You are reading it right, it has to die but not as a genre but as a term. There is a lot of confusion coming from the fact that some think this term is self-explanatory or is made of rubber that can be stretched to cover what they want SP to be. There are also people that want to mix genres or make some suitable exclusions but still label this Street Photography. Very often you can find statements that SP can’t be defined or it’s a personal thing. All of that is diluting perception of this genre and I stand against it.
Street Photography was never the same thing from the start. Looking at timeline of history of photography we can clearly see that SP was something different at the beginning and afterwards. This term was stumbling for some time until it finally stopped and associated itself with certain kind of artistic side of photography that for decades is recognized in works, publications and exhibitions. Explosion of digital photography and especially mobile photography that allowed anyone to capture almost unlimited amount of pictures and then upload it to social media made an aggressive input into the genre. The ease of access to platforms and popular sites that allow one to share views made things even worse in terms of messaging what this genre is about. High ranking photo news websites, profiles, popular reviewers and social media don’t speak one voice about Street Photography so for beginners or just viewers it’s not clear what it is. I don’t want elaborate new ways to approach this genre but more about the trunk of this tree.
Street Photography is an easy term and contrary to first impression it’s not self-explanatory. It doesn’t have to happen on the street or include it nor speak about it. Street in Street Photography is more like a signal that this photography happens outside your private space. Before popularization of TV and internet ‘life’ happened on the streets and that was primary place for street photographers. It stands a solid ground to these days that SP happens in public space.
I see that many goes out and desire to photograph the world around, to speak with strangers, listen to their stories, portrait them or just document the life of a city. Others are fascinated with architecture, clothing, colors, light or simply anything that they think might interest others. It is absolutely fine and OK to practice and share this kind of photography but totally unfair to call it Street Photography. It comes from being told wrong things about SP or just disregarding exploration of a genre. There are plenty of other genres like urban, architecture, travel, social media, lifestyle, documentary etc. etc. and yet the easiest way is to call it Street Photography because it was done on the streets. In SP we don’t want to see the world how it is and how we are used to seeing it every day. There has to be ‘something’ extraordinary, unexpected, uncommon etc. shot candidly that doesn’t require context. Clear indication of not understanding is almost any SP contest where majority of applicants upload whatever did on the streets. Street Photography from a tree with a trunk is becoming an unorganized bush.
If that’s the case then I would like term Street Photography to die because only then we can raise two new terms. First the cryptic or not so understandable one to describe what Street Photography was for decades. You wouldn’t associate your photography with less understandable term without knowing more about it’s roots and prerequisites. Second term for that new wave of social photography that nowadays lends the term Street Photography. It would be healthier to have these two separated, but I am fully aware it might never happen and the fight to reclaim the correct understanding of term Street Photography will be still on.
Do you think that holding the handle SP puts us under same umbrella of photography ? Take a look at printed publications about SP, popular SP collectives and members’ portfolio, is it really the same genre you practice ? Maybe by changing label you will easily become a master of some ‘other photography’ and there is no need to force it with naming Street Photography.
If you would like to learn more about epochs of Street Photography then this site is a great source :