Archive for Street Photography

Dale Yudelman’s Very Serious Humor

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on April 22, 2015 by johnbuckley100

Dale Yudelman is an award-winning South African photographer who has the instincts of a comic novelist able to tell a serious story while playing to your sense of humor.  Like Rian Malan and other artists of his generation, he left South Africa when it was intolerable and returned when the country embarked on its democratic path.  Since the mid-1990s, several of his projects have gained an international audience, but it is long past time that he be recognized as one of the foremost street and social documentary photographers on the planet.

The artistic stakes are high in a country with as poignant a history as South Africa, but even when Yudelman is funny — funny like Elliott Erwitt is funny — he never hides behind irony.  He’ll show things as they are — see on his website, under the project called “Reality Bytes,” the man who’s crashed his car and been projected through his windshield, though the little girl in the foreground seems more amazed that a photographer is taking a picture than she is at the accident itself.

He’ll show the country as it is:

Even as he also captures his Cape Town environment at its most romantic:

Fortunately for some high school students in Cleveland, he was in the States last autumn teaching photography — a white South African in post-Ferguson America, living in Cleveland when a 12-year old black boy could be shot by police while playing with a toy gun.  Welcome to America. He calls the resulting project “Knocking On Cleveland’s Door,” and you should go see it: here.

To our knowledge, there are no books by Yudelman in print in the States.  But there should be.  The only book of his work that we can find, Life Under Democracy, is selling used on Amazon for $1000.  A steep price for an introduction to a photographer’s work.  A bargain, though, when you realize he is a contemporary master worthy of joining the canon.

To see more of Dale Yudelman’s work, go here.

Street Photography And The Teton County Fair II

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 26, 2013 by johnbuckley100

Day two Teton Fair 10 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 50mm Noctilux

Did we mention there was a rodeo?  So of course there were rodeo princesses.

Day two Teton Fair 9 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 50mm Noctilux

And did we mention there was pig wrestling? Who even knew such an event existed?

Day two Teton Fair 1 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph

But on a beautiful evening in the Tetons, the Teton County Fair rolled along for a second day, and provided more opportunities for wandering with a camera.

Day two Teton Fair 2 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph

Every once in a while you would find someone surprised to be photographed.

Teton Fair 3 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph

But for as many people as there were surprised, there were others whom, one suspects, enjoyed being part of the drama.

Day two Teton Fair 7 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 50mm Noctilux

Day two Teton Fair 4 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 50mm Noctilux

It was a pretty great party.

Day two Teton Fair 6 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 50mm Noctilux

And as evening fell, the lighted byways of the fair made it seem as if the party would go late into the night.

Day two Teton Fair 8 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 35mm Summilux FLE

Street Photography And The Teton County Fair, Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on July 25, 2013 by johnbuckley100

Less Pink

Leica M, 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph

The Teton County Fair is an annual event in Jackson, Wyoming, and it is notable not simply as a prototypical American county fair, replete with pig wrestling and the rodeo next door, but for the way it brings together such a wide range of people.  It is, for street photography, a target rich environment.

Teton Fair 6 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 50mm Noctilux

People come to see and be seen, and the rich pageant of personalities — some locals, some tourists — is a feast for the eyes.

Teton Fair 2 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph

Families come for the rides and the entertainment, and to see their friends.  It is a communal gathering with roots in such fairs that go back to the dawn of civilization.  And so too should we think of street photography at such events — a capturing of humanity gathering together with roots in painting going back to the time of Breugel.

Teton Fair 5 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 50mm Noctilux

People are open, and less guarded about having their pictures taken.

Teton Fair 8 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 50mm Noctilux

For a fair in a relatively isolated resort community in the West, you see all types.

Teton Fair 7 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph

From those who live in Teton County to those visiting from big cities around the world.

Teton Fair 4 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph

There is an innocence that seems to accompany those participating in the spectacle.

Teton Fair 9 (1 of 1)

Leica M, 50mm Noctilux

And a simple delight in being there.

Street Photography, Personal Safety, And Lessons From Bruce Davidson

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on October 10, 2012 by johnbuckley100

Berlin, 20012.  Leica M9, 35mm Summilux FLE

It’s not unusual to take a photo of someone on the street and have them immediately glare at the camera, and at you, with menace in their eyes.  And sometimes people act on their impulse to go after the photographer.  Just this week in Washington, D.C., a street photographer was assaulted after taking a picture of a guy running in front of the Verizon Center, which is the most public space in a city of public spaces, the D.C. equivalent of Main Street.

