Art & Street Photography

In my view, street photography primarily has one of two purposes, to document or to make art, even though these may both be present in some quantity. Artistic street photography associates less with the who, the where and the when, emphasising the composition such as lines, subject placement and colours. Documentary street photography associates more with those aforementioned human elements.

But these intentions behind street photography are easily brought to odds with the vulnerability present in the act. Making a photograph of a stranger walking down the street can, especially if you have a non-confrontational nature, cause anxiety and apprehension as to the consequences of such an act.

In most other genres, there is a certain amount of control in how you make a photograph, whether it's a portrait, a landscape or something else entirely. You can typically move and pose your subject, add or alter the lighting, adjust the set or props, or simply take your time.

On the other hand, what I find most satisfying about street or documentary photography is the lack of control. To make a great photograph of a unique moment with a stranger takes more than just technical skill. It requires a constant awareness of your surroundings, precise execution of timing and a certain lowering of your inhibitions, which is arguably one of the biggest components of the genre for me.

Imagine if someone walked down the street, pulled up their camera and took your photo as they passed. How would you react? Would you be put off? Offended? Or perhaps intrigued?

As someone who practices street photography, I guess I would be more intrigued than anything. I would wonder if they are also a street photographer? I would wonder what do they shoot with and where I might see the resulting image later on.

On the flip side, someone without any knowledge of the intent behind street photography might take offence at their photograph being taken without their permission. Many people not only dislike being in photos, but also have a justified scepticism when it comes to ill-intent and suspect motives, especially in an age where everyone has a camera in their pockets.

One aspect of practicing street photography is realising that at some point, someone may take noticeable offence toward you, possibly even with physical violence. Even if this is likely to be a rare occurrence, as someone who prefers to bear no ill will towards anyone if I can help it and also has no other intent than to create interesting and thought-provoking photographs, I honestly don't know exactly how I would react. Does the desire to create art prevent you from thinking about how others may feel?

To me, that's where the public's perception about photographers in general can come into play. A certain camera can put off a certain vibe. A DSLR or large-lens mirrorless camera can often incite a voyeuristic vibe. Indeed, in my very own city, there are a few photographers who wield telephoto lenses and wander around the mall scoping out people, taking no care at all to hide their possibly misunderstood intentions.

Rangefinders and compact mirrorless cameras, on the other hand, often not only are small and unthreatening in appearance, they often disarm and introduce a novelty factor. "Is that a film camera?" is a question I am often asked by people I meet when they see my digital Leica M. It's not, but people are easily fooled. In the grand scheme of camera gear, the rangefinder design has largely fallen out of fashion except in cases such as the Fuji X Series cameras.

Not only that, learning to use your camera efficiently so as to take the shot and move on fluently is something that helps reduce my own anxiety regarding that exposure to vulnerability, even if it's all in my head. People often notice you when you have a camera up to your face as you walk by. It's hard not to! People don't usually walk around with cameras in front of their faces.

But if you can pull off all of that, seeing the potential for a street photograph, zone focusing beforehand, nailing the composition in a split second and guessing the exact time at which your subject crosses the focal plane can lead to great satisfaction when you review your day's work and make the selections.

One of my fundamental desires in attempting to make street photographs is to capture some semblance of a story within the frame, to portray a moment as a moment, not just a person standing idly amongst their environment. If I can capture someone mid-walk, mid-smoke, mid-laugh or clearly in the depths of conversation or thought, I've been successful.

To me, it is these moments that make a street photograph something worth staring at. To wonder what they were doing, what was making them laugh or cry, or where they were going is what I would consider the elements that elevate these kinds of documentary photographs into the realm of art, and make them worthy of printing and viewing on paper or in a book.

As my dive into the genre of street photography gets deeper, I find myself beginning to pursue the artistic and documentary nature of it more, wanting to seek out existing works, existing photographers and read about the events that were taking place at the time they were taken. I don't attribute this drive solely to myself. My friends within the photography community have greatly influenced my desire to know more about such photographers and the times and environments they lived in, from politics to war, socio-economic trends and fashion statements, to the colours, tones and styles of composition that made their own work truly unique.

I hope that in fifty years, I'll be able to look back on my own photographs and see something like this in my own work.

The Best Thing I Ever Did In Photography

There are two things that have made more of an impact on my photography than anything else and that is the gear I now use and the processing styles I have chosen.


For the last two years I have almost exclusively been shooting in landscape orientation with a 35mm equivalent lens and a single, lightweight and compact camera, and this has given me an enormous appreciation for consistency in the photographs I make. My photographs finally feel like they are truly "mine".

Before 2013, it's like I had no vision whatsoever. It was a free-for-all of focal lengths, orientations and post processing styles. Other than my portrait work, the DSLR and zoom lens was the ultimate consistency killer in my pictures.

Fast forward to now and no matter what I take, if it's a good photograph it feels like it fits perfectly alongside entirely different photographs because the perspective is the same and my style of framing is consistent.


Discovering VSCO also had a profound impact on the way my photographs feel. Before this, I would change all kinds of settings in Lightroom and as a result each photograph felt different, not a part of a whole body of work.

For a while I was using Kodak Portra 400 colour and Ilford HP5+ B&W emulations but have since swapped to Fuji 800Z and Kodak Tri-X. As a result of using VSCO, my colour and tonal range is consistent.

The added benefit is that I know what I'm going to get when I'm out in the world ready to make a photograph. It's like using film because the film decides the colours and black and white tone for the most part. You have to make sure the subject matter works, and you let the processing set the mood, and you only tweak one or two things like exposure.


There's nothing more disorienting than looking through a body of work and finding that it doesn't actually feel like a body of work. While it may not become your whole way of shooting, I strongly encourage anyone struggling to find their way to reduce all gear options to a single focal length and camera and shoot that way for a good many months.

You may hate it or it, if you're like me, it may transform your photographic journey entirely.

Weekend Adventure Hikers

Springbrook Warrie Circuit

As I get older, it's becoming more and more of a joy to meet people who embrace the early hours of the morning, whether it's meeting for breakfast at 8am on a Sunday, or heading out onto the road to climb a mountain at sunrise.

The "morning person" persuasion seems to invoke a sense of adventure and enthusiasm for spontaneity in life, starting with an early rise into the world. These people seem to have an intangible thirst to get up and do things.

This has become an all too important aspect of life in the last few years as I discover what I'm truly passionate about doing each and every day. 

South East Queensland from Mount Greville (facing generally south)

I work four days a week in an office, and while I enjoy the work, I cherish each weekend that I can get outside in the sun. Hiking and climbing the mountains in South East Queensland has become a huge part of that, and I want to extend that to overseas.

So I created a Facebook group exactly for the purpose of pushing this lifestyle of weekend adventures, incorporating fitness and photography into the hiking.

If you are an enthusiastic hiker or photographer who loves sunrise mountain climbs, photography and/or fitness based hiking in the South East Queensland area, don't hesitate to join my Facebook group to see photos, discuss hikes and join events.

Weekend Adventure Hikers on Facebook

Spontaneous solo climb up Mount Mitchell.

Mount Cordeaux (North Peak)

This morning I left home at 4am with the intent of climbing Mount Cordeaux to the main lookout, about 1,100 metres above sea level. To my surprise I met another photographer named Fred McKie, who does anything from commercial photography to architecture, lifestyle and landscapes.

We both ended up walking the extra 30 minutes to Bare Rock north along the ridge from Mount Cordeaux lookout.