Street photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson called it the “decisive moment”— the captured instant when all the photograph’s elements come together to tell a story in a way a text narrative of thousands of words could never begin to. It is what hooks people, both practitioners and advocate-devotees, on the art form. It is uniquely completely immersive in life— step out into the streets— in which the moment of artistic epiphany can never be guessed at until it suddenly happens. When it is properly mastered, it is as pure as the dawn of each new day, as true as the living organism of a teeming street scene catching a breath as one.
It's no easy task to pull a book together for publication and "The New Street Photographer's Manifesto" currated by Tanya Nagar (`tanya-n) is an excellent first effort for a first time book editor and publisher. Let's celebrate this devious success story with an interview and feature on all of the artists involved.
It embraces and runs with the idea that in street photography the best camera is the one that you're holding, whether it be a mobile phone or dSLR. This perspective makes the book, and the genre-at-large, accessible to everyone. My photos that are included in the book reflect this as some were taken with a film RF, some a digital EVF, and some a phone. I feel truly honored to have been asked to participate in The New Street Photographer's Manifesto, especially since I am a believer in its core concept.
Brian Quentin Webb
Profile of Tanya Nagar and the deviantART artists that have contributed to the book she featured on her profile.
Contributing deviantART artists:
The street was my school of photography and i wish i had had the opportunity to read a book like Tanya's at the time i started taking photos, it would've saved me a lot of time figuring out what was good and what wasn't! Although it gives a very wide range of how street photography can be like, the quality of each reference or contributor is really inspiring and i'm honored to be part of this book.
Interviewwith Tanya Nagar
What is it about capturing a moment in time on “the street,” a record of a single blink in what is a daily river torrent of information flowing over our most surface human interactions? Why is this important?
I've always had a fascination with different cultures and human behaviour. I studied Psychology at university as a result, and found that photography is a way of being able to document human behaviour in the most obvious and simplest form. It's subjective and objective at the same time and the possibilities are endless. For me street photography is about observing and capturing the fleeting every day moments all around us, which can so easily be lost among the noise of daily life.
What is so enjoyable about what you do?
What appeals to me most about this type of photography is the spontaneity of it; you can't predict what's going to happen on "the street". It's impossible to get bored of it because there is literally so much to capture which could be lost in the blink of an eye. It's challenging, requires quick reactions and when done right, can produce some fascinating insights into the world around us, which most people may ordinarily ignore or not notice. I love capturing those kind of scenes - the ones that are a true reflection of our society.
A few years ago, one of the only places I could look to for quality, contemporary street photography was deviantART. At this point, the only books out there on the subject were very outdated and didn't feature modern life at all. Seeing the work of Tanya and Severin on dA inspired me, whilst getting feedback on my own images was a big step in my progression. It's amazing that I can now walk into my local bookshop and see our images together in print. I think the book is a great resource for beginners of the medium and I hope it gives others the confidence to get out with their cameras and share their visions.
What is it not so enjoyable, that has ever made you consider giving up photography (at least of the street variety)?
I don't think I've ever felt anything negative towards street photography. It's a lifestyle more than something I consciously aim to do. I don't decide 'OK today I'll do some shooting'. I try to have my camera with me when I'm out and about, and some days I'll shoot a lot, and other days nothing at all.
Have you ever felt you were in real danger?
I've had people threaten me before and once got pushed by someone (not a subject but another photographer at a protest I was shooting), but on the whole I restpect and reason with people who object to being photographed. I just don't see the point of arguing - why would I want a photo of a moment that's now lost because the subject has objected? I've shot in supposedly dangerous parts of India, the West Bank and Uganda, but so far haven't been faced with anything too serious.
The one time I was in real danger (through my own doing!) was when I was hanging out of a moving train in India trying to shoot a man a carriage down who was also leaning out of the train. I was using a manual film camera and had to focus, compose and shoot using one hand, while holding onto a pole with my other hand. Trains in Mumbai don't have doors (security is lax, to say the least!) yet I didn't really register the danger until after - I guess adrenaline takes away fear in these situations.
What is the main equipment you use?
I've mainly used a Canon 350D digital SLR and a Nikon F3 film SLR. I also have a Canon 5D which is heavier and bulkier but I absolutely love using the 50mm f/1.8 lens to its full-frame potential on it. The 50mm f/1.8 is my favourite lens on both film and digital. For street you don't need fancy equipment - the aim is to capture raw moments as they are, so using HDR photography kind of defeats the purpose.
What is your next project – and how will it involve your fellow community members of deviantART.
I'm working on a couple of other book ideas - slightly different but not completely unrelatted to street photography - and I've already been in talks with some deviantArt members about this as I really feel their work should be showcased and is a valuable source of information to others. So watch this space!
How did deviantART and the dA community help in propelling your artistic inaterests forward? Tell us about creating and publishing your book on street photography.
DeviantART was initially my biggest inspiration when I started off shooting, as I hadn't developed any notable style and was still at the point of not even knowing what I enjoyed photographing. It's where I discovered street photography, and I spent a lot of time back then communicating with other photographers in the dA chat rooms and talking about photography. It was a forum where I could experiment, debate, get feedback and advice from like-minded people, which was hugely important in my development as a photographer.
The majority of contributors in my book are also members of deviantART, a number of whom I've had the pleasure of meeting and shooting with in person.
The book itself came about as I wanted to bring street photography to a wider audience - not just people who necessarily spend time online in search of information. A publisher was interested in my work and book idea, and it all took off from there.