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Street Photography for the Purist by Chris Weeks

Street Photography for the Purist by Chris Weeks

When I started photography about two years ago I had a compact digital camera with no mentionable resolution. I soon started to focus on structures and abstract photography because anything else wasn't possible due to the low quality.

It soon led me to architectural photography, which turned out to be the subject and style I master the best. It also makes my living at the moment. With that small digital camera, street photography were just ridiculous attempts that never turned out as they should have. As I investigated new photographic gear about a year ago, I still had the opinion that digital is the way … the future. Last summer I got the Canon Eos 1Ds Mark II, which I use for my commissions and some conceptual and architectural work. I used it for personal work sometimes as well. The moments you want to make should be personal, intimate, close and unobtrusive photos … you can throw these 7000 bucks in the rubbish bin !!

My point is … I fell in love with street photography the moment I started analogue photography. I never took portraits. I never did journalism. I never dared to do street photography the classic way. Why? Because it's not possible with a digital... the feeling is missing. You can see the photo right after taking it, which destroys the whole flair. You don't have real black and white film and you will never be able to see the beauty of a fiber print. You don't have to wait until it's developed, which is another pity. You lose all the joy of the darkroom. Digital cameras are too big, too loud, … they’re simply too flashy. Small digital ones don't offer any useable quality when it comes to print; digital street photography simply doesn't look like a street shot. Street is about life and digital is lifeless.

Why is it so hard to define what Street Photography is about? Why do all attempts do describe this genre remain so oddly diffuse? Why is there no 25-pages-manual, something you can read and (hopefully) understand and off you go? You may be able to operate your gear well, you may have done amazing macros, table-tops, architecture-shots and even portraits, you can and should read all of the following – and yet you may not have a frigging clue afterwards, what Street Photography is about. Because it is something very personal. Because you have to leave your shell. Because you have to – in some cases – expose yourself. Because you have to love people. Street Photography is about sympathy, not hate. It is about community, even if it pictures solitude. It can be ironic, but never offending. When you are taking street shots you are commenting, much like a journalist. And this gives you a good deal of responsibility.

The concept of capturing time; savoring moments, emotions, actions and thoughts will eternally captivate man's intuition and imagination. The search for eternal life has remained fruitless, but for over a century photographers have been able to do second best.

The photographer has an unique opportunity to seize a moment, freeze time, and at the end of the day hold something tangible to remind him/her of that precious 1/15th, 1/60th or 125th of a second. The fashion photographer draws upon the color, composition, grace, and mood of a contrived setting to create images symbolizing tomorrow's hottest design aesthetics and trends. A Photojournalist, armed with high speed zoom lenses and magnesium alloy enforced Canon 1dmk2 bodies, create images to tell the story and deliver reportage that represents the people and places they encounter. While they both work within the broad spectrum of "art", each has a defined purpose.

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