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Author Topic: Street Photography in Kingston Ontario  (Read 5820 times)
mike.online
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« on: May 02, 2009, 09:16:27 PM »
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Hello all,

I went on a photo walk and wrote it up in a blog post, I would like to hear feedback on some of the images if you can spare a few quick comments. Further I'm wondering if those who have to time to visit the link if you could comment on whether you think this represents the genre of "street photography" or is is simple a walk about town? Being semantics, I'm sure there is a grey area in the definition, so what do you think?

Street Photography in Kingston - Digital Distraction Blog

Thanks,
- Mike

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1. Block and Cleaver Market

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2. Market Square

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3. His and Her Lomo

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4. $99.99

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5. Instant Poetry
« Last Edit: May 02, 2009, 09:25:37 PM by mike.online » Logged

dalethorn
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« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2009, 12:13:14 AM »
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Simply a walkabout.  Street photography as I've heard it is somewhat risky, with closeups of people who might object to being photographed up close, or, photographs of certain types of people who might object to being photographed *not* close (gang members, pimps, police in enforcement encounters....)
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mike.online
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« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2009, 06:51:18 PM »
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Quote from: dalethorn
Simply a walkabout.  Street photography as I've heard it is somewhat risky, with closeups of people who might object to being photographed up close, or, photographs of certain types of people who might object to being photographed *not* close (gang members, pimps, police in enforcement encounters....)


seriously? that definition just sounds like photojournalism.... street photography should have to be risky i wouldn't have thought but maybe my perception of it is wildly out of true!
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dalethorn
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« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2009, 09:14:04 PM »
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Quote from: mike.online
seriously? that definition just sounds like photojournalism.... street photography should have to be risky i wouldn't have thought but maybe my perception of it is wildly out of true!

I haven't been everywhere - it's risky in L.A. for sure, just as risky in Cleveland or Chattanooga, or Atlanta Ga.  Not so bad in Charleston SC, but definitely risky in Charleston WV.  I seem to remember being able to snap all the people I wanted to in Toronto in the 1970's, but I'd be a lot more careful today.  And I believe you're right - street photography tends to be a lot like photojournalism, although it wouldn't have to be, if you considered yourself to be doing landscapes, but in an urban rather than generally unpopulated area.  I'd accept any definition term for a particular art, and it's surprising we aren't clear on this one, since this isn't new stuff.
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jule
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« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2009, 05:58:53 PM »
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Quote from: mike.online
Further I'm wondering if those who have to time to visit the link if you could comment on whether you think this represents the genre of "street photography" or is is simple a walk about town? Being semantics, I'm sure there is a grey area in the definition, so what do you think?

Just interested Mike, why do you need to particularly define the difference?

Julie
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mike.online
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« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2009, 11:03:10 AM »
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good point. I don't really, but it is interesting to know where things fit in. I could go either way.... but it occured to me that there isn't really a definition to the genre which seemed odd. there are those that are quite tied to specific definitions (which I was reminded of recently at a conference) so its worth exploring where the lines are.
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RSL
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« Reply #6 on: May 05, 2009, 06:58:11 PM »
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Mike, See if you can get a copy of Bystander, A History of Street Photography by Joel Meyerowitz and Colin Westerbeck. It pretty much answers your question. It's a wonderful book.

By the way, there's no reason street photography has to be dangerous unless you insist on shooting in the tenderloin of a large city. I've been doing street shooting since the early fifties and I've never been in danger as a result. I'll admit, you do have to be careful, and you have to learn to be as close to invisible as possible. You also need to practice smiling a lot. Digital's turned out to be a help. If someone sees you shoot you often can turn away what might be wrath by showing the person the picture on the camera, asking for an email address so you can email a copy to them, etc.

In my own definition, street photography has to tell a story, though the story or its outcome doesn't have to be clear. A lot of Henri Cartier-Bresson's early street work was quite surrealistic. Check Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Andre Kertesz, Robert Doisneau, Brassai, Helen Levitt... These people, among others, are the real street photographers. The street section on my own commercial web is, perhaps, a less competent reflection of the genre, but it's a genre I love above all others. It's a lot harder work than, say, landscape, but the rewards are very great.
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tom b
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« Reply #7 on: May 05, 2009, 10:23:33 PM »
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A good place to see contemporary street photography is:

http://www.in-public.com

Lots of good photos and plenty of clicking on arrows.

Cheers,
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Justan
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« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2009, 11:54:25 AM »
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This is an interesting genre of photography. It amounts to scenes from every day urban life. Long ago back in the 16th century, I think it was Peter Bruegel the Elder that made this kind of work the center of his career. Of course Bruegel didn’t have a camera but his compositions always portrayed a parable, proverb, or aphorism. I think this genre of work requires that. Failing a clear message, many images come across as the equivalent of mug shots in a setting of decay. Of course, it is rare to get a clear portrait of a proverb by random chance.

