Let's talk about Street Photography. There's been a lot of images through the years posted all over the internet that have been self-categorized by their photographers as Street Photography. Many of them really fit into the category of Street Photography, and some of them are just snapshots with a certain aesthetic level. The definition of Street Photography is really vague, and the most accepted "term" states that it is a conducted art that features unmediated and random in public places. Something like "Serendipity" if you like.
Since the definition has not been thickened yet by us, watching the Street Photography Masters work could illustrate you about the art like no other description stated before. Around the term of Street Photography are also other that share so many things, that they tend to overlap hugely. For me these are: Humanist and Social Photography, Documentary Photography, Candid Photography, and Photojournalism.
Here is a brief list of ten Photographers which work I think, every Photographer that is aspiring to achieve Street Photographs should study, but most important, contemplate.
Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004)
Founder of Magnum Photos with Robert Capa and David Seymour, and one of the most respected photographers in the Street Photography field. He is sometimes credited as the father of this movement, and it really makes sense. He also has been broadly known for the artistic term of "The Decisive Moment", which practically states that if you are able to see the moment, you'll very likely won't capture it, you have to learn to anticipate the social happenings in order to capture that decisive moment. So the term practically invites to develop an ability that will allow you to press the shutter button just before the moment happens.
You can delight yourselves with his images here.
Garry Winogrand (1928–1984)
I must say that I regret discovering Garry Winogrand until some months ago. He even took that iconic image of Marilyn Monroe, and I found about him just recently.
He was an outstanding street photographer able to get so close into people's intimacy, that his pictures cross the border from stealthy to very conspicuous, and still they have that natural aesthetic that good street photography is so famous and claimed for. John Szarkowski, the former director of Photography of the Modern Museum of Art in New York from 1962 to 1991 said that Garry Winogrand was "the central photographer of his generation".
He innovated so much during the sixties, that he perfected the style of street photography by presenting images that will touch some nerves of the political moments of the time.
Vivian Maier (1926-2009)
There's been a lot of complexity around the topic of Vivian Maier, since her work has been massified after her work was discovered by John Maloof. The thing is that her work was really intimate for her. She was a collector and collected all these moments with her camera. Mrs. Maier's worked as a nanny through much of her life, and she didn't approached the artistic industry by any means. You can read some of the history behind her discovery here and there is a splendid documentary titled "Finding Vivian Maier" that was indeed nominated by the Academy Awards of 2014 for Best Documentary Feature that you can watch to understand better her world vision.
Her photographs are on another level of awesomeness, they are great, and there are so many images that are being published by Maloof that is hard to believe that one person could shot so large body of magnificent images, but well, she did, and for me, she is one of the Masters.
Josef Koudelka (1938- )
He started mingling with Street Photography while studying and later working as an aeronautical engineer in Prague. His first deals with photography were commissioned by theatre magazines and later on he got involved more deeply with photography.
He did an essay on gypsies in Romania, and two days later after finishing the assignment, the soviets invaded Prague. He witnessed and recorded what happened on the following days of august in 1968. He later became a member of Magnum and also his work of this invasion was smuggled out of Prague by them. His photographs were published in magazines under the humble title of P.P. (Prague Photographer) due to fear of his life and family being in danger thanks to reprisals.
This is one of my favorite images taken by Koudelka because of its symbolism, that it's absolutely powerful. He took this image at the exact moment Prague was invaded by the Warsaw Pact military forces. The watch is the perfect marker or evidence of the moment in time this tragic happening occurred. The lone streets behind this foreground object, give us big idea of the general feeling of the city at that time. The small portion of the sky, enhances the feeling of the oppression about to come to Prague.
Robert Doisneau (1912-1994)
An undoubtedly master of Street Photographer, that in fact was an influence for Henri Cartier-Bresson (who entered the arts thanks to painting firstly).
He was not just a Street Photographer but also a great Concept artist thanks to his arrangements that juxtaposed elements that resulted in intriguing visions of society and even surrealist at some point. One of his most popular concept portraits is Les Pains de Picasso 1952, that I won't describe, because you need to see it for yourselves.
One of his most iconic image, was later recognized to be posed. But still, the nature of the image is so great, that for me it doesn't matter, and in fact, and I think he got inspired from a less known Alfred Eisenstaedt photograph published in Life in 1945 that has a very high comparable dynamic.
When it comes to street photography, nothing is harder to capture than humor, and Robert Doisneau was extremely good at doing it. One of my favorite shots that depict humor, is this one.
Jill Freedman (1939-)
Jill Freedman is a highly respected photographer whose work has been included in several museums and institutes. She started taking pictures at an age some might consider to be late, but miraculous talent, needs respect, and contemplation. Jill's style is very hard to define. For me she is a splendid storyteller, with large body of stories and short stories that are full of symbolism and humor, which is completely mind blowing.
Indulge your eyes with her work.
Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Walker Evans was an outstanding photographer and photojournalist as well, and one of his most iconic works was for the FSA (Farm Security Administration) documenting the harsh effects of the Great Depression in American Society. He said that his goal was to make literate, authoritative and transcendent photographs, and yes, he accomplished his goal.
One of his most ambitious projects regarding Street Photography, was done in the subway of New York City where he photographed various subway riders in a very inconspicuous way. He took a 35mm camera, painted it matte black, and hid it under his top coat where he was able to pick through the hole between two buttons. You can see part of this work online thanks to MoMA, and personally, I’ve been in love with this image since the first time I saw it in an academic book of Black and White Photography.
Susan Meiselas (1948- )
She's an American documentary photographer, and has been associated with Magnum Photos since 1976. One of her most valuable works in relation to the intimacy street photography sometimes need, is her work called Carnival Strippers, where she documented the backstage intimate lifestyle of women working as strippers in carnivals. This was presented in a book with audio, and my personal favorite, is this one. You can watch an excerpt of the project here.
Elliott Erwitt (1928- )
Elliott Erwitt is an amazing documentary photographer, very well known for his candid and witty shots of ironic and absurd situations within everyday settings, ergo, humor, which is for me the most difficult thing to capture in the streets.
He is considered a master in the photographic philosophy Cartier-Bresson defined as the "Decisive Moment".
But, what is the absurd and the ironic? Well, this image simply known on the art world as USA, 2000, New York City by Elliot Erwitt, is a great example of that.
There is a very eerie and strange image that he took known as “Cracked Glass with Boy” that symbolizes violence in my very personal point of view.
And one of his most iconic images, and a personal favorite of mine, is this one. It is funny how many times people think this image was taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson. Just a huge evidence of his "Decisive Moment" mastery.
W. Eugene Smith (1918-1978)
William Eugene Smith, was a famous photojournalist from which we can learn a lot for improving our street photography. He devoted himself to very large projects, in which he stamped his ethical and ideological vision of the world. Even in his most violent images of war and bellic aftermaths, the sense of respect is completely tangible.
One of his most notorious project, filled with deep intimacy and camaraderie, is the Jazz Loft Project, in which he documented jazz musicians playing at Manhattan.
My favorite image of him, doesn't need any of my words, enjoy.
She is not a so famous photographer; that you would love to watch.