Euro-centric (like everything else)?

Street photography is well-suited to European-style cities where pedestrians rule. So why is it that street photography is primarily thought-of as an American pursuit? Sure, its main practitioners in the 70s were from the States, but they were taking cues from European photographers of the 30s and 40s. Is the fact that street photography is (more or less) a Western ideal a function of the art world?

And why is it that cities in Asia (India, Vietnam, Japan) seem so well-suited for it with their small streets, bustling life, and hot weather that draws people out of their homes? If I’m remembering correctly, Bresson visited all three, yet his best street work is from France.

In America, only New York and San Francisco come to mind as pedestrian-heavy cities. Which partially explains why Winogrand seemed to lose his way after moving to Los Angeles. Portland’s pedestrian friendly, but the population’s a little small. It’d be interesting to comprise a list of what makes a city prime for street photography.

Last week I discovered that Hanoi’s a great place for it, like Tokyo. DiCorcia did some of his zoom-lens w/flash work for “Heads” in Tokyo, I think. I started browsing a bit, trying to find examples of street photography from Asia (and elsewhere). Came across these shots (1, 2, 3, 4) by Maciej Dakowicz, a Polish-born photographer.

I’ve seen a few photographers on flickr who do interesting street work outside America/Europe (Argentina: Marcelo Montecino, Mexico: Locaburg, Japan: Mecan) but I’m interested in seeing other examples if you’ve got ’em!

All this brings-up a larger question about the similarities & differences between travel photography and street photography. How locals benefit from knowing their cities inside/out vs. visitors who are always on the outside looking in.

6 thoughts on “Euro-centric (like everything else)?”

  1. I would not attribute it to pedestrian friendliness alone. SP comes to life where people come together in public. That often happens on the streets, but potentially anywhere wheer people congregate. For a car world that could be malls, supermarkets, petrol stations, parking lots, churches, theme parks and so on.

    Granted, some of them make pretty dry ground (malls in particular; seen one…).

  2. Mind you, Asia is a good place just because of population density. You are rarely alone, and people don’t mind you “doing things” close to them, because there are many people close doing something.

  3. I just found your blog, and am now reading through it. Interesting and thoughful. I try to make street photos in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, where I live. The town is a rather small, and the streets do not get overcrowded as in south east asia. Dushanbe consists of neighborhouds, and people tend to stay on their streets, so you could get to know people in an area and make their photos. It is especially easy to make photos of children.

    thanks for a great blog

  4. As an aside, HCB did shoot in Tokyo but he hated the results and basically refused to show them. He found it too visually chaotic, but without any grandeur.

    I think what is interesting about Tokyo as a city for street photography is how indistinct it is: there are few architectural landmarks and much of it looks pretty unremarkable. I think it is much harder to take a quintessentially ‘Tokyo’ photograph than in cities like New York or Paris which have such immediately recognisable visual identities. Earlier this year, the Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art had a retrospective of Yutaka Takanashi’s work. He is not, strictly speaking, a street photographer, but as a photographer of the city of Tokyo over time, in my view he is one of the greatest.

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