Street photos with no people in it?

Graffiti on the streets of the Wynwood Arts District, in Miami Florida. (C) JJR

If we think about street photography as taking candid shots of people on the streets we would be correct. But does that mean that we need to have people in it everytime?. Although debatable, the quick the answer is no.

There are many ways to look at this but as long as the shot conveys a strong feeling of life on the streets or there is convincing inference of life on the streets then it is  a street photo.

Cobblestone street in Old San Juan, San Juan Puerto Rico. (C)JJR

If you can smell the street by looking at the photo, it’s a street photograph”- Bruce Gilden

I love this quote by Bruce Gilden first because it doesn’t state that it has to have people in it and second because the street does have a particular smell to it and I believe that the more different type of smells you find on a particular area or neighborhood the more interesting the shots will be in that area.

How do you know if you are in a good area for street photography?  Two things can help you answer that question: the smells and the presence of pay phones. If you find both then you know you’re in excellent street photography territory.

People of course gives the photograph a different feel and having people in  your image makes it easier to find the strong gesture that creates powerful shot. But as Jay Maisel told me, the image can have ”gesture” without people in it. You don’t always need people in it.

Alley in the F.A.T. Village in downtown Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. (C) JJR

Now, I don’t want this to be used as an excuse by those shy of confronting people to avoid taking shots of people at all, so I want to make clear that if you are venturing into street photography you owe it to yourself to learn how to take pictures of people. It is what makes this type of photography a lot more interesting than others.

Ultimately we all seek connecting to other people in one way or another. Go out for a walk, take your camera and find that connection, right outside on the street.



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