Street! and Bill Cunningham

Bill Cunningham, street photographerWilliam J. Cunningham (born 1929) is a fashion photographer for The New York Times, known for his candid street photography.

There is an excellent documentary out called Bill Cunningham New York. Bill Cunningham is now in his 80s and has spent his career photographing fashion on the streets of New York City. He has a wonderful, uplifting personality. He rides on his bike with his camera in search of stylish trends. We are not talking about paid models and haute couture but rather what styles people on the streets are adopting. He is a role model for the genre of “street” photography being moved to photograph what he sees everyday.

Street photography is all about spirit, movement, spontaneity, odd juxtapositions, the decisive moment, color and texture. For those of you who are totally digital photographers, Bill still uses a film camera and gets his negatives developed at local drugstores. He sits with a computer guy to set up the layout of the page for The New York Times. He is “old school” but his work is still very much pertinent today. There is use for those old film cameras after all. Yay!

For those of you that are interested in the genre of street photography, check out the following website:

Street Image from Melanie Einzig

Here is an excerpt from the bio of Melanie Einzig, a “street” photographer who whose work is featured on the above website.

I grew up in the suburbs of Minnesota, where life was very quiet and controlled. Early on I became interested in art and poetry.

Street Image #6 from Melanie Einzig

I worked in many different mediums throughout high school and college. When I moved to New York in 1990, I picked up a camera and started documenting whatever interested me. The streets were very exciting – so much life, variety and possibility.

Eventually I went back to school to study photography, but ended up experimenting with film and computers. Soon after graduating, I got a job at the Associated Press. An editor saw some of my black and white work, gave me twenty rolls of color film and told me to make some “features”. From that point on I never stopped trying to make pictures in color.

My process is linked to everyday life. Only on rare occasions do I go out specifically to “shoot”. My best photographs were taken going to or from work, or some other destination. Sometimes a picture appears that helps me sum up a strange mood or thought that I’ve struggled with for weeks. Other times my work is more documentary in nature.

Many of my photos are very personal. Though they are certainly about the subject depicted, I often have an emotional or poetic indentification or reference with the situation or person. I am very interested in color and composition, but I would not say it is a primary concern in deciding which photos have meaning to me.

Photographing in public keeps me awake and aware, always looking around, in awe at what we humans are up to. In a time when staged narratives and rendered images are popular, I am excited by the fact that life itself offers situations far more strange and beautiful than anything I could set up.

My advice, as a photographer, is the following: life is short so overcome any reticence you may have about photographing on the street. Get out there andcreate experiences for yourself.

Ginny Banks

Instructor of  Photography at Bellevue College, Ginny Banks LOVES Street Photography. Can you tell? Take one of her classes. View some of her work.

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