There is one blog that I read regularly and that’s The Online Photographer by Mike Johnson and there are a couple I catch up on occasionally, and one of these is Steve Huff Photo.Com, and it’s on this site that I read an article by a photographer with the slightly improbable name of Gary Perlmutter, called “The Nikon V1. The Perfect Street Camera?”
It is a brief straightforward of why he bought a Nikon V1, and why he thinks it works for him as a street camera in comparison to a couple of other cameras he has owned. To support his arguments he has posted six black and white photographs which are fairly typical of street photography as a genre.
Technically they are reasonably sharp, well exposed, and moderately well composed with a good range of tonal values. They are also humorous, perceptive and each tells a story. In short, what I understand street photography (I do dislike that label) to be about. The images wouldn’t make Cartier-Bresson spin in his grave, but they were good.
But it’s here that I feel that I must be missing something. From some of the comments posted it’s obvious that others have a completely different understanding of the genre. For example: “The difference between these photos and snapshots of my cousin’s 1st birthday, is that at least someone will care about the pictures of my cousin’s 1st birthday. These pictures….who are they? Does anyone care? I don’t think street photography is meant to be holding your camera and clicking away randomly.”
And: “Sorry but to me these are not ‘street photography’ just photos that were taken on the street.”
To be a fair, a lot of other posters came to Gary Permutter’s defence, but the point I am trying to make is encapsulated in the last comment. Just what is street photography? Does the photographer’s choice of camera have an influence on whether or not a picture is a street shot or not?
If you think that’s a little on the wild side, compare Gary’s treatment to that of someone calling himself Leicashot on the Rangefinder.com forum who posted a similar set of images shot with a Leica Monochrom that were rather too contrasty and harsh for my taste … but that’s a personal thing. There was not one adverse criticism posted, but a rather gushing amount of praise for a fundamentally undistinguished set of photographs. In my view certainly less interesting that Gary Perlmutter’s set.
It can’t just be a matter of the Nikon VI being the camera everyone loves to hate, and the Leica M9 the camera everyone loves to love? I know endless numbers of people have probably written theses on “What Street Photography Is,” but they have, thankfully, passed me by. So won’t someone check out both of these sets of photographs and tell me what I am missing?