Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Street Photography - From Atget to Cartier-Bresson ..... A Mini Review

Book Cover Paris, France 1973 by Martine Franck / Magnum Photos

While it is quite interesting, this book is not an easy read. If you find twitter with 140 characters bothersome or facebook with large post irritating, you may not have the patience or knowledge of vocabulary to find this book worth your while.

Street Photography is a well written book and it goes deep in thought from the insights of the writer of the book. Basically the author compares the beginnings of French style of street photography to that of impressionist paintings of the same era, and how many of the early street photos resemble in some way that of popular paintings by French artists.

There are five chapters to the book plus an introduction and a conclusion. Presently I am in chapter four. To give an idea of the thesis (as I see it) of the book, here is a short read just from the introduction.

"Is there, then, a genre called 'street photography'? Street photography certainly puts us in a taxonomic quandary, not only because it stands at the crossroads between the tourist snap, the documentary photograph, the photojournalism of the fait divers (news in brief), but also because it asks to be treated as much as a vernacular photography as a high art one. This book certainly does not set out to provide a careful and comprehensive history of street photography; my concerns are more properly with the name and nature of the genre, and with a history which is more to do with the viewer's perceptual autobiography than with a chain of photographic events." Introduction - page 15

In short, while I love to read, Street Photography ... From Atget to Cartier-Bresson, written by Clive Scott, is a wonderful read with moments of exercising ones brain in the understanding of the writers thoughts and insights in the comparison of early French Street Photography, especially in Paris, with that of early Impressionistic Paintings of the time.

This is not a book for looking a photos as there are few and far between, but what photos are present the writer gives good insights to the photographers work, how it can, and maybe even how it should be, perceived by viewers and how it may resemble that of a paint by an artist of another time. Like I said, this is a book for reading and thinking - not for viewing.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to read, to gain knowledge from another person's perspective and who enjoys reading something more deep than twitter, facebook or most photographic magazines. You will take your time, you will think and you will find yourself putting the book down only to later pick it back up to see what Clive will say next.

When finished I can see me putting the book away for a few months and then bringing it back out and start all over again. I am sure that I will see much that I did not notice the first time around. I even might find myself doing this several times before being finished with it.

If you like only to look and not think - don't buy it, but if you like reading and delving deep into a subject "and" you like street photography - by all means buy it...

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