Street Photography is Black & White… and it’s got People in it!

Or does it?

Sure, most of the great Street Photos do have people in them. Of course…. as Street Photography is mostly defined by photographing people evolving in their usual surroundings.

But the presence of people is not always indispensable.

There’s also the implied presence of people, the traces of their interactions with their world. There are the objects they manipulate, the traces they leave after their passage.

There’s a whole lot more to Street Photography than ‘simply’ photographing people. And I don’t say ‘simply’ because it’s supposed to be easy!

It’s the most difficult part, for me at least, in Street Photography. To face strangers, to risk being challenged, to have to stand up to someone who takes offense at being photographed.

And then there’s the question of color!

Does Street Photography have to be Black and White? Certainly not. We see in color, we live in color. Black and White is a representation of our world, a rendering using light, shadows, contrasts… it’s perfectly great if used wisely as all the great masters of Street Photograph show us.

But there are others among the great masters who taught us to use color. Not to be afraid to use lowly color to picture our world. There’s Fred Herzog, William Eggleston or Sean Lotman who put color to very good use.

Is color good for every photo? You decide in this example:

The Black and White version is quite strong, but in this case….

…I think color adds a lot to the subject.

Any ordinary object relating to the human presence can become a subject for Street Photography.

Can color be the sole defining aspect of a photo? No! Street Photography, as I said is always linked to the human element. It always refers to human presence.

So Is the presence of people necessary? Is a Black and White approach necessary? I really suppose no, it’s a feature, it’s a choice, it’s simply optional… and the other option is definitely less stressful for the timid photographer.

What’s your take on people and color in Street Photography?

Thanks for stopping by!

9 thoughts on “Street Photography is Black & White… and it’s got People in it!

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  1. Love your work! Love the simplicity but that every shot tells a different story! I also do street photography. I just started a blog, and have only posted once with my photography, but plan on posting more and have a link to my Instagram. Would love for you to check it out and tell me what you think!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Uh oh, that’s not good…. maybe you have to click the link that says visit site? I’ll have to figure that out! It’s fueledbycoffee2020.wordpress.com

        Like

  2. It all depends.

    Sometimes my wife asks me: “What did the photographer want to say” when
    she doesn’t understand why I took a photo.

    I could ask you the same and the answer could well answer your questions.

    Life may be in colour but is colour necessary for the story you want to
    tell? In your cases I really don’t know for sure. The religious figure
    works in b+w and in colour. What were you trying to say?

    Last year I took a photo of someone dressed up for a carnival sitting in
    a bakery drinking coffee. To work, the photo needed colour. B+W would
    have completely missed the point.

    As to people in general: It depends. I can think of a photo I took a
    number of years ago of an open box of shoes next to a rubbish bin. It
    needed no people because the photo showed there had been some and it
    would have added nothing to the story.

    If you put a black and white film in a camera and go out and make
    photos, you have made a decision and also will need to photograph
    accordingly. If, instead, you put in a colour film, or used a digital
    camera, you have a choice.

    Perhaps you should work on your smile when making photos involving
    people?! …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah the smile, the photographer’s most important tool in street photography (apart from comfortable shoes).

      You’re right, the use of colour or b&w film predetermines the focus you have (pun intended). Easier with digital where you can change ‘film’ easily.

      Like

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