This morning, the prolific street photographer Eric Kim posted a paean to Bruce Davidson, one of the 20th Century’s masters, and it included 15 lessons to be learned from Davidson’s approach to street photography.  It’s really very well done, a distillation of Davidson’s methods that include how to stay safe and get the shot, even when the person sitting across from you on the subway has a scar across his face that looks like it was done with a scythe in a knife fight with Death, and he says, “Take my picture and I’ll smash your camera.”  Davidson got the shot.  Eric Kim tells you how.

The National Gallery’s “I Spy” Exhibit Takes Street Photography To Extremes

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on April 25, 2012 by johnbuckley100

It is kismet, or something even more magical, that accounts for The National Gallery of Art opening an exhibit on street photography just as the new Leica Store in Washington opens a few short blocks away.   As an exhibition, “I Spy: Photography and the Theater of the Street, 1938 – 2010” is a visual tour de force, even as its curators have taken a curious approach to defining street photography.  Showcasing work by Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Bruce Davidson, Philip-Lorca DiCorcia, Harry Callahan, and Beat Strulli, the curatorial emphasis is not on capturing the momentary slice of life that photography of real people, in real situations on the street, on the subway, or other public theaters, provides.  It is on the artifice involved in the technique by which they’re captured — the hidden cameras, the telephoto lenses, the shots of people taken from a bus.  And unfortunately this gives an opening to a critic who doesn’t really understand what street photography is all about.

Leica M9, 35mm Summilux, Luxembourg Gardens, March 23rd, 2012

Philip Kennicott’s parched and somewhat misleading review in The Washington Post, focus on the techniques invoked to fool people — the “I Spy” emphasis of the curators — rather than the images themselves.  “The assumption driving these (photographic) experiments,” Kennicott writes,  “is simple but problematic: By masking the presence of the photographer, one can get a deeper, more unguarded truth about people. As Evans put it, he wanted to capture people “in naked repose,” with their guard down and “the mask” off. Whether it’s Freudian slips of tongue, unwanted conversations caught on a hot mike or leaked videotape from cameras no one knew were on, we tend to believe the spontaneous self is the honest self. But it’s a quirk of modernity to believe that the social mask is false and that there is some kind of genuine authenticity underneath it.”

But this misses the point. And unfortunately the equating of street photography with spying using deceptive techniques allows him to get away with it.

There is a simple reason why street photography matters, why it is interesting as a documentary artform.  People are always the most interesting subject for a photographer.  Landscape photography is aesthetically pleasing.  But photographs of real people engaged in living are fundamentally more interesting than images of mountains and rivers, no matter how lovely.  We love Ansel Adams’ work, but Henri Cartier-Bresson’s put down — that Adams and others were taking pictures of rocks while the world of the mid-20th century was coming apart — rings true.

Spontaneously capturing people going about their business doesn’t need the subterfuge involved in “I Spy.”  You just lift your camera to your eye and capture what’s coming your way.

Leica M9, 35mm Summilux, Friedrichstrasse, Berlin, March 30th, 2012

“I Spy” focuses on street photographers using the most extreme mechanisms for capturing their slice of life.  In reality, street photographers are more likely to use wide-angled lenses, freely shown, than telephoto lenses from the equivalent of a duck blind.  The images taken by artifice in “I Spy” — Harry Callahan’s capturing of women on the streets of Chicago from a fixed position with a telephoto lens, Walker Evans’ use of a camera hidden in his shirt — really could as easily have been captured via a more straightforward manner.  And in fact, there are dozens of street photographers that could have been included in this exhibit that use less extreme techniques.

Leica M9, 35mm Summilux, Friedrichstrasse, Berlin, March 30th, 2012

The best single subset of the exhibition are Magnum photographer Bruce Davidson’s images taken in the New York City Subway system in 1980.  It captures all the grit, all the reality of what life was like in New York in that year of the subway strike, of The Clash playing at Bonds, of chaos and disorder.  Today New York is closer to antiseptic Singapore than it is to its old 1970s sexy self.  Davidson captures this long-ago slice of life, not by artifice, but in search of straightforward truth: he carried his camera onto the subway openly, taking his camera, and his life, in his own hands.

Cartier-Bresson said, “Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth that can bring them back again.”  Davidson captured a vanished world, with realism and truth.  He didn’t need to spy to capture the truth.  He just need to get out there in search of the most interesting topic that art can ever serve up: people in the act of living their lives.

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