#5 : Getting static.

After my initial burst of 'real' street photography, I started to get interested in the architecture that I was experiencing in the many European cities I visited, to the point of capturing buildings without any human element involved. There would be many a time I was frustrated because a person had walked into the shot!

It will come as no surprise to you that apart from Rome, Paris, Amsterdam and of course London, a lot of the central European cities have taken a very modern style to their architecture, which is largely due to the decimation of buildings from the 2nd World War. Many cities through out Europe especially Germany of course had to go on massive rebuilding projects Some cities it must be said look very bland in design as architectural design after the war, was governed mainly by requirement, speed of build, and of course the materials that were available. This led to this blandness of structures, which are still seen to this day. Through the 50's, 60's and 70's this style of design and building continued. It's wasn't really until the 90's that we started to see a change in the architectural design of buildings, where new materials were introduced into the structures. ie Glass and exposed steel. It's almost as if the shackles had been taken off and the designers were free to create building's of beauty and wow!

New areas, once derelict, were suddenly being created; Canary Wharf, London; La Defense, Paris and other financial centres of Madrid, Frankfurt and many other cities to accommodate the 'new' move into creating offices for financial services. It was because of this that I started to look at buildings, interiors and exterior structures, in an abstract way. So much so this became all encompassing and I stopped taking photographs of the people and the activity on the street of the cities.

Eindhoven, Strasbourg, Lisbon, Barcelona, Milan, Madrid and Dusseldorf, not to mention new cities such as Dubai, all passed me by as an opportunity to delve into the world of architectural abstract capture. Yet, with the people still there going about their daily routines,  still living, moving, breathing even; I missed them all as I hit this somewhat embarrassingly, narrow mindedness of capturing a city!

A City is a City with people - the human element - in it. That sleep work and dream in. Street photography reflects that! Street photography records the movement, the life the activity! 

You just got to remember to keep your eyes open to it!


#4 : My street journey


My story continues of my early street photography.

The best way to enjoy a city or town is to just 'walk it'. Nothing better than appreciating a place by doing this. Stopping for the odd coffee here and there, watching people and their movements and listening to the sounds. It's amazing what you can see and hear. Make a day of it! Just make sure you have a decent pair of comfortable shoes on!

Over time I have not bothered with checking the shops out, to be honest, what you get in London you get the throughout Europe. But invariably you will be exploring a city with a partner/wife, so be mindful of them and their interests. If they're street photographers like you then happy days! If not be prepared to visit the local Marks and Spencer's or John Lewis stores. Or, better still (a small tip) make arrangements to meet outside in 20 minutes. This will give you a little time for a quick walk-about on your own. But make sure you're not late! Then go for a coffee and a slice of cake! You can't beat it!

I've noticed over time that the over zealous security or policeman in London have diminished somewhat as the law has accommodated the street photographer's interest and also I think they too have come to appreciate that there are a lot of people out there that just want to document the city streets. Be careful when children are around though, thats an obvious point to make. if you want to make a portrait don't be shy strike up a conversation or simply just ask. You'd be surprised by how many times people will say 'What me? Ok..'

I've always been of the opinion that its best to be as inconspicuous as you can with your camera. Using a DSLR with an 18-300mm lens, is not ideal, except when your name is Steve McCurry or Jay Maisal as both produce stunning street documentary work. So I think a camera like the Fuji X100s or the Sony a6000 is an ideal size camera to use. Something along that sort of size and get in close. Don't weigh yourself down either with a large camera bag either. There's nothing worse than a sore back after a pleasant city stroll. Better still 'Leave your camera bag at home!"

So, enjoy our wonderful cities of the world get out there walk about and enjoy the sights and sounds and photograph it.

#3 : I didn't realise. My street journey

So its about now that I reflect on my past work in greater detail. I need to get really and I mean 'really' critical of myself. Before, the majority if not all of my photographs had been taken whilst walking the streets of a city where I had a free day or sometimes two! Usually just grabbing shots as I saw them. It still amazes me looking back on these images how many 'street' scenes I took. That is, those with humans in! Subconscious image making I guess you could call it.

