How We Can Appreciate Street Photographs

In today’s digital world with a flux of photographs swimming online it’s hard to appreciate any of them. We spend a good portion of our day scrolling through our Instagram feeds going on liking sprees, but it’s rare to find a photo that really resonates with us. Only when we do, do we actually take time to analyze the photo.

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Hawaii Street Photography 2018 – Tim Huynh

WHO CARES WHO MADE THE PHOTO

We should focus less on who took the photograph and more on the composition of the photo to really appreciate it for what it is. I think once we associate the photographer with the photo then we subconsciously create a bias opinion.

For example, Alex Webb, one of the gold standards in street photography, in my opinion isn’t producing as great of photographs as in the past.. I think however, if I were to view his current work without knowing he took the picture I probably would appreciate it more. By knowing upfront that a certain photograph was taken by him, I look at it with higher standards. And if it doesn’t compare to his past work, I already dismiss the picture as not being good.

PRINTS ARE BETTER THAN THE SCREEN

Looking at photos in printed form also helps us to appreciate the photography as an art. There’s something tangible there. There is something real when you have a physical print or a book in your hands. It feels real, the photos come to life, and in the end a better appreciation of the photos or the artist. Finding photographs that you like and resonate with you, and not basing your judgement off of what’s been getting a lot of recognition from competition or online. It’s hard to absorb all a photo has to offer by viewing it on your computer or iphone, the print has a special way of taking you on the photographic journey almost leaving you mesmerized. Just the other month, I walked into a local camera store and saw film prints on their wall. I loved it and when I took a closer look to who the photographer was I thought to myself these photos don’t look as good when I’m scrolling through my instagram feed. The prints were 8 by 10’s much larger than a phone screen but also the sequence of the photos had a fluidity to them that maybe the photographers instagram page wasn’t in. Perhaps it was just the air in the store. I don’t know.

SOCIAL MEDIA IS ALL B.S

There are so many good photographers with no following and average photographers with huge followings. Try not to focus on the number of followers! I recently read an article that most people will look at the amount of Instagram followers someone has before even scrolling through their work. I think the number of followers does influence the viewer in determining if the photographer is good or not. That’s what our society has become, everything is so superficial and most people can’t even digest a good photo. The average viewer likes one and done type photos or humor street photographs, which is the reason that theme of street photography has risen in popularity. 

BE IN THE MOMENT

I also feel that we need to be in the moment. With social media and having our hands and eyes glued to our phones each day we become less in touch with the present. That’s why I feel looking at old photos from the 50s and 60s even 70s makes us appreciate that current era because there’s that nostalgia feel…or some of us having not lived in those era’s are curious on what it was like. Whereas in the present we know what it is like.

CONCLUSION

So there you have it. Ways to better appreciate either your own photos or photos made by others. If you have any other ways you appreciate photos please leave a comment!

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Interview With Hawaii Street Photographer Anthony Consillio

Hi Anthony thanks for doing this. where do you live and how does this influence your photography?

A. Hello! Thank you for having me! My name is Anthony Consillio and I live in Mililani on the island of Oahu just about 20 miles from Honolulu. Living in Hawaii has been great for me as a photographer. We have good weather year round so I can get out there more often and such a diverse landscape that you don’t really find in many places. Surf, sunsets and city settings…a little something for everyone. For me living out in Mililani (considered out in the country over here) I gravitate towards the city streets and where masses gather. Brick buildings, long shadows and busy people are what I look for.



When and how did you get into photography (and then street photography)?
A.  I picked up a camera back in 2005 when my son was born and other than taking photos of him and a year and a half  later his sister I was taking a lot of landscape and seascape photos…very Hawaiiana. Around that time I had a few friends who were all getting married so I was asked to shoot their weddings and after a few of those I found out that I had a knack for it and started my photography business. I  had been doing wedding and events for about 6 years when I was asked to take a staff position at a local paper here in Honolulu called MidWeek and I’ve been here ever since. After getting more active on social media posting my work images on Facebook and Instagram I started stumbling across street photography sites and images which I found very interesting. I decided to start wandering the streets around my office to give it a shot and found that I really enjoyed it. I liked capturing the moments rather than staging the shots as I did at work. I used street photography as a way to hone my skills and get a little exercise.



If you had to explain your work to a senior citizen how would you describe it ?

A.  I love colors and dark shadows, a lot of contrast. I don’t stage any shots but will wait a while if I see a strip of light I like and just wait for someone to walk through it. I like gritty, grungy streets and just try and capture things as they happen. If I had to describe it to someone the simple answer would be I shoot people and chase lights and shadows.



What frustrates you about photography?

A. One of my biggest frustrations happens everyday. I have a really hard time figuring out which lens to take. I try to do the “one lens and one body” thing so I will spend about 10 minutes going back and forth between my 23, 35 and 50mm lenses before I actually head out the door. Other frustrations I have are that I see so many great crosswalk shots but I just can’t seem to get one.


What’s your thoughts on today’s street photography landscape?

A. More people are shooting street, some more relevant than other but hey they are still getting out there. There are so many interpretations of what street photography is and so many great images coming from it. I think it’s great!


