Category Street Photography

Then and Now

Some years ago I wrote about the first Street photograph I ever took https://danmarchant.com/my-first-photograph/. In that post I mentioned that, while I like the image, the composition and content was pretty much luck. In other words almost nothing that I like about the image was down to me. The key word here is “took”. As a wise person once said “good photographers takes photographs, great photographers makes photographs”.

For me that means that anyone can take a good or even great photograph if you give them  a camera…. but probably won’t know how they did (what makes it good) and would be unable duplicate it. A great photographer is one who makes a photograph by thinking about it before they even set out to take it. They know the type of photograph they want, the subject, the type of processing they will use. They will deliberately put themselves in a position to capture the photograph they want and they will think about what they want to include in the image before pressing the shutter. Now I doubt I will ever be a great photographer but I do think that it is worth making some effort to think about your work, to strive to make photographs rather than take them and to hopefully improve over time. To that end I thought it would be interesting to look at the first Street photo I made and compare it to one of my more recent images in a Then & Now comparison.

Note: The word make doesn’t feel right when talking about capturing a photograph. Take is the commonly used verb and so hence forth I will use the word take, even though I mean make.

Then

Back in 2011 I attended a photography course given by photojournalist and documentary photographer Michael Coyne. I didn’t take any interesting or worthwhile shots during the course but I did learn a lot that helped me develop as a photographer over the coming months and years. Read More

My first photograph

I guess if I am going to write something about learning photography I should start by talking about my first photograph. By that I don’t mean the first photograph I ever took – I mean the first photo I took which interested me, beyond being just a simple snapshot. For several years I took photographs without a camera. I was constantly stopping and thinking “that would make a great image” but I didn’t actually buy a camera. I did this, at least in part, because I remembered my father owning, and never using, a rather nice Pentax film camera. I didn’t want to invest in a nice camera and then never use it, so I just carried on taking mental images.

street scene. Mong Kok at night.
Night scene. Mong Kok.

Then one day I took a snap shot with my Blackberry mobile phone, which actually interested me as a photograph. I was walking through Mongkok, Hong Kong on a Saturday evening and paused to grab this photo looking down Sai Yeung Choi Street. It was the light, colour and busy crowd that first attracted me to the scene but, once I had taken it,  the actual image had more to it. In addition to colour and light it also has mystery and movement. What are the young couple on the left of the shot looking at. Are they simply waiting for a break in the traffic or are they looking at something happening further down the street? What about the (what appears to be) family group on right of shot. What are they discussing and where are they going? There is also lots of movement in the image. People in the background are on the move; in couples and on their own. What about the man in the centre of the shot – where is he going hurrying down the street so that he is just a blur? On a technical level the image quality isn’t great but the image itself is well composed. The frame is filled with action and there is very little empty space. At ground level you have people everywhere and above them the buildings and neon signs. In addition the image draws your eye inwards because the yellow street markings and the buildings on either side act as leading lines, guiding you further into the image. I have to admit that the composition of the image is mostly down to blind luck. I did try to centre the image so that I was looking directly down the middle of the street. I also raised the camera angle a little so that I didn’t get too much empty road  (I now know just how important it is to avoid empty/dead space in the foreground of images). But, as for the content, that is all luck. I didn’t see the man who was about to walk past, I didn’t see the taxi about to stick its nose into shot and I hadn’t noticed the people on the far right of the frame who, I feel, counter balance the young couple on the far left. I didn’t immediately jump into photography after taking this image. I kept coming back to it and looking at it, without really understanding why. Time to pinch my girlfriend’s point and shoot and start learning…..

Note: The above image was taken several years ago. This post has been back dated slightly to maintain a coherent time-line for posts that discuss images/events which pre-date this blog.