For a while now I’ve been contemplating what it is about street photography that attracts me to it. After all, it’s not something anyone is ever likely to make money from. Maybe a few print or self-published book sales. Even the teaching of street photography workshops is another way to monetize it. But no one is going to get rich or even make a living from it. So that rules out fortune.
So how about fame? Let’s be honest, if you talk to anyone outside of photography, most struggle to even name a famous photographer, let alone something as niche as a street photographer. Even most galleries and art spaces seem to overlook street photography as a genre for their walls or glossy culture magazines. It’s clearly not high brow enough for the art world. So fame is also highly unlikely, except for a few lucky ones within the community itself.
Is it getting lots of likes on Instagram and other social media? Yes, everyone likes a bit of appreciation, but these hits of pleasure are very short lived, like a Big Mac, and are at the mercy of social media algorithms. They tend to simply end up getting you chasing more and more likes. How many likes is actually fulfilling enough? Five? Fifty? Five hundred? Five thousand? And even if you get thousands does anything really change? Like, really? It just feels like being a hamster on a constant wheel chasing after something you’re never really going to get.
So why do I do it? The honest answer is that it’s getting the image I enjoy most. The going out, the finding of street scenes to shoot. The choices of how to frame it. Choosing my settings and, most of all, the challenge of whether I will get the shot at all. That’s where the thrill and the pleasure is for me, personally.
Once I put it out there, whether that’s on Instagram, on Flickr, on Facebook, in a magazine or even on a wall – I no longer control what happens to it and whether the viewer likes it or not. I’ve done my bit. I got the shot. It’s all I can do. It’s time to move on to the next shot. As the cliche goes, you’re only as good as your next photo.
That’s why I much prefer the hunt over the feast. The challenges I need to overcomes are in my gift. And that’s where the greatest personal satisfaction is. At the end of the day, I’m a street photographer not a social media influencer trying to beat the algorithms.
So why do you shoot street photography? Are there other motivations I’ve overlooked here? I’d love to hear your thoughts?
You can see more of my candid street photography on my dedicated website.