On Documenting Street & Life

Before I even knew that there existed a genre of photography named after the street itself, I had already made some images in this style on a Contiki Tour in Europe way back in 2013, using a little point and shoot APS-C camera. Little did I know, I was about to stumble upon a genre that would captivate me in the years following, from the legendary photographers of the 20th century such as Henri-Cartier Bresson and Robert Doisneau to those of a more modern era such as life long street photographer Joel Meyerowitz, an Austrian named Severin Koller, and others.

It took a while before I began to stand on my own two feet within the genre, having created what I thought at the time were "bodies of work", only to find that at the end of each year I would come away with an even greater and more daunting appreciation for what it really meant to be a street photographer.

The more I read about all of these photographers and the history of how it became what it is today, the more I began to realise something fundamental about the craft — that it is life long and is about life itself. I find myself at a point where I am no longer thinking within a certain period of creation, but thinking more about the accumulation of an ever evolving collection of work that can only exist in hindsight, and yet at no point does it feel daunting to want to be a street photographer.

From my point of view, to be a street photographer is to be human and to seek out humanity, the beauty of it, the chaos of it, the irony, the elation, the fleeting and the long lasting, from a man smiling with me in Kyoto while busking, to a little girl in the act of throwing a ball in a backyard, to the tale of two bins taking on an anthropomorphised relationship.

Smiling Guitar Man, Kyoto 2017. Leica M7 with 35mm Voigtländer F1.7 on Kodak TRI-X 400 film.

The allure of the genre could be related to a sense of joy or accomplishment that is felt when we capture moments that, in the flowing stream of time may seem fleeting and unimportant, when plucked from the continuum onto a roll of film or a piece of silicon, they enlighten the viewer as to the unseen or unnoticed. We are constantly filtering out so much information that the intricacies and details of everyday human life often pass us by if we aren't careful or attentive.

When I look at the photographs that I most resonate with, both my own and others', I find that it is these fleeting moments, these ironies drawn from juxtaposition or timing, these unnoticed slivers of life's continuous motion from a particular point of view, that are the core reason that I resonate with the image. The photographs I enjoy the most contain a strong, if sometimes ambiguous, fabricated or fleeting, element of a story.

Life is chaotic, ever changing. It can be joyful, messy, flowing or stagnant, happy or sad — full of emotion, expectation, hindsight and change. That's what I've come to love about the street photography and why I feel like I could practice it for the rest of my life. 

Hannah throwing the ball, 2017. Leica M7 with 35mm Voigtländer F1.7 on Kodak TRI-X 400 film.

A Tale Of Two Bins, West End 2018. Leica M7 with 35mm Voigtländer F1.7 on Kodak TRI-X 400 film.

Workers (of some sort) in Tokyo, 2017. Leica M7 with 35mm Voigtländer F1.7 on Kodak TRI-X 400 film.