What I learned from Bruce Gilden


Met Bruce Gilden at this past year’s Streetfoto. Had the opportunity to hear him critique photos and give a lecture on his projects and experience of nearly 5 decades in photography. I also enjoyed hearing him chew out my photo from the Streetfoto Cagematch. Bruce has that presence about him, when he speaks, you listen. Here’s what I learned from Bruce Gilden.

Photograph Your Soul

A lot of Gilden’s photos are gritty and some would say unpleasant close-ups of people in today’s society. Specifically his most recent works like FACE, where he photographs prostitutes and drug addicts around the globe. These photos resonates with him because his mother was of similar situation and feels it’s his personal obligation to keep the people he photograph’s legacy to carry on through his images.

If you’re photographing homeless people for instance…but you personally have no connection with the subject, it’ll easily show in your photos. If something resonates with you, you’ll be willing to push yourself because of the connection to the subject, time or place.

For me, I love photographing in Waikiki. It’s a sentimental place for me, I grew up in the area, have lots of memories. I didn’t learn how to swim until I was 21 years old but that didn’t stop me from going out into the ocean as a kid. I enjoy seeing the blend of tourist with locals. I love the Aloha spirit, it reminds me of my childhood, just care free.


During the Cagematch, Gilden was big on framing. He didn’t like partially cropped out body parts. For a good photo to happen, framing is number 1 for him. A clean photo all around the edges with no dead space. Dead space can make or break a photo. Gilden’s critique was consistently grilling the photos on their framing and cropping. First, I belive there are no rules in street photography…and once you put those rules, it’s like putting up barriers or an analogy locking yourself behind bars. The best approach to street photography is to have an open mind and to shoot first ask questions later…Gilden had great points about many photos on framing and spacing but i would argue against a few…but who am I…

Keep it Simple

Sometimes we add too much in a photo and there’s no strong focal point. Keep it simple…less is more.

What’s Happening Here

Many shooters think if their photos have people in them it’s a street photograph…but really if nothing interesting or dramatic is happening or is about to happen then you just have a photo of people…which anyone can do and is overly done these days. Find the details in your particular subject, maybe they have a crooked tie, or broken now, or a subtle band-aid near their eye. Something that throws off the photo and makes it interesting.

Shoot What Inspires You

You gotta shoot what you like. Shoot who you are. Or else nothing will come out of it. Shoot what has you curious in wanting to know more.


It was obvious Bruce had his belief and approach to photography…however, street photography has evolve so much since, especially in recent years. Bruce’s approach is just one of many…there is no right or wrong…or rules in street photography. If we all approached it the same way then it becomes a science and not an art form. We shoot street for the challenge and as our creative outlet…just keep shooting and keep pushing yourself.

Published by timhuynhphotos

Streetphotographer from Oahu, HI

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