Street? I wonder whether that is the correct term for this type of photography. Those that are into 'street photography' are really recording an event by observation. That event has to be something that resonates with the photographer. Be that colour, fashion, facial expression or a comical scene. So with that in mind maybe ' a documentarist photographer' or 'photo-documentarian' is the correct description? They're a bit of a mouthful though don't you think? I'll leave at 'street photography' sound cool!

I've mentioned before for me real street 'togging is with a human element so, where does 'street photography' start and where does it end? Could you say that photographing buildings and architecture is street photography, after all generally these images are taken from the 'street'. Would you consider traffic movements, confusing street signs, blurred lights or panned movement with no human element involved is street photography? Isn't it just great how photography starts off with one genre and you can then diverse, manipulate and record to your hearts content as you see fit. I suppose when I think of it, all of the above could be considered 'Street Photography'.

My journey, as I have mentioned before, in 'street photography' started in Stockholm and it was just grabbing shots. Now I've got to rethink my style. It's been said before you can't just walk the street and grab shots as and when you want to. No, for me now I have to pick and choose when to make an image. Or otherwise my Lightroom catalogue will overflow with endless amount of 'no improvement'. Choosing the right time, the light and shadow, subject and of course making those street portraits is really important to me now. Realising and studying the skill of the masters Saul Leiter, Joel Mayerowitz, Fred Herzog, William Klein, William Egglestone and of course the master of all Henri Cartier Bresson (my list of favourites could go on and on!) has helped me endlessly. If you haven't checked these guys out before the please DO IT!

What is there more to say? Well there is no end to this journey and there is more to come. Like all photography images that are made when you go back the image will be different to make. Isn't that what we love about this past-time. It's new and different every single time.

For me the streets are 'alive', and I can't get enough!

#2: I didn't realise! Part 2

You see, I think its worthwhile you going back and looking through your old images. Not to see how you have improved, but you never know there might be an image that at first you discarded and now you realise that image has got something. Furthermore your editing skills may be better or you may have a new plug-in that will give that image what was missing from it before. Don't get me wrong a bad image, can never be made a good one!

But, looking back at images will also brings back memories. Memories of the places and the people you have met. Maybe you had a quick chat to or just a candid shot that you were pleased you had captured.

For me looking back at my old images I hadn't realised how many street photographs I had taken. Street photographs, that is, with people in them! Oh yes I went through a period of just taking the abstract of a building or a treelined street or the flowing river under the bridge and cropping cars and traffic movements out, I still do that from time to time. But some will say that real street 'togging, is with the human element, and that's what I really enjoy and now looking back I've always have.

So give it a try check out your old images. See if they can be enhanced better than before with your new editing skills or programs. Reminisce over the photographs and enjoy them. and above all never DELETE them.


#1 : I didn't realise!

Just the other day I was searching through some of my old images. Like you no doubt there were thousands.

As you know I've been very fortunate to of visited many European cities as part of my job. I sometimes get a day or two free just to walk about. In the early days I didn't think of taking my camera instead just a good book and I'd walk about take a coffee and cake or two and just read. Then the photography bug hit me.

I was on a trip to Stockholm, my favourite city, and for the first time I took a digital camera a Nikon Coolpix 850. I just couldn't stop taking images. The scenery, the churches, the buildings and the sea, it just captivated me.

After that trip, many other visits followed and the camera bag was the first to be packed. I was truly bitten by photography. I must admit from that day on, my quest for better equipment gear just took hold. My bag soon became overloaded with Nikon gear. I was on an adventure. But what to shoot. Was I landscape shooter, a city shooter, architectural shooter, abstracts, or sport what do I want to concentrate on. I tried them all and wasn't that bad really. I joined a club won a few competitions and did very well in the clubs league.

So my search for an interest and style continued. But here's the thing, looking back on my images just the other day, I didn't realise that I had taken so many "street" photographs. Street photography has always been the backbone of my photography. Now I'm in The Arcanum. Originally, when I applied, I thought that a general photography cohort would suit me. But being chosen for the 'Street" cohort has 'fitted me to a tee'. (As I would say) My master in The Arcanum Valerie Jardin must of seen something in my images that I had submitted! 

So thats how it started for me. They say you take photographs subconsciously and I suppose I must have been doing that myself.

I just didn't realise, "I was a Street Photographer already!"


© Paul Griffiths 2014