Like nature writing, street photography is an awkward term whose name is disliked and actively avoided by some of its best practitioners. I get where they’re coming from: in the same way that a lot of modern ‘nature writing’ is actually writing about ‘place’ (another awkward term), not all so-called ‘street photography’ actually takes place in the street. Why not simply call it ‘photography’?
And yet, there must be something in the name, for I know street photography when I see it. It usually comprises photographs of people in public places, doing whatever it is that people do in public places, often, but not always, without realising they’re being photographed. It’s not a photographic genre I tend to dabble in—not least because I generally lack the guts to go out and photograph complete strangers in public—but every now and again an opportunity presents itself, and I feel compelled to reach for my camera.
Such an opportunity occurred earlier this month as my partner, Jen, and I were having a coffee at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice:
I loved the way that the woman reading the magazine on the left mirrored the photograph of Peggy Guggenheim reading a newspaper on the right. I also loved the way the couple of latte-drinkers in the middle seemed oblivious to both—and to me, fortunately. So I uncapped my lens, surreptitiously captured this single shot, then started chatting away to Jen about some random nonsense or other before I was spotted.
With hindsight, the above image turned out to be one of my favourite photos from Venice. And not a gondola in sight!