Street photography and I have a love hate relationship. When I see a brilliantly executed street photograph I am in awe, but much of what I see just makes me angry... or worse, bored. I am not sure when the trend started, but much of what I see produced under the banner of street photography are candid shots, taken on the street, of people not really doing very much at all. The light is often dull and the subject is not terribly interesting and I am left wondering what the point is. Don't get me started on photographing the homeless, or people in distress, that is just voyeuristic. Just because you manage to take photo of someone without their knowledge does not make it a good shot. I was glad to read the same sentiment in the introduction of this fantastic book on street photography. As Lloyd Duckett points out "Do you really want to look at a picture of someone's uncle coming out of a hardware store? Is it interesting? Is it art?"
So what else does this book have to offer, other than a huge dollop of common sense on the first page? Well, firstly there is that front cover. What a wonderful shot! That dog looks like it has just realised the futility of life and is none too pleased about it. The book starts off with a short history of street photography, recalling Cartier-Bresson and Louis-Jacques-Mande, as well as highlighting some contemporary photographers such as Martin Parr.
Chapter one covers equipment. Focal length, compact cameras, DSLR, CSC, film or digital? There is no bias here, pros and cons of each are evaluated, and the reader left to decide what would suit them the best. The next chapter follows up with advice on the technical front, with the aim to get the exposure right in camera, using post processing only in an emergency. The basics of aperture, ISO and shutter speed are covered with their application specifically to shooting on the street. Focus is also explained, and in particular zone focusing, something which I rely on when doing my own street photography.
There is a great section on composition, which is what I think many street photographs lack. Lloyd Duckett provides examples of all sorts of different composition techniques, dealing with colour versus black and white, as well as shooting in low light. For me, this chapter and the following one titled "inspiration" were fantastic. There are lots of ideas for how to shoot different aspects of street photography, along with tips, and the most wonderful large prints of his own photographs.
The book is also punctuated with assignments and challenges for you to try out the concepts explained in the previous chapters. The book finishes with tips on security and legal issues.
This is a wonderfully accessible book, with bags of useful technical content and inspiration. Once you have read this book, there will be no excuse for taking dull street photographs.