Thursday, 17 December 2009

Looking at the history of street photography

I am currently looking into the history of street photography for my dissertation and have found it really interesting to compare the original street photographers to photo bloggers such as Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist...

The earliest examples of street photographers include Henri Rivière and Jacques Henri Lartigue but I have been looking at more contemporary examples including Bill Cunningham and Amy Arbus who both photographed people on the streets for newspaper style pages. Between 1980 and 1990, Arbus shot portraits on the streets of New York for a regular column in the Village Voice’s monthly fashion feature, On the Street

Examples of Amy Arbus' photography for On The Street  

‘Amy was on the streets photographing the style-makers, the trendsetters in the truest sense of the word’ - A.M. Homes.

Bill Cunningham started photographing people on the street during World War II and continues to do so today. He has famously been contributing to The New York Times on a page also named On the Street

An example of Bill Cunningham's photography for On The Street

‘The main thing I love about street photography is that you find the answers you don’t see at the fashion shows’  - Bill Cunningham.

Scott Schuman admitted in an interview with Dazed Digital that he finds it difficult to relate to Arbus' photography:

‘She would shoot the punks and the most dramatic people... What’s different about what I do is I shoot something that is aspirational and something that people can really relate to’ 

A recent example of Schuman's photography for The Sartorialist

Scott Schuman describes one of the main advantages of a street style blog such as The Sartorialist over printed photography such as Cunningham’s is the interaction with the audience: ‘people can look at those pictures but we don’t know what these people were thinking at that time…'. He mentions that he is working on an archiving system which will save viewers' comments so that in the future, people will be able to know what we were thinking.

Another difference between Schuman and Cunningham is their visions of the perfect subject, whilst Schuman photographs people wearing great outfits, he also looks for people who carry themselves well or have a certain presence. On the contrary, Cunningham purely photographs people because he notices their clothes:

‘I don’t see the people I photograph. All I see are the clothes. I’m only interested in people who look good. I’m looking for the stunners’.

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