The street photographer goes on foot. Slow. The preferred method of movement in a big city. Getting the shot is more important than getting there more quickly.
Berlin is a street photographers paradise. I am a street photographer – I also photograph other things, too; people, portraits, cats – a lot of cats. Still Lifes.
If I see a horse I’ll go for the shot. If I see a car, it’s generally not so interesting – unless it’s a Mustang. Like the horse, Mustang V6/8, metallic body work, or that special golden brown tone only found in a real horse, aren’t so common in Berlin.
As street photographers we seek the unusual.
Image by the author – Metallic Green Mustang. Unter den Linden 2023
Cities develop. It’s always a battle between councils and planners, and the private developer market. There is this argument that harps on about how cities develop better, some say that private enterprise, in its pursuit for profit, will know what’s best for the city and its people, others say a mixture of government and private money creates a balance towards a sustainable city that serves people and business best.
As the years pass, I see how Berlin has developed from post-war derelict housing, old factories, and small shops scattered throughout, to shopping zones, impressive, though questionable, blocks of dark glass architecture buildings that serve the business community. Always retaining a solid idea that Berlin is for the living – not only business and profit.
We’ve had a few ugly buildings erected – which then took years to get rid of. Even ugliness must bide its time and wait for the new idea, new era, or a keen investor to tear it down and replace it with something more interesting.
Photo by the author – Night Street Photography
The street photographer, like the cables underground, winds his or her way through urban passageways, the streets, dips down a side street only because it beckons for some unknown reason.
Feeling the vibe in the atmosphere, always watching for a moment to occur. It’s those quirky happenings that attract us to photography; urban photography, street photography, and that horribly suspicious expression, “candid Street Photography”.
We tend towards the meanderer, the psychogeographer, the strolling thinker who lurks on a street corner waiting for the right colours, the right formation and constellation of people to flash into sight, form, gel, and then after the shot, disappear. A moment that came and went. Something only you and I saw. Something we captured and kept for the future.
Berlin Entertainment 2023
There is no definition of what street photography really is. It’s just photography done on the street, normally in a city – a place where there is a lot going on.
People can play a role in each shot, or not.
equipment is always a personal choice. It’s all about your own intentions. Those intentions will lead to the decisive moment for you. Decent lenses, and a good camera are more fun than something too basic – if you’re serious about photography.
Structures, vehicles of all types, just feet walking from the knees down is street photography. It’ll be worth looking at if the photographer creates a good composition, use of colour, black and white, and makes something out of the mundane moment in city life.
We tend to walk down side-streets and often find there are things happening that many people walk straight past. groups of people who gather, split, flow, shift and mix colours and shadows like a flock of birds is worth watching. A street photographer can sit and wait, walk and look, or do both and end up with a bag full of great shots.
I’ve often spent hours out doing street photography, and come back with a 30 shots only, but two of them were wonderful, worth keeping, shots that I’m proud of.
It’s not about firing off hundreds of photos and hoping for the best. Street photography is as much about taking the shot as it is about watching, looking, keen observation and being constantly focussed on what’s happening on the street.
Image by the Author – Berlin, Kreuzberg, 2018