Continuing with a theme I’ve been thinking about in the last few posts, I’ve been wondering if street photography should strive to create images with a deeper meaning or whether we should leave that to other genres. In the last post I asked ‘who is street photography about?‘ (please excuse the grammar). Is it about the photographer’s ‘vision’ and skill. Or is it about the person in the image?
I’ve been challenged by the story of Vivian Maier and the images that apparently she never shared or promoted. This contrasts greatly with our current drive to social media self promotion. Many of us recognise the awkwardness of this self promotion and over sharing of images and yet we feel compelled to join in. If you don’t have a decent online presence and display you can appear to lack importance; to be amateur in a negative sense.
I’ve started reading a book called The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness by the author Tim Keller, a pastor from NYC. In a chapter discussing the ego he talks about our tendency to do,
“all kinds of things, not for the pleasure of doing them, but because we are trying to put together an impressive cirriculum vitae. By comparing ourselves to other people and trying to make ourselves look better than others, we are boasting. Trying to recommend ourselves, trying to create a self-esteem résumé because we are desperate to fill our sense of inadequacy and emptiness.” (10Publishing, (2012))
These comments have helped me question my own motivation for taking and sharing images. Is it because I derive a sense of pleasure and achievement from street photography, or is it to emulate, compare or compete with, others making images?
More generally, is street photography really an act of vanity? And are those depicted in images simply being used to bolster the ego of the photographer? Or can street photography be truly humanitarian? Can it be a creative attempt to celebrate our common humanity and to challenge the forces and processes that dehumanises?