I’ve noticed what wins street photography contests: Weirdo photos.
Have you seen this?
The photos at the right are the 2018 winners in StreetFoto.
To my eye, none of them look like the classics by Garry Winogrand or Henri Cartier-Bresson, who I’m betting are masters that these street photographers look up to.
The Winogrands and Bressons, the Friedlanders and Davidsons made pictures of real moments, not just oddities, freaks and crazy scenes.
I would suspect that none of their photographs would even place in street photography competitions today. They look more like documentary photographs than photographs with a gimmick or a hook, grabbing the viewer’s attention.
Their photographs documented the human condition and I don’t see that as being terribly valued in today’s street photography, at least by what I see that wins awards.
Visual puns–they’re also a favorite of contest judges. See for yourself in the second place photo. Nothing against them, but I believe that’s what’s in. More gimmick/grab, less human condition.
Deep shadows, with something in a spot of light. Strong graphic elements. Those are winners, too. See the Honorable Mention to see what I mean.
Perhaps it’s because in this digital age, everything is quicker, and we have no attention span, so a photo without a hook isn’t going to be seen. No one has time to look at a photo that doesn’t shout its meaning.
Here’s one of mine. I think it’s a tremendous look at a part of Las Vegas that isn’t the glitz and glamour of that city, made on a Sunday morning just off the strip when most of it was closed. I bet these are locals who work in the area.
That’s not getting entered into any street festival award contests. It’s real people, it’s documentary, but there’s no crazy element. Here, see it big–does it give you any sense of what these people’s lives are like, even without the crazy?
Same with this one. To me, it’s a fun photograph of a boy telling his mom what he saw a fisherman catch. Not enough of a hook to win anything. Here it is big. With a famous name on it, everyone would be praising it, and it would hang 20×24″ in a gallery. Without a name, it’ll never be seen.
Or this, of a celebrity stalked by paparazzi. I wanted to make a photo featuring the photographers. Not going to win any prizes. Here’s a bigger version. It’s a storytelling photograph of celebrity life in the early 20-teens in Studio City, California. The celebrity is Julianne Hough from Dancing with the Stars. I’m glad I don’t have her face.
I know what it’s like when I’m out shooting street photos–I’m looking for the oddities, too. That’s what grabs my attention. I’ve been conditioned just like everyone else.
Here’s my street life photo gallery, you’ll see obviously I’m seeking a hook at times, too. Because that’s what street photography is now. Not a documentary photograph.
And that’s unfortunate.
I prefer the storytelling images of human nature, and people living today.