An Open Letter to HCSP, or Post-Street Aesthetics (at least, here)

Philip (pH):

I believe that the genre of "street", or "street photography", as discussed, loved, and practised here on HCSP has become hugely limiting.

Gareth (SoL):

I would even go as far as to say it the term is bankrupt. Genre labels (distinct from the work within) always evolve, and often as they evolve they cease to be useful - science fiction is one example of a label that has, over time, come to encompass so much diversity of art and creativity, and yet has simultaneously come to be perceived from outside, by critics and by the public, as encompassing a very specific, unchanging range of tropes and cliches. Authors like Margaret Atwood have frequently distanced themselves from the label such is the fear of being tainted by association.

It seems that "street photography" is reaching a similar point - a combination of forces from within and without is making it calcify, sadly. On the inside, particularly here in HCSP, a growing desire to pin down and define what "street" is leads to frequent circular discussions where lines are drawn, old masters cited, arguments articulated. With every one of these arguments "street" comes a step closer to dying. Thus, the genre in this acception is limiting to me, the photographer, and limiting to me, the person who views photographs.

In my personal, short-lived, and biased photographic experience, to limit oneselves to a few beautiful examples of the "masters of the genre", to tryobsessively to reproduce them to the point where entire threads revolve around the ethics of a particular technique, shall only bring mental frustration, rants of self-indulgence, "hardcore" machismo and everything seen here so frequently in almost every thread.

(To great extent, I am culpable of any of the above)


Where are the people sharing their thoughts, their favourite photographs, their recently discovered directors or musicians or painters or poets? Where is the additive, constructive, positive discussion about pushing back the envelope?


What I love in street photography is the apparent lack of meaning and purpose connotated by the term.
This concept, at least for me, is a foundation, a "Grundriß", or a Path, to use a "zen" term, that has become integrant in my own way of seeing, living, and shooting. Obsession, complete dedication, to the point of becoming an "otaku", self-amelioration of both my personal and photographic skills - this is what drives me. And, I suppose, this is what drives many members of the group.


Street is not a place, or zone, with barriers and boundaries; photos are not either in or out. Shooting "street" is a practice, a Way, a process, a mentality - it is a form, like a Japanese form of art - calligraphy, ken-do, ikebana, to put it in simple words.

Street photography is complete bullshit. It says nothing, documents less. To me being "street", before "shooting street" is fundamental. What is "Street"? Haha. I dont know, nor i care.

(Serotonine-dopamine in continuous cycles, meditation - being in the "zone", there, omnicomprehensive observation while still focusing on the singular, the subtle threads and repetitions, visual and compositive rythms; total concentration, absolute, constant, spasmodic, dedication to the futile, to the fluid masses surrounding us, permeating us, to which, at the same time we are impermeable, cold, cynic, rapacious, enamoured and indifferent predators)

..serotonina-dopamina continuamente in circolo - essere nella "zona", esserci, osservazione omnicomprensiva ma contemporaneamente focalizzata sul particolare, le trame sottili e le ripetizioni, ritmi vivisi e compositivi; concentrazione totale, assoluta, costante, spasmodica, attenzione al futile, alle masse fluide che ci circondano, verso le quali, allo stesso tempo restiamo impermeabili, freddi, cinici, rapaci, innamorati e predatori indifferenti..

simplicity over obnoxiousness
intuition over analysis
inspiration over verbosity

This is what we seek, for none of this can be simply explained, or put into words.

הֲבֵ֤ל הֲבָלִים֙ אָמַ֣ר קֹהֶ֔לֶת הֲבֵ֥ל הֲבָלִ֖ים הַכֹּ֥ל הָֽבֶל

Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. (Eccl. I,2)


"Here is a place of disaffection
Time before and time after
In a dim light: neither daylight
Investing form with lucid stillness
Turning shadow into transient beauty
With slow rotation suggesting permanence
Nor darkness to purify the soul
Emptying the sensual with deprivation
Cleansing affection from the temporal.
Neither plenitude nor vacancy. Only a flicker
Over the strained time-ridden faces
Distracted from distraction by distraction
Filled with fancies and empty of meaning "

(T.S.Eliot, Burnt Norton, III, 1-13)