Club Night, "People on the Street" - Tuesday 24th October 2017.

On Tuesday 24th October 2017, Morpeth Camera Club member John Thompson led an interactive session focussing on
Street Photography. During the evening John illustrated what makes good street photography by showing some of his
work and to help make the evening more interactive John had invited members to send some of their own examples.
The evening was designed to help those who are planning to submit images for this years monochrome print set subject
competition on the theme of ‘People on the Street.’  John started off by saying that street photography is conducted for
art and enquiry, which features chance encounters or random incidents within public places and can fall into the category
of photojournalism, candid photography, social documentary and record photography. He added that street photography
is not a modern idea when one considers that Henri Cartier-Bresson, a French humanist photographer who was said to
have pioneered the genre, had his first photojournalist photos published in 1937. Photography is people-watching with
a camera, capturing a decisive moment in time.

He went on to discuss people in street photography, a scene which includes small figures turns the image into a landscape
containing people, the people should be the point of focus, preferably walking towards the camera and not away from the
camera which dulls the impact. Could street photography be dangerous? John put to the audience. Discretion is key; don’t
brandish a long lens but use a small camera which can be used with one hand and definitely don’t photograph controversial
characters who swear or appear violent and may or may not be under the influence. Fish eye or wide angled lenses are
helpful in that they accommodate people grouped together or one can use a mobile phone to capture images, everyone
uses them and you won’t stand out in a crowd. A discussion followed on with what constitutes a street and should it include
all public places. Are stations and shopping malls considered to be streets; they are certainly public thoroughfares. John
illustrated the point with his photographs taken of people from the street into cafes and bars, through glass windows which
also fall into the criteria in John’s opinion. Single subjects which become street portraits came under discussion, and are
acceptable as long as the part of the street in the background is included. Buskers and street musicians can be approached
and are usually quite happy to be photographed; a connection between the subject and photographer can often result in a
better image especially when a relationship with passers by is established. A homeless person on the street set against a
glamorous poster may produce a social comment but it is kinder initially to make contact with the person before taking their photograph. By looking for unusual occurrences such as a bride in a rainy street or dog walkers all in step add humour and
have a story telling quality.

Throughout the evening John showed some examples of successful ‘people in the street’ photography, interaction between
a young couple, a charismatic older couple in unusual clothes, a row of people on benches all looking at their mobile phones,
people taking photographs of other people, an audience watching street performers and unsavoury characters, all of which
reflect life and capture a moment in time. John asked the audience if anyone had a problem with photographing children. On
holiday, people happily take photographs of local children from other countries but it can be frowned upon depending where
you are. If in doubt, John suggested that permission be obtained from their parents and although John prefers not to be seen,
ones demeanour should reflect ones intentions therefore instilling confidence in the parents’ decision. Examples of member’s photographs were shown together with their titles, and debate followed on whether they were successful or unsuccessful in
the brief. Finally John stressed that considered cropping and converting to monochrome is not a fad if it has an end result,
whereas over manipulation can destroy the honesty and accuracy of that captured moment.


John shared his expertise and experience providing a very informative evening and was duly thanked by Chairman Mark
Harrison after which coffee was served.