What is one street photo you never get tired of?

A. I like so many photos from so many different photographers but to pick just one I would probably go with Saul Leiter’s ‘Harlem or even “Man with the straw hat” I used to look at those two images a lot when I was younger. I can’t even remember where I first saw them but they stuck with me.


What are you most proud of in terms of your work?

A. My growth as a street photographer. Over time I got better and more confident in bringing my camera up and getting the shot. There were times when I was gun shy and missed shots because they caught me taking their photo. Another area I feel I grew is that I got better in identifying potential shots and I always have an eye out for light and shadows. I’m able to capture better photos now than I was just a year ago and I think I’ve found a particular style that I’m currently happy with.
Do you foresee Hawaii being a major location for street photography?

A. I would love to see Hawaii have a bigger role as a street photography destination and I feel we have all the pieces to be a major player. We have a very diverse population and cultures, great weather, a good mix of old & new and magnificent views and landscapes all in a relatively small package. Photographers already flock to Hawaii for the landscapes and seascapes I don’t know why more don’t come here for street photography.

Which street photographer inspires you and why?
A. I really like the work of Saul Leiter and his use of colors and shadows. I also like the fact that he used longer focal lengths than most other street photographers who were shooting with 24, 28 and 35mm lenses.
Name three contemporary photographers you really admire?
A. I really like the works of Craig Whitehead, David Sark and Brandon Wong. I love their use of color and shadows. I always look forward to seeing their new posts on Instagram.
If you can have dinner with one street photographer past or present who would it be? 

A. I think I’d like to have dinner with Bruce Gilden. Not my particular style of street photography but still he has made a major impact in the genre. I have at times tried to just walk up and snap a shot of someone but never had the same results but was fun trying. Besides I think it would either be a very funny conversation or he would just piss me off.


When you aren’t making pictures you are doing what?

A. I’m usually spending time with my family and friends. I like hiking so You can find me at times on trails, ridges and pillboxes around the island but I normally have a camera with me then too so I’m always shooting.

 

When or what was the most fun you had photographing?


A. It’s not street related but I had the opportunity to cover a story on a helicopter tour company and they offered to take us on a round the island flight so I was able to spend an hour and a half to 2 hours flying around snapping away. Crossed something off my bucket list as well as got a few good shots.
I ask everyone this question. If you could have one street photographer shoot your wedding who would it be?  

A. Great question! I would probably have wanted Weegee (Arthur Fellig) to shoot my wedding if it was possible. I would like to see how someone who shot violence, crime and freaky subcultures would do shooting a wedding. My wife may not like what she got back but I’m sure it would have been very interesting.

 

Any personal street photography tips or advice you have to those out there?

A. Always have your camera with you and just get out there and shoot. I believe the more you shoot the more you will learn.
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Keep up with Anthony Consillio’s work below!

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Hawaii Cars

My on-going project of abandon cars in Hawaii…check it out

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Adding this donate button. Any donation will be greatly appreciated. Your monetary donation will be used for coffee and photobooks. Mahalo

 

Are Your Photos “Street Photography”

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The following presentation is a rant on whether or not your photos are considered “street photography”.

What is street photography???

According to wikipedia…”Street photography, also sometimes called candid photography, is photography conducted for art or enquiry that features unmediated chance encounters and random incidents[1] within public places. Although there is a difference between street and candid photography, it is usually subtle with most street photography being candid in nature but not all candid photography being classifiable as street photography. Street photography does not necessitate the presence of a street or even the urban environment. Though people usually feature directly, street photography might be absent of people and can be of an object or environment where the image projects a decidedly human character in facsimile or aesthetic”.

So why not call it candid photography since it’s photographed candidly….or public photography since it’s in public. Candid photography sounds more quote unquote…formal….street photography sounds much cooler and is what I would prefer it to be called. You can even call it un-posed photography as “street” doesn’t always happen on the street. It happens everywhere, in the living room, zoo, mall, theater, but the idea of it being candid and focusing on the decisive moment is still relevant. Anyone posing shots or asking for permission is attempting more documentary photography.

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However, in my bias opinion at the end of the day photography is photography. Categorizing themes or subjects is just another way of organizing a book shelve, where one shelve is all material on cooking and the bottom of the book shelve being children’s books…but at the end of the day they are all just BOOKS!!! Sometimes we label things just for conventional purposes…same with street photography.

Also to continue my rant…if you look at how the photos within the genre of street photography have evolved over the past three or four years..it comes off more as “Fine Art Photography” (yes I’m creating a new term)….there are so many “one and done”…”one liner”….”humor” photos that get recognized on social media and at photo festivals…it’s insane and nothing compared to more traditional photos let’s say Winogrand or Henri Cartier Bresson. Don’t get me wrong, I am not hating on humor photos or one and done type of photos…at the end of the day, to me a good photo is a good photo. The photo either works or simply doesn’t work. It’s a yes or no.

