Photographing to a brief and a tight deadline can be an effective way to improve the art of street photography.
Each week from Oct 1 2010 to Sep 30 2011, a leading street photographer would issue a brief in the Street Photography Now Project community on flickr.com. From there, participants take their cameras out with them and capture the brief in their own interpretations. The resulting photographs were then uploaded and members could view and comment.
No need special access. No need fancy cameras. And no captions necessary.
No right. No wrong. And definitely not by way of rote-learning.
All you need is patience, time, good walking shoes and a good eye. As one of the great humourist photographers Elliot Erwitt said: “Photography has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”
I found it just wasn’t possible to fulfill them all if you’re someone who still photographs with film and holds a job.
Below are all 52 of those briefs. I didn’t manage to complete them. And for those weeks that I did, the submitted photographs are shown.
#01: “If you can smell the street by looking at the photo, it’s a street photograph.” — Bruce Gilden (Below)
#02: “Turn your attention to the four-legged population.” — Ying Tang (Below)
#03: “Take a bus. Do weekly shopping. Pop into a public loo.” — Nils Jorgensen (Below)
#04: “Document some evidence of human ingenuity that would otherwise go unnoticed. Do it without including any humans in the picture.” — Michael Wolf (Below)
#05: “Get lost in a thicket of signs and structures.” — Wolfgang Zurborn (Below)
#06: “Never ignore a cliché.” — Artem Zhitenev (Below)
#07: “When you have to shoot: shoot! Don’t talk!” — Il Brutto. “Make a picture containing The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.” — Jens Olof Lasthein (Below)
#08: “On your knees please… take a picture from floor level.” — Matt Stuart (Below)
#09: “Play photographic poker. Look for a pair, two pairs, or three of a kind.” — Siegfried Hansen (Below)
#10: “Photograph like an assassin; suddenly and silently.” — Osamu Kanemura (Below)
#11: “Take to the streets! Get political!” — Mimi Mollica
#12: “Look for the stars, even in broad daylight.” — Markus Hartel
#13: “Look closer to home.” — Lars Tunbjörk (Below)
#14 “Show us the aftermath.” — Maciej Dakowicz
#15: “Wander aimlessly most of the time.” — Melanie Einzig (Below)
#16: “Wait for the rain, it makes shooting on the street easier and more interesting.” — Martin Parr
#17: “Take pictures where you’re not comfortable, where you feel exposed, threatened, or morally on the wrong side.” — Mirko Martin.
#18: “Look for a window. Through a window, out of a window, or at the reflections on a window.” — Arif Asci
#19: “Expose the banalities of the new urban landscape.” — George Georgiou
#20: “Slow down, the next picture may be very quiet and close.” — Bruno Quinquet (Below)
#21: “Be aware of the way the camera compresses a three dimensional world into a two dimensional plane and use that to your advantage.” — Nick Turpin
#22: “Pick a spot, stay there for an hour and see what unfolds.” — Polly Braden
#23: “There is a crack in everything—that’s how the light gets in…” from ‘Anthem’ by Leonard Cohen — Frederic Lezmi
#24: “Follow the money.” — Stephen McLaren
#25: “Talk to strangers, let them take you to places.” — Mark Alor Powell
#26: “If you’re not sure it’s a picture, shoot it anyway.” — Carolyn Drake
#27 “Bend the rules and play tricks with the mind; make documents of moments that have never existed.” — Peter Funch
#28: “Go somewhere you haven’t been before—a dog show, a polo match, a monster truck rally—and remember, the interesting things often happen at the fringes away from the main ‘action’.” — Paul Russell
#29: “Find an ambiguity that lies just below the surface.” — Jesse Marlow (Below)
#30: “Remember Robert Capa’s words: if your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” — Andrew Glickman
#31: “Look for clashing colours—the more lurid the better.” — Bang Byoung-Sang
#32: “Follow lines of movement for a graphic journey.” — David Gibson (Below)
#33: “Unless the supernatural comes and plays a part and reveals itself, the picture is only as good and nice as information can be.” — Raghu Rai (Below)
#34: “Get stuck in the thick of it.” — Otto Snoek
a. Nominate something you are going to go out and hunt for—the more abstract the better.
b. Give yourself a time constraint.
c. Go out and start work.
d. Ask yourself why everything else that you encounter is so much more engaging than what you are hunting for.
e. Ask yourself whether the time constraint is a useful tool. — Richard Wentworth
#36: “The distance between yourself and others should not be greater than your arm’s length.” — Christophe Agou.
#37: “Surrealism. Now!” — Gary Alexander
#38: “When you hit that wall of utter frustration while photographing the street, when you are beyond tired and just want to give up, keep on walking—for another hour, or until the light goes entirely. Often the best photographs come when you least expect them—when you are the most exhuasted, and the most emotionally vulnerable.” — Alex Webb
#39: “Don’t ask. Shoot fast.” — Gus Powell (Below)
#40: “It might all come together for a moment and then just as quickly it is gone.” — Narelle Autio
#41: “The different shades of grey are astonishing.” — Boris Savelev
#42: “While walking the street constantly look behind yourself, the light is always different.” — Trent Parke
#43: “Make something from nothing.” — Amani Willett
#44: “Be joyful! Dance in the street.” — Munem Wasif
#45: “See the characters but create your own plot.” — Martin Kollar
#46: “Make a picture that is funny and sad at the same time. A photograph that simultaneously evokes pathos, irony and humour.” — Jeff Mermelstein (Below; post: Feb 3, 2012)
#47: “The real subject is yourself facing the world.” — Thierry Girard
#48: “Things are what they seem to be, or maybe something else.” — Richard Kalvar
#49: “Read the street in front of you by saying to yourself everything that you see happening both near you and coming toward you (the text of the street) and the picture will present itself.” — Joel Meyerowitz (Below)
#50: “Say it with flowers.” — Johanna Neurath (Below)
#51: “Buildings are like humans and have their own character.” — Alexey Titarenko
#52: “If you have talent, find your own way.” — Cristóbal Hara