PDN Photo of the Day

The Stories Behind 100 Great Street Photographs

It can be argued that street photography today lives on the Internet, on social media and the many blogs devoted to the subject. A new book, 100 Great Street Photographs, edited by David Gibson and published by Prestel, sorts through them to present “the very best photographs emerging from the so-called Internet generation,” writes Gibson, rescuing them the screen and giving them “the kind of permanence they deserve” on the printed page. The images include those made in the traditional hotbeds of street photography, New York, London and Paris, as well as in cities where, Gibson writes, “[n]ow the energy resides,” including Bangkok, Manila, Hong Kong, Tel Aviv, Moscow and São Paolo. Focusing on photographs from the past five years, the book includes work from a few well-known professionals, including Alex Webb, Martin Parr, Nikos Economopoulos and Trent Parke, as well as from many talented Flickr members Instagram users who share their work in the vast online street photography community. The images take advantage of the genre’s established techniques—there are surprising juxtapositions of people, objects and architecture; strange interactions between humans and animals; explorations of shadow, light and reflection; beautiful women; and visual jokes driven by odd perspectives, all used in the service of making surprising images.

The book includes a brief essay on each picture, often including the photographer’s explanation or recollection of the scene he or she captured. Tavepong Pratoomwong describes the circumstances behind his photo of a man who seems to plunge off a Bangkok curb. The man began performing when he saw Pratoomwong’s camera. “‘Normally I hate it when a man tries to play for me but when I saw him do the moonwalk I decided that this guy is an exception. I got this photo when he tried to do an anti-gravity lean and fell off,'” Pratoomwong recalls. Nils Jorgensen’s portrait through a plate glass window shows a young man and woman seated in a cafe, both smiling sweetly. Gibson describes “several tales of watching Jorgensen up close. He’ll be with a group around a table in a cafe or bar, and then suddenly he swivels with his camera, taking a series of rapid-fire shots of seemingly nothing in the distance.” For this shot, Jorgensen was standing outside, having a drink on the pavement with a friend. At the time, “‘I didn’t know either'” if the shot would work, Jorgensen says, but when he showed the image to the couple when they came outside, “[t]hey seemed delighted.”

While street photographers share certain tools and methods, Gibson writes that best practitioners also share “something vital: they have intelligence, depth and humanity.”

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The Heart of Jamel Shabazz: Making the World a Better Place Through Photography (for PDN subscribers; login required)

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