Why I’m quitting Street Photography… 23


(English version at the bottom of the page)

Cette phrase n’est pas de moi, rassurez vous ! Récemment Michael Ernest Sweet (MES) a écrit un article qui a déchaîné pas mal de réactions sur le web. Depuis cet article a été retiré (par son auteur ou par le Huffington Post). Néanmoins il reste des traces de cet article grâce au cache de google. Vous pouvez le lire en intégralité ici. Tout d’abord, je tiens à préciser que c’est un photographe que j’apprécie tout particulièrement.

J’ai acheté l’année dernière son magnifique livre « The Human Fragment« , recueil de photos en N&B que je vous conseille grandement. Dans cet article, on retrouve un MES, désabusé, fatigué et assez critique vis à vis de la Street Photography actuelle. D’ailleurs il dit se retirer de ce genre photographique car beaucoup de déceptions (pratique trop individualiste au détriment de la communauté) et de lassitude (pas de réel public pour la Street Photography). Je ne vais pas aborder l’ensemble des points abordés par MES, mais certains sont assez pertinents.

Existe t’il un esprit de communauté dans la Street Photography ?

MES reproche le manque d’aide de la communauté. Que ce soit un support moral ou plus précisément un support financier pour des projets. Je ne fais partie d’aucun Collectif de photographes, mais il me semble que des collectifs existent et c’est le but de ces regroupements de photographes. Etre plus fort à plusieurs, pour des expos ou des publications de livres. Mais au delà de ces collectifs, je ne suis pas vraiment d’accord sur le constat assez amer de MES. Il existe une entraide dans la communauté. Dans la vie, j’ai peu d’amis, mais ceux qui font partie de mon cercle d’amis, sont des personnes sur qui je peux compter. Pour la photo, je fonctionne de la même façon. Privilégier la qualité au détriment de la quantité. Je sais à qui je peux faire confiance si j’ai besoin d’un avis ou d’un conseil. Pour le support financier, c’est compliqué. Dès qu’on parle argent de toute manière, ça l’est. Le truc c’est qu’il ne faut pas avoir trop d’attente car comme toujours, on aura vite fait d’être déçu…

La Street Photography actuelle est de qualité médiocre.

La photographie s’est démocratisée avec l’iphone et les réseaux sociaux. Plus besoin d’avoir des appareils photos onéreux pour faire de la photo. Le ticket d’entrée est devenu très abordable. La Street Photography est très accessible.  De plus en plus de personnes s’y adonnent et par conséquence, un nombre incalculable de photos sont partagées sur les plateformes comme 500px, Flickr, Instagram. Il est évident que la qualité n’y est pas. Beaucoup de daubes et assez peu de bonnes photos. Le pire c’est que pour les photos qui surnagent dans ce flot insipide, on ne les remarque pas car qui a envie de trier des millions de photos ?

On a tendance à trop partager de photos au détriment de la qualité. En gros, « Je poste donc j’existe ». ! Ne vous trompez pas sur mes propos, je suis coupable aussi. Quand j’ai commencé sur 500px, je me suis mis à poster frénétiquement, tous les jours. J’étais omnibulé par les « likes » et je jugeais une photo sur son nombre de ♥. Le problème c’est qu’on finit par poster même si on sait pertinemment que sa photo est pas terrible. Et c’est là où je rejoins l’avis de MES. Le travail d’éditing n’existe plus, on poste tout et n’importe quoi. J’essaye de poster que des photos qui à mon avis ont un petit quelque chose en plus des autres (je parle de mon travail) . Je poste peu. Je partage plus de photos dans mes Blogs sur mon site. Alors oui je n’existe pas sur la toile, à part les feedbacks de quelques photographes dont j’apprécie aussi le boulot, c’est le désert. Pas grave, peu d’avis sincères valent mieux que des avis intéressés.

Est on obligé de faire des photos engagées pour donner du sens à sa démarche ?

