© Andreas Stelter

Andreas Stelter

on photography

on street photography




Street Photography

Westerbeck and Meyerowitz (2) are calling street photography as:

'The spontaneous and arty motivated photography at public places which is influenced by issues which can be assigned since the beginning of photography'.

The difficult but profoundly interesting 'process' of street photography is to concentrate the emotional impression of very short-lived candid moments by the help of aesthetics, symbolism, contrast and composition.

It is also the 'surreal' aspect to catch harmonious, mad, absurd, ironic, contradicting, cynical etc. relations and moments in the normal, everyday and therefore 'real' world of human life.

Therefore street photography has the concept of the genuine instant like the impressionism but is also 'Dada' in terms that the intuitive one chance process plays a major role.

Street photography is mostly driven by the following properties:

un-staged not posed nor planed or staged
public people and their surroundings within the public
commonplace the daily human life in its everyday oddness
candid candid moments of a split-second
emotional from tragic to humorous
mixed subjects Portrait, Architecture, Landscape and Reportage


André Kertész - Meudon 1928
André Kertész - Meudon - 1928

Street Photography is realized very differently and the art imagery is mostly a mixture of history and up-to-date elements.

On the left 'Meudon' from Kertész as an example for the 'surreality' imagery:

A train is passing the viaduct from right to left. In the foreground a man with a black hat is passing the street from left to right. In the background some people are moving in different directions. Nothing in this photograph is exceptional itself. There is no special incidence. This photograph does not declare something. The visual attraction is based on the contradictions. The massive, great viaduct is looking like a toy train, the well-dressed man in this poor environment? What does he carry in his arm? This photograph is reality, but it is also surreality, like a dream, painting or film scene - it is the surreality of real life.

André Kertész (1894-1985) was a Hungarian-born photographer with ground- breaking contributions to the photographic composition and the photo essay.

The Decisive Moment

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Italien 1951
Henri Cartier-Bresson - Italy - 1951

'It is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which gives that event its proper expression.'

- Henri Cartier-Bresson -

Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) was a French painter and photographer with a big influence on real life reportage and candid photography. In 1947, Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, David Seymour and George Rodger founded the Magnum photographic agency. In 1952, Cartier-Bresson published his book 'The Decisive Moment' which gets a trend-setting on many photographers.


Robert Frank - New York 1955
Robert Frank - New York - 1955

There are a few single works of art that have changed the direction of their medium.

Robert Frank (born 1924 in Zürich, Switzerland) and his photographic book 'The Americans', "(some data on this series)" published in 1958 summed up the American life-style in a way that no one had covered before and the book was heavily influential on the style of many photographers.

Robert Frank often has combined the everyday life with symbols, like the juke box, or the American flag to a series of iconographs on the time and place.

'I saw this guy take photographs.
And I want to be a photographer.
I want to go out in the street and take photographs of life.'

- Joel Meyerowitz - to his boss on quitting his job as advertising art director.

The Raw Essence Of Life

Garry Winogrand - Los Angeles
Garry Winogrand - Los Angeles - 1969
William Klein
William Klein - 5th Avenue, New York - 1955

'When I'm photographing, I see life,
That's what I deal with. I don't have pictures in my head.
I don't worry about how the picture is going to look.
I let that take care of itself.
It's not about making a nice picture.
That anyone can do.'

- Garry Winogrand -

Winogrand (1928-1984) was continuously chasing after the eternal nowness of life itself in all its raw, near, unmediated energy. Winogrand, Robert Frank and William Klein where focusing on the real essence without any kind of formal rationality. This approach still remains as the hugely influential figure on todays street photography.

William Klein (born 1928) is an American-born French photographer noticed for his ironic approach and his extensive use of unusual photographic techniques against the established art styles.

Color Composition

Stephen Shore - Pennsylvania 1974
Stephen Shore - Pennsylvania - 1974
Joel Meyerowitz
Joel Meyerowitz - Manhattan - 1975

Stephen Shore (born 1947 in New York City) began artistic photography at the age of fourteen, with 24 Shore became a solo exhibition at the MoMA.

