A street photographer

Above: A street photographer makes his way down Jermyn Street, May 2018. Credit: Oscopic.

The Death of the Street Photographer

Garry Winogrand used to dance up-and-down Fifth Avenue like a one-eyed cat, or rat. Obsessively snapping away at strangers, rather wantonly, recklessly ... so did Lee Friedlander, Bruce Gilden, Doisneau, Weegee, etc.

Out walking in Central London on Saturday, 5 May 2018, I was passed in the street (Jermyn Street as it happens) by a surly man doing street photography. (He lumbered along with the neck-strap of his Canon DSLR wound around his right wrist.) As he went, his subjects (the general run of pedestrians on the street at that moment) did not meekly accept his intrusive snapping, but rather called out to him in anger and disgust: Oy! You! Stop that! What'cha doing! Whoa! The vague ambient sounds of the street were suddenly lit up by a chain of clearly enunciated annoyed interjections issued by provoked walkers.

Extrapolating (wildly, yes) from this anecdotal evidence, it seems to me that street photography, in the form that it was practiced by the greats of the 1960s and 1970s (and before), is now impossible. Street photography is over! The ordinary person will no longer accept the imposition and intrusion of the lens from any bold stranger.

The golden age of street photography probably ended around the time that personal-individual security-and-privacy became a pressing matter in the city, around 2002. Today, someone taking your picture for reasons unknown, in the street, is not actually a vague annoyance, but an act of criminality--that is, a form of street crime not really separable from assault, robbery, pickpocketing, or vandalism.

(7 May 2018)