“It doesn’t matter what others think; I just shoot street photography for myself”.
If you’re somebody who likes to converse about street photography a lot, I am almost certain you have listened to someone make the above statement before. It’s highly possible you have even said it yourself. However, in this digital world, do any of us shoot street photography just for ourselves?
How do we shoot street photography for ourselves?
The most well-known example of shooting street photography solely for your own enjoyment is Vivian Maier. As the now well-known story goes, Vivian kept all of her images to herself, many of which remained undeveloped. She was not interested in success or status, she just enjoyed going out with her Rolleiflex and documenting everyday life.
But times have changed since the days of Vivian Maier. They have even changed dramatically since the discovery of her work back in 2007.
In today’s digital world, images are created instantly. We now have the ability to share them with a mass audience just by making a few clicks with our fingers. So, once that frame has moved from your eye to the SD card; the SD card to the hard drive and the hard drive to social media, does it stop being just for ourselves?
Why do you share photography on social media?
The reality is, as soon as we share our photograph publicly, what we are asking for is validation. We are asking people to validate that the image we have shared is as good as we believe it is.
At that moment the whole set up changes, and we become reliant on others to help shape how we feel about our street photography.
Is there anything wrong with that? No, of course not.
For some reason, it still feels slightly taboo for us to say ‘I think I am really good at something, and I want everyone to know about it and agree with me’. It seems like the old cliche of being all about the art and not the popularity, still has a strong grip around our creative necks.
Reaction shapes action
Comments and likes give us a chemical response in our brains. The reward chemical, Dopamine, is activated when people respond positively to something that we have posted. Not only does it feel good, it’s addictive.
This can impact the way we make our photographs, as trial and error will teach us what our audience likes. The less positive response you receive, the less intense the hit of Dopamine.
Now you crave it. So what do you do?
The likelihood is, you go out at the golden hour and take a picture of someone just walking out of the darkness and into the light. Your Instagram explodes with likes and you feel amazing.
There are many defining factors that will contribute to how we shoot street photography. I do not feel that we can say our motive is purely driven from our own perspective.
Also, being influenced by others isn’t a bad thing. The more open we are, the more we can learn.
So, I am happy to say I shoot for everyone - myself included.
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