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Taking candid photos of random strangers on the sidewalk without any context or substance would be considered street photography…I assume so…does that mean the person is contributing to the abundance of crap floating on social media, myself included…that’s up to you as the viewer as you are the only one that can filter out good versus bad photos and have your own preconceived bias judgement on what is considered a good street photo and what’s not. If you showed a slideshow of various styles in street photography to 10 amateur and 10 prominent  street photographers I bet your ass each one will have a different opinion on the photos itself. Street photography is a very subjective, it is the hardest form of photography but yet the purest form of photography there is in my bias opinion.

I think it’s best to not use social media to obtain any influence on street photography…however if there is a particular photographer you come across on social media that you really like then by all means follow their work. I think it’s best to study the greats Alex Webb, HCB, Winogrand, Meyeworitz, Eggleston and me…Joke. Their photos have context and substance that go beyond the photo itself.

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What Street Photography Is Not…

Studio Photography

Studio photography…uhhh duuhhh…studio photography is too artificial and set up…there’s nothing spontaneous about it. It’s just too manipulative with the makeup artist, hair artist, wardrobe, studio lights, camera assistants….and ultimately it’s not candid…at all.

Wave Photography

Wave photography is photographed out in the open…it is candid…but the primary subject in street photography are people or the urban environment..so therefore wave photography is not street photography or a sub category of it. However, if you want to get philosophical and defend your argument that wave photography is very well street photography…perhaps you can by saying that you aren’t just focusing on the waves itself but the environment. The ocean. The beach. Where people come together and congregate. It is living proof of humanity and culture of how people enjoy their free time and get away from reality.

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Landscape Photography

Landscape falls into a similar realm like wave photography….there’s no urban element that coincides with street photography. But what if my landscape shot has a person in the frame…is that now street photography? Maybe. I’ll leave it up to you how you’d like to sub-categorize your photos but if you’re asking my opinion…No. Since the primary focus is on the landscape, sunset, sunrise, tree, water, mountain.

Conclusion

Maybe this is all a misconception. Definitions or terms are usually created by historians, academics, or critics that have never even picked up a camera and give an honest attempt to photographing the streets. Garry Winogrand, one of the most beloved contemporary street photographers, hated the term “street photography” and just considered himself a “photographer”. Bruce Davidson also did the majority of his work in the streets, on the subway, in the projects and is considered a “street photographer”. However, Davidson disliked the term “street photography” and refused to call himself one. Then there’s Henri Cartier-Bresson, the Godfather of “street photography”… never called himself a street photographer.

At the end of the day I can’t stress enough that a good photo is a good photo…regardless if it was a street photograph, landscape photography, wildlife or nature photograph, a studio portrait….Don’t worry about whether or not your photos are “street enough”…just focus and put your energy in capturing and making memorable photographs. Strong photographs are ones that stir us emotionally, that makes us cry, laugh, sad, allows us to create our own narrative, ask more questions than answers, have us take a deeper look at our communities and society.

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OK For Real This is The Conclusion…

One last note, don’t let social media dictate your style or what you’d like to photograph. Photographs on homeless people are frowned down upon in the street photography but if that’s what you’re interested in and can figure out a way to make it really intimate and engaging such as Suzanne Stein (check out the interview I did on her – Interview with Photographer Suzanne Stein) then by all means go for it. Research photographers like Suzanne Stein or others that do a good job in photographing these type of subjects and keep in mind just because your photographing homeless today doesn’t mean you’ll photograph them tomorrow…your style, approach, and interest in street photography will change…it’ll keep evolving as time goes on. My other advice is to incorporate your other interest or specialty into your street photography. I met a friend in a workshop with Jack Simon (you can read my review on his workshop – What I learned during Jack Simon’s workshop) and she wanted to learn how to take street photographs and have more confidence doing so. By trade she was an architecture and did event photography on the side. So she had very good understanding on geometry and leading lines and when we did our photo critique, we can all see she had an eye for just that. Now it was just a matter of incorporating people into her photographs. She later approach the streets as if it was an event, snaking through the crowd and just snapping away. Overtime she can be a really dynamic photographer by combining her variety of skill sets to street photography.

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For me I’m a independent filmmaker and commercial videographer by trade. I went to film school because I love the art of storytelling and a bit of a geek when it comes to camera gear. My approach in regards to photographing the streets was always the challenge of creating fiction out of reality. That’s why I’m still motivated to shoot the streets…it’s not because of social media or wanting the likes and comments…it’s not because I get paid to do so or I’m trying to be relevant on Google…or even sell prints for that matter. I enjoy storytelling…and in fact any form of storytelling, street photography just happens to be my way or creative outlet of sharing those stories to the world.

In a nutshell I feel that street photography is more theory and mystery, the photo gives more questions than answers and allows the viewer to create their own story. It also talks more about the actual photographer/artist than the photo itself….whereas documentary photography are about facts, there are more answers than questions presented and can be a conscious and continuous work in progress.

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If you are new to street photography below are some blogs to get your feet wet

Street Photography – More than just photographing people

Why Do My Photos Suck

How to Market Yourself as a Street Photographer

Mount Rushmore of Street Photography

Clicking vs Seeing in Street Photography

How to overcome fear in street photography

Click Less Yet Get More

Adding this donate button. Any donation will be greatly appreciated. Your monetary donation will be used for coffee and photobooks. Mahalo