No guts no glory, or what does it take to get a good street portrait

street-photography-skorobogatov-aleksandr_1Obviously, it’s not that simple. If we’re talking about pure street photography, as opposed to press or documentary photography, there are lots and lots of things which by definition are beyond your control. Unlike a documentary photographer, you’re not planning to shoot any particular event, you’re not out there to capture specific photos and express a well thought-out message. It’s not about premeditation, but quite the opposite, it’s all about spontaneous, ingenuous, unprepared and maybe even detached photography, depicting everyday’s life as it is. Thus, with a few exceptions which are manageable, such as your gear, all the rest is pretty much uncontrollable. But you have to be quick and responsive. You need a good sense of framing and timing. And indeed, you need to have some guts, as taking photos of people, mostly without their knowledge and permission, is a delicate thing, to say the least. The art of street photography doesn’t allow you to stage anything. The purists even argue that by asking your subject’s permission you’re diminishing the spontaneous and unprepared nature of the shoot, thus stepping beyond the limits of the street photography. The problem is that in some situations you feel that you cannot take a street photo without first asking your subject for permission. For me this is mostly the case when shooting vulnerable people, homeless etc. If they are comfortable with me taking their picture, then it’s OK for me, especially if I’m about to make a close portrait. 

More pics on my photoblog: 

Aleksandr Skorobogatov: press and reviews on the books