Makes me wonder if top photographers in this genre stage nearly everything.

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RSL
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« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2009, 04:36:14 PM »
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Quote from: Justan
This is an interesting genre of photography. It amounts to scenes from every day urban life. Long ago back in the 16th century, I think it was Peter Bruegel the Elder that made this kind of work the center of his career. Of course Bruegel didn’t have a camera but his compositions always portrayed a parable, proverb, or aphorism. I think this genre of work requires that. Failing a clear message, many images come across as the equivalent of mug shots in a setting of decay. Of course, it is rare to get a clear portrait of a proverb by random chance.

Makes me wonder if top photographers in this genre stage nearly everything.

Justan, If you really believe that, check out the  photographers I listed above. Also, check the site Tom listed above. The best street photography isn't posed. The only "street photographer" who posed some of his subjects was Doisneau. His most famous photograph "Kiss by the Hotel de Ville" was staged with hired models. Brassai posed some of his shots too -- especially the ones in the Paris brothels. The rest, especially people like Cartier-Bresson, absolutely refused to pose anything. I've never posed anything in more than 55 years of shooting on the street. Your idea that a "setting of decay" is necessary for street work is just the reverse of the truth. Decay usually detracts from the story. Bruegel, by the way, was making political points. Good street photography sometimes does that, but usually politics tends to destroy art, and photography makes is no exceptions to that rule.
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RSL
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« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2009, 04:36:59 PM »
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Quote from: tom  b
A good place to see contemporary street photography is:

http://www.in-public.com

Lots of good photos and plenty of clicking on arrows.

Cheers,

Tom, Thanks. That's a great source!
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Justan
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« Reply #11 on: May 06, 2009, 06:44:39 PM »
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> Justan, If you really believe that, check out the photographers I listed above. Also, check the site Tom listed above. The best street photography isn't posed. The only "street photographer" who posed some of his subjects was Doisneau. His most famous photograph "Kiss by the Hotel de Ville" was staged with hired models. Brassai posed some of his shots too -- especially the ones in the Paris brothels. The rest, especially people like Cartier-Bresson, absolutely refused to pose anything. I've never posed anything in more than 55 years of shooting on the street.

I appreciate the references. I did look at some of the site Tom B referenced. I’ll look into others as time permits. As I read my comments it may appear that I was making a condemnation. I didn’t intend it that way. What I intended to say that in the same way that painters set up the image they’re creating, so may top street photographers. Thanks for clarifying that most don’t do this.

I looked at a little of Cartier-Bresson on Google images. I could be wrong but some of the images appear to be staged, but clearly, many are not. Of course, many listed on Google are not “street photography.” Google Images appears to have a collection of his work but I don’t know his work beyond this reference. You are correct that decay is not a frequent theme in his works, but it’s still there: http://images.artnet.com/artwork_images_16...ier-bresson.jpg

Cartier-Bresson is said to be the father of modern photojournalism. Does photojournalism determine the rules for street photography? If so, that would explain why most street photographers don’t stage their shots…

> Your idea that a "setting of decay" is necessary for street work is just the reverse of the truth. Decay usually detracts from the story.

I think you miss-read. I didn’t say it was necessary, but it is too typical of a setting. Decay is characteristic of much of the street photography I've seen. As example, look at the 2nd image in the link Tom referenced, the work attributed to Anahita Avalos.

> Bruegel, by the way, was making political points.

Sometimes he did. He make statements that were sometimes philosophical, sometimes whimsical; sometimes proverbial or political. Some of his works did all of these. Folly and hubris were other frequent themes in his works.

> Good street photography sometimes does that [makes political points], but usually politics tends to destroy art, and photography makes is no exceptions to that rule.

I agree that good street photography makes a statement. It needs to say something to be good.

Care to elaborate on what you meant by “politics tends to destroy art”? I don’t understand the comment.

Anyway, what I was trying to express is that street photography has to express something, be it a parable, proverb, aphorism, folly or any combination. It has to touch the observer somehow. Otherwise, it's akin to images collected by a traffic camera.
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Justan
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« Reply #12 on: May 07, 2009, 04:44:19 PM »
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I did a little research and according to an article in Wikipedia there is a notably legacy of street photography. Accordingly standard techniques range from setting up strobe lights and waiting for a moment at a specific location, to employing stealth in shooting, to employing in your face shooting.

Several complex legal first amendment issues related to street photography and privacy have been raised, challenged and won; and the process has, in part, served to define the difference between artistic and commercial use and also to further define civil rights laws in several states. One result of street photography, is to advance a distinction between artistic and commercial representation. According to the article, a photograph is considered “art” if it sells 10 or less copies. If it sells more, it is a commercial sale and not art. This has important ramifications on what may be photographed in public. Being a commercial product makes taking the images even in public to be considered a violation of the first amendment, where if it is done as art this restriction does not exist.