Quand on regarde des photographes comme Gary Winogrand, Robert Frank ou Martin Parr, on se dit que ces photographes avaient une vision et que leur démarche artistique allait bien au delà que de prendre des photos de parfaits inconnus dans la rue. Quid de la pratique de la Street Photo aujourd’hui ? Les gens font des photos (beaucoup même) mais la démarche est différente. C’est devenu un passe temps comme aller à la pêche. Combien d’entre nous ont une vision précise de ce qu’ils font ? Moi même, je suis toujours incapable de vous dire pourquoi je fais de la Street Photography. J’aime marcher dans les rues d’Aix-en-Provence, j’aime essayer de capturer des moments de la vie ordinaire, j’aime ressentir cette adrénaline quand je prends des photos. Je ne fais pas de photos engagées politiquement, socialement… Alors est ce que ma démarche a un sens ? A mon niveau oui. Je ne vais pas révolutionner ni marquer le monde de la Street Photography. Je ne serais qu’un de ces anonymes qui auront pris des photos d’Aix à une époque. Mais ces photos seront ma vision de ma ville et personne d’autre n’aura la même vision. Pourquoi ?  Tout simplement parce qu’il y a beaucoup de moi dans mes photos et ça, on ne me l’enlèvera pas.

Street Photography = HYPE.

Depuis plusieurs années, la Street Photography est devenue à la mode. Il y a qu’à voir tous les workshops et les festivals photos consacrés à cette pratique. C’est devenu une machine à $$$. Celui qui a tout compris et qui a été là au bon moment pour surfer sur la grosse vague est Eric Kim. Il a pu bâtir un petit Empire sur la Street Photography et la demande la concernant. J’ai beaucoup appris de lui avec tous ce qu’il a partagé avec la communauté, mais je trouve assez indécent de faire payer des workshops à des tarifs aussi élevés. Après tout si des gens sont prêt à payer pour, il a tort de ne pas le faire. L’offre et la demande…Je ne sais pas ce qu’on apprend dans ces workshops. J’en ai fait un à Liverpool sur une journée avec Matt Hart (un embassadeur de la marque Fuji). Eh bien c’était une expérience intéressante, mais je n’ai rien appris. Ça ne m’avait coûté que 70€… C’est tout le paradoxe de la Street Photography. Ça ne rapporte rien, vous ne vendrez jamais (ou presque) une seule photo mais il y a plein de gens qui vous vendront des workshops à des prix exhorbitants allant de 500€ à 3500€ (si si…Regardez sur les sites d’Eric Kim et de Valérie Jardin pour ne citer qu’eux) ou sinon d’autres comme Lensculture qui vous vendront du vent en utilisant le terme « Street Photography ». Je ne pense pas que la plupart des photographes de rue fassent ça pour l’argent, mais c’est assez rageant de voir de tels comportements.

Michael Ernest Sweet a t’il raison de quitter la Street Photography ?

Il a ses raisons et sa décision lui appartient. J’espère juste qu’il ne le fera pas. C’est vraiment un photographe dont j’apprécie le travail. J’ai pu lire au travers des réactions lues sur le net que son franc parler dérange. Je ne suis pas d’accord avec tout ce qu’il a dit mais il a soulevé des points intéressants en dénonçant notamment nos comportements sur les réseaux sociaux et aussi en mettant le doigt sur les pratiques de certaines personnes qui font de l’argent sur le dos de la Street Photography. Personnellement, je crois que le plus important est de suivre sa voie. Je ne serais jamais un photographe célèbre. Mon travail restera toujours confidentiel. La reconnaissance, je l’ai déjà eu de mes pairs. Pour le reste, j’ai toujours préféré l’ombre à la lumière.

 

 

~o~

 

 

Why I’m quitting Street Photography…

 

 

 

This sentence is not mine, rest assured ! Recently Michael Ernest Sweet (MES) wrote an article that unleashed a lot of reactions on the web. Since then, this article has been removed (by its author or by the Huffington Post). Nevertheless there are traces of this article thanks to the google cache. You can read it in full here. First of all, I want to say that he is a photographer that I particularly appreciate. I bought last year his beautiful book « The Human Fragment« , a collection of photos in B & W that I advise you greatly. In this article, we find MES, disillusioned, tired and quite critical of the current Street Photography. Moreover he says to withdraw from this photographic genre because a lot of disappointments (practice too individualistic to the detriment of the community) and weariness (no real public for Street Photography). I will not address all the points raised by MES, but some are quite relevant.

Is there a community mindset in Street Photography?

