Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Street Photography-The Dance

I was just looking at a post by Rob Skeoch on the NPAC site that I found interesting about a documentary that has been done on street photographer Joel Meyerowitz. The video is shot by Cheryl Dunn and is part of documentary called "Everybody Street." The piece is here on the site of The New Yorker.com.

Two things that he mentions even in this short teaser struck a chord with me - things that I have tried to explain to people myself over the years.

The first is the way he speaks about moving with people in the street, even referring to Robert Frank being "balletic."

I've often described moving with people I'm photographing almost as if you are dancing with them, or around them. This helps me become a part of the flow of the situation, and somehow less intrusive. There are times when you want to stand back and remain apart from a moment, but more often than not, especially on the street, it is extremely productive to immerse yourself in the "flow" of what you are photographing.

This leads to the next point that Meyerowitz mentions which is the sensibility of the photographer. This is not just a sensibility of the people living life around you, but a sensibility for the energy, the life, the moments that are intertwining all about you.

In a related piece Mary Ellen Mark speaks about the subject "showing you what the picture is." Street photography, as challenging as it might be, is not about concepts, but about watching life. She goes on to speak about it being an advantage to be a woman because she is less threatening than a man, which, for the most part, I agree with, but as with any generalization, it doesn't hold true to all individuals. How threatening you are depends largely on your own personality and your approach to people.

A Yorkville, Toronto bicyclist sends pigeons scattering. (Photo by Peter Power)

Your personality. This is the piece of the puzzle that is impossible to teach aspiring photographers, but is perhaps the thing that contributes most to the images you are able to capture. Your demeanour, your interaction with people, your ability to approach others without triggering defence mechanisms, your honest face, and genuine interest in people are all personal traits that will pay off in spades as a photographer, as well as in life.

A great hat at the Bloor Gladstone Library in Toronto. (Photo by Peter Power)


  1. I love Joel's explanation of street photography. Thanks for posting the link.

  2. very good way to put street photography across. like a dance.. I've a quote to share "People who were seen dancing were thought to be mad, by those who could not hear the music"- Nietsche