Street photography usually contains people. But it doesn’t have to.
If you believe — as I do — that street photography shows a situation (often humorous, sometimes poignant) rather than just a scene of a city street, then I think I can convince you that animals can be the subjects of street photography. I’ll go one further: Street doesn’t have to contain anything live.
A little aside: So many of the so-called street photography images we see today are just photos made on a city street. Maybe they contain street performers; possibly vagrants. They may be interesting but those images — in my opinion — fall short of the real street genre. Real street may suggest a story and it may prompt an emotional response — maybe an inward smile or an involuntary humph. Real street often makes you want to think of a caption.
“So,” you say, “show me street without people.”
Here’s one that tells a story. I made the photo outside the leather market at Piazza del Mercato Nuovo in Florence. The pup stared directly to the point he last saw his owner. You can read trust, love, devotion — the dog for his owner and the owner for his dog. (It was a dark, rainy day and I had my tripod so I made the shot at 1/30 sec at f/2.8.)
These two sea birds were enjoying the sun in the little seaport town of Devonport, North Island, New Zealand. The bird on the left is amusing by itself but the photo would not have qualified (in my mind) as legitimate street if the second bird had not turned his head toward the acrobat. He has to be saying something like, “Act your age!” (To blur the background I used f/2.8 at 1/800 sec.)
I have absolutely no idea in the world why this folding bed — with one wheel missing — was left on the shore walk at Maiori, Amalfi Coast, Italy. But there it sat. Imagine the picture without the bed: The soft colors of the evening light and even the fishermen on the point of rocks might make an interesting image but the bed…well…the bed makes it street. (1/80 second at f/4.2)
So, Dear Reader, you have my take (opinionated, I admit) on what makes street photography and why it doesn’t necessarily have to have humans — or even life — to qualify. It isn’t easy to find these little gems that the world leaves for us. I spent nine days recently on the streets of London and came home with only three photos that I consider real street photography. But it’s the search that makes the find so rewarding.
You might find interesting a blog posting I made back in January of this year entitled What is Street Photography? (A totally biased answer.).
Please comment if you wish.