MES blames the lack of help from the community. That it is a moral support or more precisely a financial support for projects. I’m not part of any Collective of photographers, but it seems to me that collectives exist and this is the purpose of these groups of photographers. To be stronger to several, for exhibitions or book publications. But beyond these collectives, I do not really agree on the rather bitter assessment of MES. There is mutual help in the community. In life, I have few friends, but those who are part of my circle of friends, are people I can rely on. For the photo, I work the same way. Focus on quality at the expense of quantity. I know who I can trust if I need advices. For financial support, it’s complicated. As soon as we talk about money anyway, it is. The thing is that we must not have too much expectations because as always, we will quickly be disappointed …

The current Street Photography is of mediocre quality.

Iphone and social networks have made photography easily accessible. No need to have expensive cameras to take pictures. The entry ticket has become very affordable. Street Photography is very accessible. More and more people are doing it and as a result, countless photos are shared on platforms like 500px, Flickr, Instagram. It is obvious that the quality is not there. A lot of crap and pretty few good pictures. The worst is that for the photos that stand out in this tasteless flood, we do not notice them because who wants to sort millions of photos?

We tend to share too much photos at the expense of quality. Basically, « I share so I exist ». ! Do not be fooled by my words, I am guilty too. When I started on 500px, I started frantically posting every day. I was omnibulated by the « likes » and I judged a picture on its number of ♥. The problem is that we end up posting even if we know for a fact that the photo is not terrible. And this is where I agree with the opinion of MES. The editing work no longer exists, we share everything and anything. I try to post only photos that in my opinion have a little something besides the others (I’m speaking of my photos). I post little. I share more photos in my Blogs on my site. So yes I do not exist on the web, apart from the feedbacks of some photographers whose work I also appreciate, it’s the desert. No big deal, few sincere opinions are better than interested ones.

Is one obliged to make committed photos to give meaning to his approach ?

When we look at photographers like Gary Winogrand, Robert Frank or Martin Parr, we think that these photographers had a vision and that their artistic approach went far beyond taking pictures of complete strangers in the street. What about the practice of Street Photo today ? People make pictures (even too much) but the approach is different. It has become a hobby like going fishing. How many of us have a clear vision of what they do ? I’m still unable to tell you why I’m doing Street Photography. I like to walk the streets of Aix-en-Provence, I like to try to capture moments of ordinary life, I like to feel this adrenaline when I take photos. I do not make photos engaged politically, socially … So does my approach make sense? At my level yes. I will not revolutionize or mark the world of Street Photography. I would only be one of those anonymous people who took pictures of Aix at one time. But these photos will be my vision of my city and no one else will have the same vision. Why ? Just because there are a lot of me in my photos and that, no one will take it away from me.

Street Photography = HYPE.

For several years, Street Photography has become fashionable. There is only to see all the workshops and photo festivals dedicated to this practice. It has become a CA$H machine. The one who understood everything and who was there at the right moment to ride the big wave is Eric Kim. He was able to build a small Empire on the Street Photography and the demand concerning it. I learned a lot from him with all that he shared with the community, but I find it rather indecent to charge for workshops at such high rates. After all if people are willing to pay for it, it’s wrong not to do it. Supply and demand … I do not know what we learn in these workshops. I made one in Liverpool on a day with Matt Hart (a Fuji X ambassador). Well, it was an interesting experience, but I did not learn anything. It only cost me $ 70 … That’s the paradox of Street Photography. It’s not profitable, you will never sell (or almost) a single photo but there are plenty of people who will sell you workshops at exorbitant prices ranging from 500 € to 3500 € (Oh yes… Look on the sites of Eric Kim and Valérie Jardin to name a few) or else others like Lensculture who will sell you dream using the term « Street Photography ». I do not think most street photographers do that for the money, but it’s pretty frustrating to see such behavior.

Is Michael Ernest Sweet right to leave Street Photography ?

He has his reasons and his decision belongs to him. I just hope he will not do it. It’s really a photographer whose work I appreciate. I read through reactions read on the net that his outspoken speech disturbs. I do not agree with everything he said but he raised some interesting points by denouncing in particular our behavior on social networks and also by pinpointing the practices of some people who make money on the back of Street Photography. Personally, I think the most important thing is to go his own way. I would never be a famous photographer. My work will always remain confidential. Recognition, I already had it from my peers. For the rest, I always preferred the shade to the light.

