London - Street Photography is dead, at least that is what the pessimists will have you believe.
However, if we take ourselves over to Brick Lane, the home of this year’s Street London event (hosted by Hoxton Mini Press), then there was an abundance of reasons given as to why that certainly isn’t the case.
The event was extremely well attended. A far cry from the tired rhetoric that street photography is for a small group of elitist middle-class white men, the venue was filled with a diverse group of ages, genders, and identities.
The same was true for the lineup. Crossing paths with documentary photography, photojournalism, women in street, new photographers, experienced photographers - the message was clear - this weekend was for the many, not the few.
In a relaxed setting, coupled with a free bar, the opening night was an opportunity for the community to come together, see old friends and meet new people. With opening talks from Creative Director, Nick Turpin, and the two guest Creative Directors, Kirstin Van Den Eede and Olly Lang, the outline was given for the weekend's itinerary.
What was evident from all three, was that this was not just some money spinner, but rather a chance for them to really inject their passion for street photography into the audience. Listening and noticing their enthusiasm; a) made me want to go out and shoot, and b) really got me exicted for the next couple of days.
Saturday arrived and the event was opened by the award-winning landscape and documentary photographer, Simon Roberts. He displayed some beautiful work, both from his inspirations and his time shooting in Russia in 2004.
At first glance, I questioned why an event titled ‘Street London’ would be opened by someone who, whilst extremely talented and successful, was clearly not a street photographer. However, as Simon progressed with this talk, it became apparent that alongside him, we were working together to see if his work borrowed from the elements of street photography. And yes, although his images were clearly more aligned with landscape, there were signs of street style shots within his body of work.
Simon’s style and insightful talk should not be viewed just in isolation, however, as it was building to the weekends bigger narrative - What is Street Photography?
Which brings us to the event’s first panel discussion - ‘Exploring the Borders of Street Photography'.
Panel discussions are great for two reasons. They encourage debate, and it also gives the audience an opportunity to get involved with the dialogue. Such a topic could be discussed all day, as defending the definition of the craft is clearly important to the many that practice it. The people were opinionated and the conversation remained respectful. They conversed openly about staged photography, the meaning behind an image and how documentary photography and photojournalism incorporate the street style.
The Spot Light gave an opportunity to 6 up and coming photographers to share their work and the meaning behind it. All the photographers had some great portfolios to share, and it was wonderful to see such a diverse approach to the craft - especially after the interesting yet slightly deflating coverage of the Instagram account Street Repeat earlier in the day.
For me, the stand out photographer was Cam Crosland. I personally have been a long time admirer of Cam’s work, but this was the first time I got to understand their creative journey.
Cam uses flash when out shooting and has been able to produce images that display a sensitive approach to flash street photography. Their creative identity was found whilst they settled into their personal identity. Cam identifies as non-binary, and it was clear that as soon as they had become comfortable in their personal self, their artistic work benefited from it. There is a lot to be said about how our mentality and self-confidence really impacts our work.
It was time for less talk and more walk, as some of the attendees got to see inside the working process of successful street photographers. Hosted by Nick Turpin, Kristen Van De Eede, Charlie Kwai, David Gaberele and Olly Lang, these five photographers gave a treat to those that walked with them. The feedback was that the walks were both very insightful and challenging, with those involved feeling like they had a clearer view of how to make better photographs.
The only downside to the walks is that not everyone was able to get on them due to the size limitations of the groups. It may have been better advised to do the walks across two days, giving more people the opportunity to learn and develop their skills.
The day ended with a street party, where we were all spoilt with some delicious food, beer, and wine. The community swapped Instagram accounts, business cards, and portfolios. I’m certain nobody went home feeling disappointed.
After a diverse and thought-provoking experience the previous day, Sunday really got down to the nitty-gritty. Opened up by the amazing Matt Stuart, the tone was set that the final day was for the hardcore street photography lovers.
Matt’s work speaks for itself. For me, there is no better active street photographer working today. Matt isn’t about status, and regardless of all his success, here is a man that through his words really wants to pass on all that he has learnt. It was a great opening talk and as should be the case with all the talks, really made me want to go out and take better photos.
Following Matt, we got to the creme de la creme of all street photography questions - How do you make money from street photography?
The panel included; Matt Stuart, Nick Turpin, and Global Head of Commercial Assignments at Magnum, Tim Paton.
The harsh reality had to be made clear - pretty much nobody is going to pay you to roam around freely, make photos as you please, and then give you a stack of cash for it. However, that doesn’t mean your style of street photography cannot be utilised. If you market yourself well, make good photos, many commercial companies will be more than happy to commision you for their projects. If you wanted to have an understanding of the amount of effort, and failure, that goes into marketing your work, listen to Matt Stuart:
“When I was first starting out I sent 1000 postcards, which had my work on them, to companies offering my services. Out of those 1000 postcards I got 4 responses. 3 of which were just a thank you, and one which gave me an actual job. 1000 postcards into one commission. However, that commission paid me £10,000 and I was able to use that to go out and do what I love”.
All three panelists strongly advised taking all the work you can. Whilst more often than not you won’t have the creative freedom you are used to, it is a chance to earn funds to then go out and do what you care about. One commercial commission can allow you to finish that book, bring that project to life, or take you on a nice little holiday abroad.
As with any event, one of the key rules is to start big and end even bigger. Well, the closing hours of Street London went completely off the scale.
Everyone was spoilt, and I mean everyone, by an impromptu talk by the legendary Joel Meyerowitz. Joel is such a nice man, and even at the age of 80 still has the same passion for street photography as he did when he was one of the original innovators. He loves being with people who share the same passion as he has had for all these decades.
The event closed with a full video interview with Dorothy Bohm.
At the age of 94, all of us would have been understanding if Dorothy decided to sit this one out. However, that was not the case, and as if it was no problem at all, Dorothy was in attendance - ready to mix with everyone. Much respect has to be given to Dorothy, she conversed with as many people as she could and took the time to sign books. A real class act and a perfect sign off for a real class event.
Value for Money
In my opinion, everyone got their value for money and then some from this weekend. From the directors to the bar staff, everyone involved in running the event worked effortlessly to ensure everyone had a great time. No detail was left untouched and everything had a high quality feel to it - they really did fly the flag for street photography.
Street Photography: born in Paris, grew up in New York, now lives in London. Street London have certainly played their part in making that a reality - ensuring all is alive and well.
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