Street Photography—Capturing “Magic” Moments
Henri Cartier-Bresson, who documented life on the streets of Paris in the twentieth century, was continually looking through his camera for The Decisive Moment. As described by Gordon Lewis, street photographer and author of Rocky Nook’s new book, Street Photography: The Art of Capturing the Candid Moment, this “magic” moment is an instant that reveals some truth or essential element of a scene that makes a statement about the human condition. One important goal of street photography is to take photos that are an honest representation of daily life by capturing images that reveal authentic emotions. This can be as simple as catching a gesture or facial expression that conveys something more than what’s evident on the surface of the scene. Whether it’s a secret glimpse between lovers, an instance of unexpected joy, or a private moment of sadness, anger, or defiance, street photography is about catching the genuine moments of life around us—an honest look at humanity disarmed.
In Street Photography: The Art of Capturing the Candid Moment, long-time street photographer Gordon Lewis shares his insights on the art form, as well as a collection of his images that show that decisive, magic moment. My favorite image was taken in Hollywood in the 1970s: Lewis was walking down the boulevard and ran into a young Ziggy Stardust fan walking out of a record store with the new Bowie album. Androgynous and goofy, this kid was dressed and coiffed in the image of Bowie. Gordon asked to take a picture, and the kid held the album up in front of him. It’s a picture of a kid holding a record; but, more importantly, it’s an image of the excitement of acquiring a coveted item and the sublime anticipation of unwrapping the cellophane, placing the needle, and hearing the first notes of what was sure to be a transformative listening experience for the Bowie super-fan. That emotion is transferred across time and space, from print to viewer—that’s the delight of capturing an instant that tells an entire story.
The goal of street photography is to connect with the viewer by capturing the everyday moments we take for granted and present them as unique and extraordinary. In Street Photography: The Art of Capturing the Candid Moment, Lewis does an excellent job of catching the local color and life of various places around the world, including Philadelphia, where he lives. Also included in this book are images from the masters of Street Photography—Henri Cartier-Bresson, Elliott Erwitt, and Garry Winogrand—along with a selection of other contemporary street photographs from contributing artists Steve Dierkens, Rinzi Ruiz, and Kip Praslowicz. The variety of styles in this book show how street photography can be approached in a many ways, depending on the types of images you’d like to create.
Lewis introduces the reader to various aspects of great street photography, from the best equipment to use to remain an unnoticed reporter, to the art of locating favorable places to find the magic moment. Street photography places an emphasis on the study of human behavior: to effectively anticipate interesting images, the photographer must be able to recognize instances that tell a story in a single, candid shot. For those of you interested in documenting those decisive moments, street photography is an endeavor you might find satisfying. Lewis’s book begins with the basics and foundations of the art form, and then expands to the more technical and specific aspects of street photography that will help any photographer learn to take more meaningful images. Try it for yourself to see what kind of stories you can tell through a single, unexpected moment of human expression.
By Maggie Yates, Rocky Nook Editorial Assistant, esteemed cat-lover and passionate art enthusiast!