Psychogeographies – Street Photography

Oh….<coughs> LOLOLOLOL okay……so… new word scopophilia… coursework tells me that it links nicely with being a flâneur….hmmmm I think we need to sort out our stories before we get arrested…sorry officer I was just being a bit of a flâneur…you know…a man who saunters around observing society… rather than, oh what? Nah, don’t worry I was just indulging my innate scopophilia… you know…sexual pleasure derived chiefly from watching others when they are naked or engaged in sexual activity; voyeurism…. oh no damn I didn’t quite mean that…but oooops yeah that seems to be the closer of the definitions even Freud thinks so….

According to my little red folder Kertész’s scopophilia – the ‘pleasure that derives from looking’ (if you say so OCA ;oD if you say so) led to him working on a project about people reading …I’d say it inspired more his series on Distortion ;o)


But I am open-minded and will go with the flow…

These images are beautiful to me…I love the gentle peacefulness about them, the wonderfully surreal, and in general, because they are about reading and I so love to read…books….mmmmmm Waterstones….may be I just have a paraphilia for books.

Although I don’t consider myself to be a street photographer I do love people watching, sitting at rest and watching the little dramas unfold is great. I find I feel self-conscious, as most admit to, when focusing my camera on others, I don’t get in close enough, though I do experiment from time to time.


Read the article ‘What is Street Photography?’ on the London Festival of Photography website…

Damn… yet another dead link..the London Festival of Photography website is no longer there…so inside I’ll drop into one of my favourite blogs for insights and links to the last posting.

Could be it was replaced by this which was useful as it gave some really good examples of the kind of things people are currently photographing, and the same here.

Delved a bit into iN-PUBLIC   and Seconds2Real which give you a flavour as to what is out there.

Now visit

After reading the articles that I couldn’t find, but improvised I then am set a task to follow one of the weekly instructions on Street Photography Now project 2011 and uploading a selection to my blog…that will have to wait until I get out to take some next weekend so watch this space…


I eventually got round to looking at the website in depth and chose the instruction:

#26 If you’re not sure its a picture shoot it anyway – Carolyn Drake

So I am combining some of these images with another exercise to do with surreal images…I had to build a small portfolio for each but then choose a selection of five for my blog. The portfolio is supposed to be in B&W but rather than convert them all I am just going to convert the 5 I have chosen.

Here is the small portfolio…


The five final images that fit the criteria #26 If you’re not sure its a picture shoot it anyway – Carolyn Drake, applies not only to me as the photographer but also the subjects within the shots themselves.

After taking shots over a few months I whittled them down to these few which include selfies, a professional wedding photographer and people taking snapshots:

My final choices were:






Research Point –Vivian Maier 1926 – 2009

Vivian Maier, like Atget, was only discovered very late on in life. However, unlike Atget she did not ever use photography to make a living, it was a hobby she indulged in whilst working as a Nanny. She has now come under the umbrella of being a ‘street photographer’, reputedly taking more than 150,000 photographs during her lifetime, primarily of the people and architecture of New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

During her lifetime, Maier’s work was unknown and unpublished, and she never even printed many of her negatives.

Maier left behind more than 100,000 images, in hundreds of boxes of negatives and undeveloped rolls of film, as well as some Super 8 home movie footage, audio tapes and trunks full of memorabilia. Some of this was auctioned when Maier, who had fallen on hard times, could no longer keep up payments on a storage locker. One of the buyers was an estate agent and flea-market enthusiast called John Maloof. When he began to print the black-and-white street portraits that were her specialty, he was captivated. Vivian Maier’s life and photography became his passion and, eventually, his living.

Out of all the research what intrigued me most was Ted Forbes take on it all…had this box of negatives fallen to another photographer like Abbott, or a curator like Szarkowski would his opinion be different? Atget and Maier run parallel in so many ways. Both suffering from being curated after their demise and with no input as to how they should be shown. Are they both just ‘good’ photographers who others are trying to hype? Is one so much better than the other or did they just get the right/wrong PR team?

I like some of both, other I think …’meh’…but that works with most artists/photographers/writers, some work is stronger than others. Here is a small selection of her work

From her work I need to select 5 images that show the influence of surrealist elements.

Image 1

1963. Chicago, IL
1963. Chicago, IL

This photograph has the elements of reflections in the puddles and reversed writing providing an unreal atmosphere to the image.

Image 2

1954, New York, NY
1954, New York, NY

Shadows and cropping are both elements of surrealism, cutting large portions of an image from the frame. The small child is framed by 2 unknown ‘giants’, both at either sides and behind in the ‘shadow world.’

Image 3

November 1953, New York, NY
November 1953, New York, NY


Unusual activity is also part of the surrealist movement. Why is someone doing a headstand in the street? The positioning of the advert provides an audience, whilst the young lady sporting only one shoe seems preoccupied by a hole in the one she has in her hand. Their clothes seem totally mis-matched as well.

Image 4

Audrey Hepburn at the Chicago premiere of “My Fair Lady” at the RKO Palace Theater. October 23, 1964

Blur, and dream-like images feature heavily within surrealism. This portrait of Audrey Hepburn is out of focus whilst her companion is lost to motion blur. Was this intentional? A signifier for the unobtainable dream or an accident? We shall never know.

Image 5

January 1956
January 1956


Juxtaposition, reflection…I just love this shot :o) shoes…cars…peaches… what more could you possibly want in a surreal photograph…I guess Kertész might have liked a distorted nude somewhere but we can’t always have want we want ;oP

Truth be told I think quite a lot of ‘good’ street photography, and even the not so good, does carry an element of the surreal, but life is surreal…nothing is straight forward, we only see snippets of life and most of that is just plain absurd when you examine it closely. A lot of Maier’s work does have elements of the surreal and most of that looks as if it was intentionally captured that way.

As far as her contribution to photography is concerned? I think that if she had published at the time she was an ‘active’ photographer she may have been more recognised…or perhaps not, knowing the issues of women in photography at the time, and the supposed fragility of her mental state. On looking at her images the majority of them, to me anyway, do stand comparison to those who came before, were contemporaries of hers, or have followed.

Contemporary Street Photography

I was fortunate enough to go along to the London Street Photography exhibition at the Museum of London in 2011 which even made the BBC News.

Curator Mike Seaborne reminded us that street photography wasn’t new and what we snap today will continue to provide a visual record of social and environmental change.

However, street photography in London is far from new. The first ‘instantaneous’ street scenes – those where traffic and people are captured in mid-motion – were taken in the early 1860s and by the 1890s candid street photographers with hand-held, and sometimes hidden, cameras were snapping Londoners unawares. The 20th century saw many famous and lesser-known photographers document life on the street for a variety of reasons. Their collective body of work provides us with a unique visual record of social and environmental change.

This was an interesting review by a non-photographer.

iN-PUBLIC had several photographers involved whose names are more recognised now.

I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition and the companion book is a wealth of information with regards to historical and more contemporary practitioners. This is useful for me as I am considering some form of street photography for assignment two.

More useful links:

I like Eric Kim, Nick Turpin and Matt Stuart, Joel Meyerowitz is a hero of mine, but he tends not to do so much ‘street’ now…and no doubt after fully researching this list I will add more….