The works of Henri Cartier Bresson, Helen Levitt, Vivan Maier, Gary Winogrand, Joel Meyerowitz, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, and my personal favorite Brassai all have contributed to the places they have visited by showing the soul and heartbeat of the city and it’s people. As long as we have street photographers we will always get a glimpse of the people, the customs, and the magic of big and small cities. I have attempted to capture places I have been to, but still have a long way to go. Here are some images by the master’s. I will also add some of my own, although in my case, I capture a street without people or few or even none.
Helen Levitt is one of my favorites because she took photographs of a place I know very well, New York City. In her photographs she captured the essence of what makes New York special. It’s people of different identities, culture, and customs sharing the good, the bad, and sometimes the ugly. But Levitt even made ugly look good in her photographs. Take a look at the article below by Lens Culture and get a sense of what New York City was like from 1938 through the 90s through the eyes of Helen Levitt.
“Elliott Erwitt was the master of finding the beauty in the mundane and making it something extraordinary. Through his long tenure as a street photographer, he shot children, dogs, and ordinary scenes and made them fascinating. The beauty of street photography is that you don’t need to go long and far to take an interesting photograph. All the greatest photo opportunities are right in your backyard, regardless of where you live.
Even if you spend all your time driving and commuting, Lee Friedlander had a series in which he shot America through his car and made some fascinating photographs. Keep your eye open for ordinary things and make them extraordinary.”
The quote is from the article, 10 Famous Photography Quotes You Must know. The link for the article is below.
I truly believe the above quote rings so true, especially if you don’t have lots of money to spend on high tech cameras or travel to exotic places. Perhaps one should just spend a day at their home and really observe and see what interesting gems to photograph in their homes or backyard. You might be pleasantly surprised. I had a professor once who took us out, and she said, “put your cameras away…go out and walk and observe. When you are done come back and we will talk about it”. After we had talked about it she said, “now go again to the place and photograph”. I truly believe it made a difference in our work. It made us slow down instead of clicking everything in sight.
When walking about I sometimes don’t bother to really look…It is only when I carry my phone or camera that I realize the minute details in our lives that we take for granted. Yes, sometimes I have my blinders on, and I walk with a purpose refusing to acknowledge what is around me. Sometimes, I am walking and when the light turns red, I have no choice then to stand there, but as I wait for the light to turn green my glance is searching for new surprises, and if you look carefully, you will find those surprises. Surprises that you might have missed before, even if you have taken the same path everyday.
My husband introduced me to the works of Ed van der Elsken, the Dutch photographer and filmmaker. I must admit I had never heard of him before, but once I got to see his work I was inspired and smitten by him. Below is a link to one of his films dedicated to Amsterdam, where he spent most of his life. He has traveled the world over documenting his travels, but “My Amsterdam” is my favorite. If anyone can be characterized as a flanuer, he would fit the bill.
http://lemagazine.jeudepaume.org/2012/02/photography-at-the-crossroads-de-berenice-abbott/“The time comes when we progress, must go forward, must grow. Else we wither, decay, die. This is as true for photography as for every other human activity in this atom age.”
This was written in 1951 when I was one year old. And look how far we have come. What’s next? Curiouser and curiouser…