Updated: Oct 6, 2021
The legendary photographer Henri Cartier Bresson says, “Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera.”
The Quote definitely explains what we really need while capturing the street photographs. This chapter also contains some of those moments in streets captured right in the moment. Some of the marvels happen in the streets of daily life, no one can arrange those unexpected moments.
It is not what you see. There is always a second story hiding in the frame. It doesn’t always concern itself with the “truth.” A moment is never the entire truth, but only a fragment of truth. For me a good street photograph is a story, though the story may be confusing or even one you’ll never be able to understand. There must be interesting human behaviour in the picture, something beyond a simple shot of a person or people. There should be an element of mystery in the story, and unless the picture makes you think, it’s not much of a street photograph. As I learned it is a powerful art form, it’s also a way of recording what people really are like. Capturing & Documenting the street photographs totally depend on the timing.
It is always fun to solve the riddles right? Same, I want my photographs to be subtle and viewers should try to understand the subtlety. Here are some of my street photographs with subtle stories captured at various places like Pushkar, Mumbai, Pondicherry & Kolkata.
A Man in a street of Mulick ghat flower market, Kolkata heading towards work with a very serious facial expression, while the laziness of early morning dancing silently in the background. We see the man with the cycle first, but the interesting story is behind him.
This photo is taken in White town, Pondichery. Our main concentration goes on those groups of people, but the story lies with the cycle rickshaw driver’s business with his smart-phone. No wonder, technology has spread everywhere.
This is a photo of a street in the Chor Bazaar. We are seeing people busy in their daily routine of business in the early morning, but does the story end there? Their comfort lies in earning their bread. No work is small.
A mother and her two children looking very curiously. Here, the story is not about those who are posing for the camera, I am very curious about what might that small kid looking at with that curious face.
Children carrying firewood from one place to another for daily purposes are full of happiness. How beautiful to see this picture, if you can see the happiness in their faces, but how bad to see them work.
We don’t always need people in frame, or capturing interesting situations as many different people into frame. It may be difficult in some busy places, but take a walk down a quiet alleyway or side street and look for different subjects that interest you more. These two photos here are not taken from any highly populated areas or from any famous tourist places. The big image here is taken in Kolkata under some bridge and another small image here on an alleyway in Mumbai. It is always up to us how we observe and look into the streets.
As one of the greatest photographer of all time Elliott Erwitt says,
“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”
You saw the continuity of subtleness in finding the real stories in simple pictures in the last pages. In other ways, perspectives matter for me. Sometimes pictures are very simple, but only when you take them from the eye level, how about making them fascinating or interesting by taking them from different perspectives? It becomes more subtle.
Above, in the first picture, a family is sitting round the bonfire to warm them up in the early morning, while a mother is trying to teach something to her children. In the second picture, a beggar is receiving money from a pedestrian while having tea in the morning.
How simple are the photos, but the perspective? When I see the stories in the streets, I always try two things I.e., to capture in the way that I could convey two stories from a single image & the other perspective images which creates subtlety in understanding the story.
It’s a common misconception to think that we can only do street photography well in the most interesting of areas, or that we will get better photographs if you travel to Varanasi or some other tourist places where people are more. That is not true. We can take good storytelling images anywhere, and it doesn’t have to be a highly populated area for us to be able to take interesting images.
Traveling to places like Pushkar, Mumbai, Pondicherry, Kolkata and capturing those amazing moments in the streets was a delightful experience. It helped me to understand more about different people, different streets, different emotions of different places of India. These stories never end. And it has no end. Daily-life marvels never stops. It’s just, it is very subtle. If we try to understand the subtleness, life goes on very smoothly. Capturing becomes easy. As I said before, when we learn more about the people, we learn to live peacefully.
As David Bailey states that,
“It takes a lot of imagination to be a good photographer. You need less imagination to be a painter, because you can invent things. But in photography everything is so ordinary; it takes a lot of looking before you learn to see the ordinary”.
Yes, in the streets everything is ordinary, but once we understand that ordinary, nothing is subtle. We always can try to see beyond the main subject, and see if we can combine it with other elements to create a more complex scene. The consistency in my photographs is that they are often different and weird, and it can be impossible to truly get a sense of what I am trying to portray. Hence, this article is very much needed to explain every photo, so that viewers can understand.
Right?, what’s worth capturing those amazing moments and people didn’t understand.