A game of rules?
“Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.”
― Dalai Lama XIV
Are you like me? When you first became aware of, and interested in, street photography; did you start trying to learn more about it? Did you check out all of the street photography web sites that a Google search revealed (at least the first two or three pages worth)? Did you watch all of the YouTube videos you could find on the subject?
Did you find yourself beginning to wonder, “Why are there so many rules governing street photography?” “Who decided that these rules were needed?” “Where did these individuals obtain their authority to be the rule makers?”
When I was earning at least part of my living working as a sports photographer, I was keenly aware that there were requirements that I had to meet in order to be allowed into the venues to cover the events I photographed. The images that I captured had to meet a varied list of specifications developed by the entities which would ultimately be compensating me for their use. There were lots of rules. But this was photography based on a business model; and the rules were valid.
I was drawn to street photography after many years of rule-bound photography, because I discovered that I had an interest in documenting everyday life by capturing unposed, candid images of people just being themselves in public places. When asked, I’d sum up my interest by saying, “I want to shoot what I want to shoot.” (With emphasis on the second “I“)
To my way of thinking, in photography it’s the image that’s important, not how it’s captured.
The final image is more important than whether or not it was photographed using a prime lens or a zoom, whether it was taken with a Canon, Nikon, Leica, or iPhone, whether it was captured digitally or on film, whether you were standing 3 feet from your subject or 50 feet away, whether you were using an 18mm lenses or a 70-300mm zoom. You get the idea.
My reaction to the plethora of rules supposedly governing street photography has been to largely ignore them. At one point, I began to think of my style of shooting as, “No rules” street photography, but then I realized that I actually did have a couple of guidelines that I routinely follow when I go out with my camera. To ensure that I’m adhering to them, I ask myself the following questions:
First, am I enjoying myself and satisfying my passion for photography? Secondly, do the photographs that I take, capture the scene as I intended?
And finally, there’s one other principle that I always consider: am I treating my subjects with dignity and respect?