This is the second part in our ten-part series exploring trends for 2018. To read part 1 on impact photography, click here.
Every trend has some history, a story behind what shaped the style or genre of photography. The trend Perfect Strangers has very established roots in street photography. Like most genres, street photography has evolved and taken on new shapes through the prism of individual artistic views.
The subjects of most street style photography are people, and we chose to refer to them as Perfect Strangers. If we unravel this trend, it’s really a simple message about the subjects we choose for our shots. The casual passersby might become the stars in your photographs, making them perfect for storytelling and more relatable and candid images.
We’ll take a walk down memory lane to uncover the early beginnings of street photography, talk about what it takes to succeed in the contemporary market and give you a library of images on the theme as inspiration.
Pioneers of street photography
Did you know that the first street photography images didn’t include people as subjects? Eugene Atget started shooting the streets of Paris between 1890-1920. He is said to be the father of street photography as he established it as a genre and our common perception and understanding of what street photography is and can be.
You might be wondering why today we’re used to street photography with humans as subjects, and the short answer is that street photography has evolved because we’ve grown too used to pictures of cities, architecture and parks. The beauty of street photography has transformed to include interesting individuals going about their day. Including people makes the images more compelling and no two images can look alike even in the same location.
You might be familiar with Henri Cartier-Bresson because the name comes up frequently when we look back to the early beginnings of street photography. Henri Cartier-Bresson was the first one to shift the focus to humans on the streets. He focused on capturing a decisive moment during everyday hassles.
His work posed a question about the precise moment that makes a winning street photograph. It is still debated whether there is a “golden moment” in street photography. Today, there is a loose understanding that indeed there exists a magical moment to take a shot on the streets, but they’re as different as the vision of individual photographers.
A notable member of the New York School of Photography, Robert Frank helped popularize street photography in the States. Today, one of his books, “The Americans in 1958” is still a bestseller among street photography books.
When the book was published, it was clear that Robert Frank had a different point of view. His images were edgy, depicting life as is and capturing beauty in unexpected places. His work is the closest we get to contemporary street photography as we’re more concerned with candid moments, and gritty, untouched sceneries.
Street photography today – chance or skill?
Fast forward to today, and you’ll notice that street photography does not abide by rules. There are as many unique perspectives as there are photographers, both beginners and professionals. Street photography became a fun genre because we see fascinating people on the streets in different environments, illuminated by captivating lighting.
Today the focus is also on people, or the perfect strangers in their surroundings. We have our phones on us at all times, making it the perfect discrete tool for street photography. The big question we still discuss today is whether good street photography is a product of chance/luck or skill.
The answer depends on the techniques implemented by individual photographers. Instead of carefully framing shots, some photographers ‘shoot from the hip’, leaving their work up to chance. Others will meticulously plan photoshoots and camp out on locations until they get their perfect shot. From here comes an understanding that contemporary street photography is just what we make of it – color, black and white, taken by chance, or polished with skills.
Focusing on Perfect Strangers
There’s a sense of thrill and spontaneity when you get that one image that’s worth a thousand words. More often than not, it’s the people in the images that make them so great. We don’t know the people we photograph, we’ll likely never see them again but capturing an image filled with raw emotions makes street photography quite an addictive pursuit.
Instead of the polished models, we look to strangers to fulfill their roles in our orchestrated or spontaneous compositions. They are the element of surprise that sometimes lacks in other genres, injecting images with personality and emotions.
As the trend Perfect Strangers takes on new shapes and forms in 2018, we put together a collection of images to inspire and fulfil projects. Let your imagination soar, and pass on the article to fellow street photography enthusiasts.
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