Street Photography: An Imagined Community

Social media and the internet in general are wonderful for those of us who are committed to somewhat specialised endeavours.

I’ve been reading the posts of quite a few people for a while now. Though I’ve never met them in person, I’ve been inspired by their examples and their work. You could sort of tell the kind of people they are by their posts.

Benedict Anderson uses the term “imagined community” to refer to a person’s sense of belonging to a group (he was talking about nationhood) even though he or she may never have met all its members. I know I may be presumptuous here, but I’d like to think these are members of my imagined street photography community.

In an ideal world, I’d really like to have a few rounds of beer with all of them at the same table. It’ll be an absolute blast.

Here are a few sites/people I’m constantly checking out.

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Eric Kim

Eric bares his soul in quite a few of his posts. Here, he wrote about street photography and social media. Here, he wrote about GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), a common affliction for photographers. And my favourite post here is about what drives him and how he’s seeking to follow his passion and at the same time remain realistic about bread and butter issues.

Ming Thein

This guy is a hyper-achiever. Put together an MBA ethos with a photographer’s sensibility and this is who you’ll get. [Edit: Ming Thein says he doesn’t have an MBA (see comments below) but it’s undeniable that he really is very focused, committed and productive.]   He’s not a street photographer per se but I do admire his mastery of photography techniques. In two years, he wrote 780 articles, had 9.5 million visitors, and received 36 000 comments! Check out his post on printing here.

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Shoot Tokyo

Dave is another photographer with an MBA ethos. [Edit: Dave says he doesn’t have an MBA (see comment below) but it’s undeniable that he really is very focused, committed and productive.] I think he’s a high-level business executive or a business owner. He’s a flaneur in Tokyo. And check out his Leicas! Yes, Leicas as in plural! Check out his wonderful prints for sale here.

Thomas Leuthard

He’s offering free street photography ebooks! I like his article here on why street photographers do what we do. His Flickr site is more extensive.

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Yanidel Street Photography

He’s on a street photography and life project that will take him around the world in eighty weeks, from Paris to Switzerland and then to Spain, Portugal, London, Turkey, Mexico, Cuba, and so on (you could see his itinerary here.) This article helped me realise that I tend to favour a certain style of street photography, and is useful in helping me vary my way of doing things once in a while.  This article addresses the central existential question every street photographer must ask of himself or herself: 35mm or 50mm?

Invisible Photographer Asia

This is the go-to place for street and documentary photographers based in Asia. You’ll get lots of street cred if your work has been featured here. (One day, one day I’ll make it.) Kudos to Kevin Lee, the person who started it all.

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Click the “equipment” link and you’ll find tons of information on film cameras. Thanks to this site, I decided on a Yashica GX so as to learn to handle aperture priority, and on a Canonet QL17 G III to handle shutter priority and manual. I’ve been using the previous two cameras for a couple of months before finally buying a Leica M6.  Karen Nakamura is an ethnographer by profession. While the site, as far as I know, is no longer being updated, it is the go-to place to learn about film cameras you could use for visual ethnography, a discipline closely affiliated to street photography.

Japan Camera Hunter

While I’ve never bought anything from Bellamy Hunt before, others have done so. See here (Eric’s video) and here (about the Contax T3 that Dave, the Shoot Tokyo guy, bought from Bellamy ). This guy definitely has street cred. His three articles here, here and here on where to buy film photography gear in Hong Kong is my go-to guide. I basically spent a few happy weekends checking out some of these places. I definitely owe this guy a few beers.

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These are a few sites/people who are exploring the use of social media alongside street photography. In some cases, it’s related to their day jobs. In a few other instances, you could say street photography is part of a portfolio of various other endeavours.

In the age of social media, it’s important to embrace the “no one knows anything” ethos. The phrase was used by William Goldman in relation to Hollywood, to describe how, in the end, there is no such thing as a fixed formula to doing things and even “experts” are constantly surprised by unanticipated surprises in the fields of their own supposed expertise.

I’m beginning to think that in the end, there are no experts, and that it is only committed and thoughtful practitioners who will thrive. The only thing to do is to open ourselves to the possibilities of positive black swans (a phrase coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, whose books I return to again and again).

These people inspire me with what they do and I wish them all the best.

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At my end, I’m working on a poetry plus street photography manuscript and am planning to teach a new undergraduate course on photography, writing and social media hopefully in the next academic year. I’m taking baby steps here compared to these people.

P.S. Have I missed anyone? I know the list is definitely not exhaustive and skewed in terms of gender. Would be grateful if anyone could could fill in the gaps.

7 thoughts on “Street Photography: An Imagined Community

  1. Thanks for the great resources! I have a family of budding photographers who are interested in street photography. I just downloaded two of the free ebooks from Thomas Leuthard’s site.

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