Street Photography

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“Anyday, one can walk down the street in a big city and see a thousand people. Any photographer can photograph these people—but very few photographers can make their prints not only reproductions of the people taken, but a comment upon them [...]” —Langston Hughes

With the introduction of the first handheld cameras in the 1880s, photographers could finally leave behind awkwardly long exposure times, get out of the studio, and take to the street. Notable early street photographers include Paul Strand and Walker Evans, whose portraits of immigrants and the urban poor continue to shape our image of New York in the early 20th century. The New York Photo League, founded in 1936 by a group of socially conscious photographers, chronicled the gritty realities of urban life, and in so doing exposed both the vibrancy and diversity of the city and the plight and suffering of ordinary people. Such work rejected the cool formalism of modern photography, and increasingly in the 1960s—through the work of Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander—became associated with the snapshot aesthetic. As photographer Joel Meyerowitz once commented: “On the street each successive wave brings a whole new cast of characters […] if you keep paying attention, something will reveal itself—just a split-second—a crazy cockeyed picture.”

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