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Alex CogheJeff Chane-MouyePaul HullChris NoellertJohn Harper Auteurs de commentaires récents
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Alex Coghe
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Good article, man. I think the big error is to continue to think in term of genres. I have also doubts street photography is a genre, rather I consider it an approach and a way of living photography, which ends up affecting our vision. If we will think more about MY PHOTOGRAPHY and not about STREET PHOTOGRAPHY, we will reach important goals. I do. It will be less popular and in some cases you will end forgot by the army of street photography, the accolade making reference to themselves and participating to any festival and contest, those contributed to create… Lire la suite »

John Harper
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You’re rapidly turning into the thinking mans photographer Jeff. Super article and some extremely salient points made. I agree, in fact with all of the points. Street Photography is just a name, it doesn’t mean anything, it covers so much. It’s simply photography, moments of life captured; Photography has always been just that, whether it’s on a street or a landscape or a piece of architecture or a portrait… I remember seeing “popular” phots on 500px. Usually a child dressed up in 19th century clothes with a suitcase or some with someone stood on an empty road in a sickly… Lire la suite »

Vasco Trancoso
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Vasco Trancoso

Congrats Jeff. A very important subject. I agree with almost everything MES wrote except that it is the end of so-called Street Photography (maybe it should be called Public Photography) and giving up and walk away instead of fighting for a better Photography made in public places. As every person have a photographic voice. The great question is: what you really have to say? Nowadays everyone is a photographer – with or without smartphones. 95 million photos and videos are posted to Instagram every day and over six billion photos per month to Facebook. And a large percentage is poor… Lire la suite »

John Harper
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Very well stated Vasco. Totally agree.

Vasco Trancoso
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Vasco Trancoso

Much appreciated! Thanks John. Cheers.

George
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George

I do feel the MES does have a point about a lack of community and support, or least in the places I look. Most Internet celebrity photographers want you to join their community on either Facebook, Google+ some ‘special’ forum they have created just so they can get the numbers, when you ask for a critique of an image the ask is usually ‘Oh join a workshop and this will help you to understand’ or this is the way to have been in my experience. These people are only interested in your money, they very rarely interact with the people… Lire la suite »

Ijon Tichy
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Ijon Tichy

The disillusion with street photography comes from some previous illusions which were destroyed by the hordes of people with mirrorless cameras and their self-proclaimed leaders like Kim, Leuthard or Jardin. The genre « street » is the Jerusalem Syndrom of photography: every single one believes to be the messiah and the final enlightenment is near. Bad news is, the messiah is long dead and so is the art of street photography.

Chris Noellert
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Long time reader. First time caller…. Someone made the point that street is a-la-mode. I think that’s part of the truth. I think the broader issue is more complex and multi-faceted. First of, street requires no skill other than taking a picture of someone on the street with or without their knowing or permission. Most of what I see being called street is crap. No thoughts to composition, or subject, or statement, or quality what-so-ever. I know this because I shoot pictures of the backs of people heads all the time and most of them are crap and it has… Lire la suite »

Paul Hull
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Paul Hull

Hi Jeff, good to see that you are still alive and kicking. I think that we share the same views on photography and maybe social media as well. I currently only post on kujaja and have recently joined Facebook at the tender age of 44…so far just the one friend – my wife! I have always considered the term “street photography” to be slightly restrictive and it implies that certain unwritten rules have to be adhered to – people must be in the shot, little or no editing and, shocker, it must be in black and white!! I have always… Lire la suite »

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[…] If you follow my Blogs, you know that I really love his work on « The Human Fragment« . I wrote a Blog a year ago when MES stated that he was quitting Street Photography. Well guess what ? He’s […]

Alex Coghe
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Hey, man. You did it good some time ago. I received a bad treatment by them. I was curator for them several years. I was one of the first photographers joining the curator team. For book 5 I am the only curator without the photo featured and this makes the book very weird and pretty amateurish. You can know more about this bad experience here: http://www.alexcoghe.com/i-am-not-anymore-curator-for-world-street-photography/ I recommend real photographes to avoid that website. Also, if you have some account there, you can’t quit immediately, you need to remove photo per photo, blog per blog.