Street photography is something that just about every photographer I've ever met has tried. And for most of us, consistently failed at. What seems like the simplest style proves itself to be one of the most difficult.
It takes a creative eye to capture something exciting in the day to day.
I am not a street photographer. I enjoy it for the challenge and see it as a way to try and see things differently. As a photographer, that's the best tool in the arsenal - being able to enter a location and create images out of the seemingly ordinary. The more i've thought about what I enjoy about street photography, the more I notice that it shares some traits with landscape photography. In particular: cutting through a crowded scene to create something memorable from it; focussing on the finer details; trying to uncover unique textures; making a conscious decision about foreground/middle-ground/background. I wanted to put some of this to the test.
Enter the first Beat the Street.
A head-to-head street photography challenge with predetermined criteria that must be met.
For the first Beat the Street, I teamed up with my friend and portrait photographer Jesse Graham and we set 9 themes. Landscape v Portrait style, taken to the streets of Melbourne's CBD.
Unfortunately, neither of us felt that we truly hit the mark for the 9th: repeating colour (foreground and background). We agreed that even in this context, it was better to admit defeat than share something we didn't value.
We spent just under 6 hours in the city on foot with a lot of gear that we didn't use. It quickly became apparent that we'd chosen our lens for the day, and two tripods, two spare cameras, flashes and filter kits were nothing but dead weight. My shoulders are paying for it now. I opted for my natural territory of a 16-35mm lens and Jesse punched in sharpness as the top priority by settling on a 35mm prime.
The best 'unexpected reward' to come of this challenge was that we only made a conscious decision about which direction to follow 5 times for the whole day. We trekked from one end of the city to the other, top to bottom, revisited streets and found new places that we had never been. It was a great way to explore more of a city we spend a massive amount of time in.
We had to choose one final image per category from the day. Here they are - Jesse's in colour, mine in monochrome. Click each image for full perspective + caption:
1) Wide Perspective Street Shot
2) Portrait Style Street Shot
3) No People
4) Repeating Pattern
5) Down Low
6) Look Up
7) On the Job
8) Behind the Glass
Overall, this was a fun experiment. It is something that we both found incredibly rewarding on a personal and photographic level. Although not every image that we walked away with would be something we would usually share on our social medias or in our portfolios, I feel that we were able to take our interpretations of these challenges into the street and come away with some interesting and unique perspectives on Melbourne's CBD.