New Work 2005-ongoing. Back On the STREET...
I contacted a prominent NYC Gallery a few months back to inquire about submitting my work, to which the underling I spoke with on the phone replied, “It’s not Street Photography is it?” this obviously intended as denigration of same.
Although I was polite and did not make any effort to educate this person, if she could only know how she was diminishing herself in terms of her understandings of the medium she’d be totally mortified. And I have to believe that she was articulating this idiocy purely on her own because the Dealer in question happens to be someone whose knowledge I respect.
Suffice it to say that what is known as Street Photography happens to be one of the oldest and most PROFOUND traditions in this medium to such extent that it can even be fairly said to be one of the DEFINING approaches to same. To talk of Street Photography is to go on to provide a List of what ALL serious authorities would agree are some of the most important Artists who ever picked up a camera. Just to mention a handful, Lewis Hine, Jacob Riis, Eugene Atget, Walker Evans, Paul Strand, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Harry Callahan, Robert Frank, Louis Faurer, Gary Winogrand, Lee Friedlander, Lisette Model, Dorothea Lange, Dianne Arbus, William Eggleston, Brassai, Andres Kertesz, Aaron Siskind, Roy De Carava, William Klein, W. Eugene Smith, Bill Brandt, Helen Leavitt, August Sander, Thomas Roma, Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld.
This List could go On and ON and I am so proud to add my own name to it as well. What is known as Street Photography can be said to be THE most important usage of this medium in that it documents the Life of the PEOPLE best discerned in the public byways. It is here that you will observe Life as it really IS, where Love struggles valiantly against Evil and the impositions of crass commerce and political neglect. This is where you will observe the mad pace of modern urban existence and the pathos of all those who must regularly run this course for their daily bread, their stress and yearning for release indelibly etched in their faces.
OR as I have related it elsewhere, “The Street is where the raw semiotics of our life and culture can best be discerned.” This is where you will observe the TRUTH of Life that gives the lie to the false propaganda of Madison Avenue and Hollywood, the Politicians and the Privileged. The Rich may escape in their chauffered Limos but for the rest of US, it is in the street and a million stultifying almost identical little cubicles in corporate offices where our struggle to make a life for ourselves and our families is daily negotiated!
SO I’m back to it now after a respite of my own, over a Decade of living and photographing the rural experience of upstate New York where I make my primary home. And just as that inspired me as a new and unknown territory for exploration, given my long absence and the way things have changed over the last few decades I find myself inspired anew by the life of these urban streets, a world both familiar and alien at the same time.
But getting back to how I started this write, the question that needs to be asked is why it is there seems to be such FEAR of this depiction of REALITY today, why does the establishment go to such great lengths to try to insist that Photography ‘Lies’ in deference to promotion of pictures that only ‘emulate’ same? The idea is ABSURD, a camera is just a dumb machine which only ability is to RECORD the physical facts before it. To attribute such human failing as dishonesty to it is the most sophomoric notion imaginable. PEOPLE Lie but in the right hands, Photographs remain the most FAITHFUL record of the world we live in...
Shelly Rusten, NYC