Research point: Contemporary street photography

The course notes ask us to do some independent research into contemporary street photography.

Just over a year ago I was given the same exercise on the Level 1 course Context & Narrative, and having re-read it I will link to it here as my observations and opinions still stand.

Colour dominates

One point to bring out in the context of this section being about B&W photography – my findings were that a lot more street photography is being done in colour these days. B&W is a little more niche, a nostalgic throwback or an artistic choice (as it is for the likes of Anders Petersen et al).

Sydney, 2001 – Trent Parke

I had another look through Street Photography Now (2010) for this research point and noted only a handful of B&W practitioners: notably Trent Parke, Ying Tang and Mumen Wasif. A B&W street photographer I discovered a couple of years ago and really like is Craig Semetko, whose Unposed book (2010) acknowledges something of a stylistic debt to the great Elliott Erwitt who provided its foreword.

Eyeball People, Edinburgh 2005 – Craig Semetko

Street surrealism

The only other thing I can add to the earlier appraisal is the extra layer of understanding I have regarding how good street photographs happen: the inherent surrealism in much of the best street photography – the instantaneous and unconscious recognition of an interesting and unusual scene, the synaptic spark from brain to shutter button, bypassing conscious thought. It’s this ‘tapping into the dreamlike state’ that I believe marks out the best street work.

Looking at it again this week, I’ve realised that Street Photography Now is the most surreal photobook I own.


Howarth, S and McClaren, S (eds.) (2010) Street Photography Now. London: Thames & Hudson

Semetko, C. (2010) Unposed. Kempen: teNeus Verlag


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