Street Photography

I'm not sure exactly when or how or why it started but there seems to be a resurgence in street photography. Or at least a resurgence in looking at street photography.

My feeling is this resurgence started with the discovery of Vivian Maier's work and has grown exponentially since then.  

I think Maier's work initially grabbed my attention because the circumstances surrounding this discovery are so compelling. The fact that she was a nanny, never exhibited her photos and was only discovered by chance ( after her death makes for a great story. But what really makes this more than simply a good story is the quality of the work. As more and more of it has become available online and in books, it's apparent that Vivian Maier produced some of the greatest street photography in the history of the genre. 

The ability to combine composition, timing, humor, empathy, mystery and endless curiosity with a prolific output ranks her with the greatest photographers of all time, not merely street photographers. Her work goes beyond the simple classification of street photography.

When I look at her photographs I see many comparisons, even if Maier actually preceded some of these other photographers. I see Henri Cartier-Bresson, Garry Winogrand, Mary Ellen Mark, Weegee, William Klein, Lisette Model, Diane Arbus and others. I see the weirdness of William Eggleston, the warmth of Helen Levitt, the self portraits of Lee Friedlander, the incorporation of text of Walker Evans.

But ultimately what I respond to in Maier's photographs is not the similarities to other photographers, but to her old school sensibility. The fact that she's simply a photographer with a camera going out into the world, responding to what she sees and taking pictures. Her work documents and celebrates the ordinary and the everyday in ways that goes beyond this straightforward methodology. 

In doing so, she captures what Eggleston refers to (in his own work) as 'life today'. It doesn't have the conceptual framework (or baggage) of contemporary art photography but it has an immediacy that is undeniable. There seems to be a short story in every image, something that keeps you looking and wanting more. And like all great photographers, you constantly wonder how she makes the photographs she makes. There's a magical quality to this kind of serendipity.

This kind of magic is also on view in three other recent street photography books. Robert Herman's 'The New Yorkers', Fred Herzog's 'Modern Color' and Richard Sandler's 'The Eyes of the City'. In these books (as well as Maier's) we're looking back to an older New York City, Chicago or Vancouver but we're completely engaged with the images. They feel timeless. Each one seems to have it's own story, it's own history, it's own memory. It may have something to do with nostalgia for cities of years past (when they were grungier but somehow more livable) but it goes beyond that. Each photograph is a small, compelling slice of life. A visual short story filled with wonder, sadness, joy, pathos. It's the complexity of the human condition captured in a fraction of a second. These ideas are nothing new, photographers have been capturing this for decades. But when it's done by great photographers, it's never feels old or redundant. It feels brand new, like we're seeing 'life today' for the first time. It's thrilling. 

From top to bottom: Vivian Maier, Richard Sandler, Fred Herzog, Robert Herman.

100 Days

I recently finished a 100 Day project where I made a collage every day for a hundred days. I used papers I found on the street or had in my house for materials and each one was roughly 4x6 inches.

From Top:

- Luz
- Batman
- Great Value
- Without Many Bones
- Dual Membership
- Jordan
- Statement
- Queen
- 563
- Green Green Green
- Art 65
- Lecture
- Ginger Ale
- Quote From
- Wednesday Thursday Friday
- Memorial Day
- Poison Control
- Resources

On the Street: Chelsea, MA.

I've been taking photographs in the city of Chelsea for many years and as the project has progressed it's taken a few turns and gotten more complicated. Initially I photographed exclusively in medium format black and white film, but the project has expanded to include some color film and digital images as well. Last spring walking with my dog in the mornings I began seeing interesting discarded or dropped objects on the street. Some things, like broken pieces of toys or baby pacifiers I picked up, but most were things I didn't want to bring home. 

They still intrigued me however, so I decided I would photograph them with my iphone. I had no idea what to do with them or if they were any good, I just took pictures of these things and figured it would (hopefully) make some kind of visual sense eventually. Many hundreds of photos later it feels as though I've created a visual record of our contemporary culture. Almost like an archive of discarded artifacts; the archaeology of abandoned things.

These are a few of the photographs.