Street Photography – My Evolution

mickyates Documentary, Falmouth, London, MA, Masters, Photography, Street, Street photography, Travel, United Kingdom Leave a Comment

About 5 years ago, I decided to take street photography a bit more seriously. I got involved with various groups (such as the Leica Meet), attending workshops (Alex Webb amongst others), met current leading UK-based practitioners (Matt Stuart, Nick Turpin, Stephen Leslie, David GibsonDougie Wallace), attending conferences (such as Street London) and generally got excited About the same time, I also wanted my candid and environmental portrait work to develop, so it seemed natural to combine the two threads – in street portraits. Sarah Lee has been a particular inspiration in the environmental portrait arena, and a  source of good advice. Yesterday, I met up with some friends in London, at the Portobello Market, for social time and a little street shooting.
As we talked, it became clear that, over time, I have become a little disillusioned with the rather ‘one off’ nature of street photographs. Of course, great practitioners such as Dougie Wallace use street to tell stories. But I think too much of a ‘street meet’ is focused on getting that ‘one shot’, Cartier-Bresson style. And, the Leica religion (‘comparing sensors and lens resolution) not only powers that ethos but also frankly irritates the heck out of me.
So, I decided to shoot with a fairly long focal length lens, and not the normal 28mm or 35mm. I wanted to go for portraits.
And it seemed to work.
The light was fantastic in the morning. I give street photography workshops these days, and people often ask ‘how to take the sneaky shots’. I do not do that, believing that if you are open and honest about what you are doing, people will either not care or, in fact, will actually engage.
What was of most interest yesterday, however was that we wandered through the social housing estate of Ladbroke Grove. I found this in many ways even more of a fascinating photography challenge than the street portraits. I had nothing planned, and just happened to be there.
Perhaps because I have become increasingly focused on story-telling in this first year of the MA, opportunities presented themselves. So, rather than
People’s loves were on display, just like in any other community. But this one clearly had some deeper story. Why is it partly closed off? Is the council refurbishing, or are people loosing their homes?
And, there was an ambulance, just arriving – although the driver seemed a little disoriented as to exactly he was looking for.
The interplay of light between the ambulance and the last caught my attention. The details of the scene could only be captured in colour.
And, the place was totally deserted. We did not see a single soul.
Yet, like all photographers hanging out with good friends, we still strive for the ‘happy snaps’. This, of Robert Huggins, by the graffiti at the estate.
Where does this all lead? I think it underpins my determination to think of ‘street’ as another variant of my story-telling, documentary practice. I do not view it as a  rather Cartier-Bresson -esque obsession with creating a ‘decisive image’. Here’s a gallery of street images from the meet. And Ladbroke Grove estate. Finally, the social side of the day. ……………………….. Cartier-Bresson, Henri.1952. The Decisive Moment. 2014 Ed. Göttingen: Steidl. Turpin, Nick. 2017. On The Night Bus. London: Hoxton Mini Press. Webb, Alex. 2011. The Suffering of Light: Thirty Years of Photographs of Alex Webb. London: Thames & Hudson.


mickyates B&W, Falmouth, Japan, MA, Masters, Photography, Street, Street photography Leave a Comment

I have been revisiting the work of Daido Moriyama and Antony Cairns. And Gary suggested I also look at Osamu James Nakagawa.

In my Work in Progress for this (Sustainable Prospects) Module, I am using Digital Negatives. Whilst the series is generally well received, and it is designed to create debate, I want to continue to develop the idea. A fellow student commented that the images are ‘too beautiful for the Genocide subject’. Another, ‘the aesthetic is inappropriate, it needs to be real’.

Gary commented that the imagery is rather too ‘pristine’.

My Oral Presentation takes note of Antony Cairns, who also creates negatives and then uses various manipulations on them, digital and physical. His work is intriguing, and obviously has bearing on my work.

But I do find the architectural images rather sterile, and lacking in humanity.

Antony Cairns, Osaka

I have had a long time fascination with the work of Daido Moriyama.

His Are Bure Boke style of shooting lends itself well to the spontaneity of the street.

Daido Moriyama, Tokyo, from Record

Occasionally I have attempted to emulate that style, though there is something about the ‘roughness’ of the resulting images which doesn’t always sit well with my usual work.

Perhaps it is more a mental block on my part than anything else, given I can be quite anal about precision in my photography.

James Nakagawa’s work is new to me.

He uses a blend of techniques, though perhaps a unifying aesthetic is the rich variation in the greys in his work. He also moves comfortably from landscape, to abstract and to portrait, using his aesthetic to bring the images together.

James Nakagawa, Eclipse 3, 2018.

Nakagawa’s work begs questions of etc audience, and encourages active participation in etc decoding process. In my OP, I note that I will be researching and experimenting with my own ‘negative’ images, including suing film. I think Nakagawa’s work will be a useful baseline to consider.

It is christmas market time in Bath, and there is the usual range of photographic opportunities.

I thought I would experiment. So I shot hand held, one second exposures, to capture the bustle and the rain.

Comments on this work on social media range from ‘superb’ to ‘what a waste of a good camera’. Still, I think the images do capture the spirit of the market, in a thought provoking way.

A simple Black and White conversion brings Moriyama’s photography to mind.

And then I took the next step – converting the image to a Digital Negative.

Some audience decoding is required, although it is not immediately obvious that the image is a negative.

In my WIP, Jesse commented that one image, of a hand, wasn’t immediately obvious as a negative.

I think this could be a very fruitful line of visual research.

Additionally, I have been looking at Piezography, which claims to be the highest standard in black and white printing, using tens of thousands of greys, delivered via a broad range of different grey and black inks. Also very much worth exploring.


Antony Cairns. Available at (Accessed 2/12/2018).

Moriyama, Daido. 2017. Record. London: Thames & Hudson.

Osamu James Nakagawa. Available at (Accessed 1/12/2018).

Piezography. Available at (Accessed 2/12/2018).