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RSL
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« Reply #13 on: May 07, 2009, 08:49:29 PM »
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Quote from: Justan
I appreciate the references. I did look at some of the site Tom B referenced. I’ll look into others as time permits. As I read my comments it may appear that I was making a condemnation. I didn’t intend it that way. What I intended to say that in the same way that painters set up the image they’re creating, so may top street photographers. Thanks for clarifying that most don’t do this.

Yes, some do, but the best (Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, etc...) don't. Real street photographers tend to look down on anyone who sets up a scene and calls it street photography. The only photographer I know of who escaped that kind of opprobrium was Brassai. He got off more or less free when he shot inside Paris brothels with very slow equipment.

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I looked at a little of Cartier-Bresson on Google images. I could be wrong but some of the images appear to be staged, but clearly, many are not. Of course, many listed on Google are not “street photography.” Google Images appears to have a collection of his work but I don’t know his work beyond this reference. You are correct that decay is not a frequent theme in his works, but it’s still there: http://images.artnet.com/artwork_images_16...ier-bresson.jpg

Yes, unless Henri was a liar he never staged anything. Henri was one of the most articulate photographers ever. To understand what he was doing you need to read some of what he wrote. Try The Mind's Eye, which is a collection of excerpts from several of his writings. Your artnet.com reference, by the way, is to a war zone photograph. It's not "decay" in the usual sense.

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Cartier-Bresson is said to be the father of modern photojournalism. Does photojournalism determine the rules for street photography? If so, that would explain why most street photographers don’t stage their shots…

That's a fair question. My answer would be that street photography includes photojournalism but doesn't define it -- unless you call Robert Capa's photographs of the Omaha Beach landing street photography. Check Robert Frank and tell me whether or not you think his work is photojournalism.

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I think you miss-read. I didn’t say it was necessary, but it is too typical of a setting. Decay is characteristic of much of the street photography I've seen. As example, look at the 2nd image in the link Tom referenced, the work attributed to Anahita Avalos.

Unfortunately you're not the only one who thinks decay is a prime characteristic of street photography. If you look at the photographs of the truly great street photographers you'll see that that isn't true at all. Sometime decay enters into it, but it's an occasional aside, not a subject.

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Care to elaborate on what you meant by “politics tends to destroy art”? I don’t understand the comment.

Check the "art" produced under Soviet rule. Also, if you have a gallery nearby, take a look at the kind of "art" that includes a political bias and political statement. See if you think this really is art. Sometimes it is, but very rarely. Even when it is, it becomes dated in a very short time.

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Anyway, what I was trying to express is that street photography has to express something, be it a parable, proverb, aphorism, folly or any combination. It has to touch the observer somehow. Otherwise, it's akin to images collected by a traffic camera.

Absolutely. A lot of people seem to think they're doing street photography if they go out on the street and shoot a picture of somebody on the street. Without expressing something important that kind of photography does resemble traffic camera photography.
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RSL
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« Reply #14 on: May 07, 2009, 09:02:16 PM »
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Quote from: Justan
I did a little research and according to an article in Wikipedia there is a notably legacy of street photography. Accordingly standard techniques range from setting up strobe lights and waiting for a moment at a specific location, to employing stealth in shooting, to employing in your face shooting.

Well, Wikipedia has a right to its opinion. Remember that the stuff in Wikipedia isn't necessarily written by people who understand their subject. I certainly wouldn't call "setting up strobe lights and waiting for a moment at a specific location" a "standard technique" of street photography. Garry Winogrand did a bunch of flash photography that I could call street photography, though he was doing it indoors at festive gatherings. He's about the only street photographer I can think of who used strobes.

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Several complex legal first amendment issues related to street photography and privacy have been raised, challenged and won; and the process has, in part, served to define the difference between artistic and commercial use and also to further define civil rights laws in several states. One result of street photography, is to advance a distinction between artistic and commercial representation. According to the article, a photograph is considered “art” if it sells 10 or less copies. If it sells more, it is a commercial sale and not art. This has important ramifications on what may be photographed in public. Being a commercial product makes taking the images even in public to be considered a violation of the first amendment, where if it is done as art this restriction does not exist.

The legal issues to which you refer aren't quite as cut and dried as you make them sound. Commercial use involves using images of people in promotion and marketing. For that you need model releases. Generally speaking, street shots of people -- provided you took them while standing in a public right of way -- can legitimately be used for journalism or as art objects. I'm not sure where you got the 10 copy idea, but I've never heard of that one. Why not 9? Why not 11? I think the answer always depends on the facts of the case.
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Justan
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« Reply #15 on: May 14, 2009, 06:35:29 PM »
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The following is somewhat of a belated response. My work schedule is sometimes daunting.

