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STREETS AND STREET PHOTOGRAPHY

Saikat Das

Streets are mostly meant to be busy. When it is India, they are busier and chaotic too. Streets around the world have evoked art in creative minds for centuries. Apart from music, painting and theater, another art-form which was practiced widely on the streets is street photography. To say it in the plainest manner, artists who turn keen observations into a photograph amid all the hustle and bustle are known as street photographers. Street photography is a genre of photography that incorporates spontaneity and uncertainty of the streets in an organized and artistic manner. Photographers draw similarities among subjects, observe colors and formations, capture candid movements and expressions or juxtapose one object into another to create a new visual dimension which would be missed by the common eyes.
As a genre, street photography has been very dynamic and evolving in nature. It includes people and their behaviors but sometimes these things can be absent too. Street photography does not always feature street in a photograph. Framing and timing are the two most important keys which are facilitated by a completely candid environment. Greats like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Bruce Gilden, William Klein, Garry Winogrand, and many others redefined street photography over many decades. In India, there are many who have also inspired the present generation to take up this genre to experiment and explore the art of photography.
The camera being the most important tool in photography, its evolution over centuries is deeply engraved with the evolution of street photography. From older versions to modern-day compact ones, cameras have rightfully paved the way for increased productivity in spontaneous and candid settings like streets. Many photographers have shown their advocacy in using a compact camera because it is easier to slip in the crowd unnoticed with a tiny camera. One cannot deny the fact that the reaction and candidness of a photograph may be largely affected if the presence of a camera is felt by the subjects. However, there are also opinions available which hold that the size of the camera is still not a barrier when the purpose of creating art is constant and real. Today's sharp smartphone cameras also go overlooked and thus gaining much popularity in this genre of photography.
Talking about the legal concerns, there is a long pending debate on the scope of infringement of privacy in street photography. For the purpose of creating art, the matter of necessity of seeking consent of the subjects has been under the scanner for decades. The countries like USA, Canada, UK, France, Germany, and others protect individual's right to privacy in different manners. But in most of the cases, it is observed that such privacy rights came to be nullified by the "freedom of expression" of the artists. In India, no specific law prohibits photography in public. Article 19 of the Indian Constitution provides freedom of expression to individuals, riding which they can take pictures in public places. But any production that causes harassment or is produced with ill motives can be challenged with legal measures under other respective laws.
When India came to a standstill in March this year, millions of people from different backgrounds were affected and so were the photographers. Streets were not the same anymore. Movements were restricted. Even the busiest places became motionless. A couple of months went and many street photographers in India showed concerns over the future of outdoor photography. Famous photographer Robert Capa once said, "If your photograph is not good enough, you're not close enough". Going by this lesson would be a challenge in today's world. It is need of the hour that the photographers should change a few dynamics before jumping into the street and shooting in the crowd.


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