A couple of people have commented on my original piece and both believe that street photography is art. Both also quoted the discovery of the Vivian Maier (http://vivianmaier.blogspot.com/) archive as proof of their position.
I don’t know that her work, which is interesting and refreshing, changes anything. There are many photographers who qualify as street photographers whose work is highly regarded. Henri Cartier-Bresson, Joel Meyerowitz, Lee Frielander, David Seymour, David Moore and Diane Arbus spring to mind. Although I think most of these photographers would have perceived themselves to be documentarians rather than “street” photographers.
Some of their work transcends the mere recording of events and can be classed as works of art. Whether that’s true of all of their work is a moot point. Equally my original point that would you want some of their images staring you in the face day in day out above the mantlepiece is valid.
To me the true place for documentary photography, whatever label is put on it, is on the printed page. Some books by photographers like Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Franks and William Klein contain images that are truly great and I wouldn’t hesitate to describe them as great artworks. But I’m not going to label all of their work, or the work of most street photographs in the same way. Art is about the quality of the work not where and how it was made.