 > Yes, some do [set up shots], but the best (Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, etc...) don't. Real street photographers tend to look down on anyone who sets up a scene and calls it street photography. The only photographer I know of who escaped that kind of opprobrium was Brassai. He got off more or less free when he shot inside Paris brothels with very slow equipment.

It seems irrational that anyone would look down upon a methodical approach to photography. I’ll take your comment to suggest that most practitioners take great pride in capturing the moment. Which is cool.

> Yes, unless Henri was a liar he never staged anything.

I don't know anything about him. I guess we could split hairs over what is considered “staged” and what is witnessing a “pre-planned event.” Here’s a work attributed to cartier-bresson. Is it “staged” or witnessing a pre-planned event? http://atireiopaunogato.com.br/wp-content/...ier-bresson.jpg There are other examples.

> Henri was one of the most articulate photographers ever. To understand what he was doing you need to read some of what he wrote. Try The Mind's Eye, which is a collection of excerpts from several of his writings.

It’s always is beneficial to learn from the masters. I’m just finishing one long tomb and have been thinking about the next. Amazon has The Mind's Eye it in stock. Bresson has an impressive collection of publications!

> Your artnet.com reference, by the way, is to a war zone photograph.

Yes it clearly depicts a war one and the subjects are highly involved with the photographer. So much so that it looks set up.

> [war is] not "decay" in the usual sense.

Decay by war, tragically, has been and is a normal part of life, much the world over. It is a truly horrid reflection upon humanity that war imagery can be included in scenes from everyday life. The only real difference is the flavor of decay but not the substance

>>Cartier-Bresson is said to be the father of modern photojournalism. Does photojournalism determine the rules for street photography? If so, that would explain why most street photographers don’t stage their shots…

> That's a fair question. My answer would be that street photography includes photojournalism but doesn't define it -- unless you call Robert Capa's photographs of the Omaha Beach landing street photography. Check Robert Frank and tell me whether or not you think his work is photojournalism.

Thanks for the reference to R Frank! I like his quote: “When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.”  According to a short article I read, Frank frequently came at his subjects in opposition to many standard approaches. His wanderings were far and wide by way of both techniques and subjects, including his film making. He liked to push the boundaries. But in answer to your question, not a lot of what I saw is what I’d expect to see in photojournalism. Reflecting on your previous point, street photography I agree with your suggestion that street photography practitioners don’t restrict themselves to strictly photojournalism based or approved techniques.

> Unfortunately you're not the only one who thinks decay is a prime characteristic of street photography. If you look at the photographs of the truly great street photographers you'll see that that isn't true at all. Sometime decay enters into it, but it's an occasional aside, not a subject.

From the reading I've done, that is a fair assessment.
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JDClements
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« Reply #16 on: May 14, 2009, 07:11:23 PM »
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Quote from: RSL
Remember that the stuff in Wikipedia isn't necessarily written by people who understand their subject.
Although, the beauty of it is that anyone who knows better is welcome to step in and edit.  
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RSL
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« Reply #17 on: May 14, 2009, 09:04:56 PM »
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Quote from: Justan
I don't know anything about him. I guess we could split hairs over what is considered “staged” and what is witnessing a “pre-planned event.” Here’s a work attributed to cartier-bresson. Is it “staged” or witnessing a pre-planned event? http://atireiopaunogato.com.br/wp-content/...ier-bresson.jpg There are other examples.

Justin, if you're really interested in photography you need to learn about HCB. He certainly was the most influential photographer of the 20th century. He's not my favorite. Either Elliott Erwitt or Walker Evans would hold that title, but I have a great deal of respect for his work. I don't know about that photograph. It's new to me. I suspect he walked in, saw the kids above him on the stairs, lifted his camera and shot -- but I don't know. I do know that he staged some family shots -- one in particular I remember with his daughter and her cat, but shooting home snapshots isn't exactly street photography.

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Yes it clearly depicts a war one and the subjects are highly involved with the photographer. So much so that it looks set up.

See if you can get access to the book Henri Cartier-Bresson Scrapbook. In there you can find a whole series of the shots he made of those kids. They certainly were aware of his presence, but it's very clear that nothing was staged.

Quote
Thanks for the reference to R Frank! I like his quote: “When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.”  According to a short article I read, Frank frequently came at his subjects in opposition to many standard approaches. His wanderings were far and wide by way of both techniques and subjects, including his film making. He liked to push the boundaries. But in answer to your question, not a lot of what I saw is what I’d expect to see in photojournalism. Reflecting on your previous point, street photography I agree with your suggestion that street photography practitioners don’t restrict themselves to strictly photojournalism based or approved techniques.

Robert shocked the whole United States photography community when The Americans finally was published in the United States. I was 29 when the book came out and I remember reading the screams in at least two photography magazines. Eventually people began to understand what he was doing in that book and he became recognized as one of the masters.
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