Shore is known for his composed colored includes of banal scenes and objects.

Joel Meyerowitz (born 1938 in New York City) began photographing in 1962 as a 'street photographer' in the tradition of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank and Eugene Atget. In the mid 60´s, along with Stephen Shore and William Eggleston he was an early advocate of color photography.

His work has appeared in over 350 exhibitions and he is the author of 15 books, including 'Bystander: The History of Street Photography'.

The Photographic Essay

Bruce Davidson
Bruce Davidson - NYC, East Harlem - 1967
Andreas Herzau - Istanbul 2010
Andreas Herzau - Istanbul - 2010

In 1966 Bruce Davidson started a two-year project in East Harlem, NYC. He visited East Harlem daily, getting to know and takes contact to its inhabitants and photographing their lives. This photographic essay was published in a book titled "East 100th Street".

'Like the people who live on the block, I love and hate it and I keep going back.'
- Bruce Davidson -

Andreas Herzau (born 1962 in Mainz, Germany) is a German photographer working on Reportage, Essay and Portrait photography. He is documenting the many facets of human life as composed essays.

A (very) Brief History Of Street Photography

The following overview is not to be understood as an academic chronology. Its just an attempt to combine the influences out of time period, technique and art to the development of street photography.

The thematic birthplace of street photography is Paris in the middle of the last century in terms of street = 'real life outside from the studio'.

The term 'Street Photography' itself where allocated by some New York photographers in the mid 60s in form of a 'non-commercial photography of the urban life'.

Selected Street Photographer

photographer born performance
Eugene Atget 1857 aesthetic view on the streets of Paris
Alfred Stieglitz 1864 pioneer: photography as art
Paul Strand 1890 pioneer: photography as art
André Kertész 1894 'Whatever we have done, Kertesz did it first'
Dorothea Lange 1895 co-founder of documentary
Alfr. Eisenstaedt 1898 spontaneous moments, LIFE photographer
Brassaï 1899 'Paris de nuit' 1933
Walker Evans 1903 'American Photographs' 1938
Cartier-Bresson 1908 'The Decisive Moment' 1952
Willy Ronis 1910 humanistic photography
R. Doisneau 1912 street culture of Paris
Helen Levitt 1913 pioneer of colored street photography
Robert Frank 1924 'The Americans' 1959
Elliott Erwitt 1928 Member of Magnum - ironic, absurd situations
G. Winogrand 1928 raw, near street photographs
William Klein 1928 'against the established'
Leonard Freed 1929 Member of Magnum - classic photo essays
Fred Herzog 1933 Pioneer of Colored Street Photography
Bruce Davidson 1933 Member of Magnum,'East 100th Street' 1970
Lee Friedlander 1934 urban life, new elements
Joseph Koudelka 1938 Member of Magnum, 'Invasion Prague' 1968
Joel Meyerowitz 1938 artistic color photography - book author
W. Eggleston 1939 pioneer of daily motives as colored photo
S. Salgado 1944 many projects e.g 'Workers' 1993
Stephen Shore 1947 pioneer of color photography
Martin Parr 1952 Member of Magnum - innovative imagery
Alex Webb 1952 Member of Magnum - color street photography
Todd Hido 1968 urban and suburban human habitat


(1) 'Street Photography From Atget to Cartier-Bresson'
by Clive Scott - 2007

This book describes the complex relationship with parallel literary trends as well as its more evident affinity with impressionist art.

(2) 'Bystander: A History of Street Photography'
by Joel Meyerowitz and Colin Westerbeck - 1994

The history of street photography described in both text and photographs.

(3) 'OPEN CITY. Street Photographs since 1950'
by Russell Ferguson and Kerry Brougher and the Museum of Modern Art Oxford

A good supplementation on the Bystander.

(4) 'Great Street Photography constitutes a new way of seeing'
"Times Article by Nick Turpin"