Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Teaching Street Photography: The "Aha" Moment (+ featured student photos!)

My first online street photography class, which I'm teaching online at the Bryan Peterson School Of Photography, is underway, after a four-year hiatus. It's heading into its third week. I'm loving the challenge of turning curious photography enthusiasts into qualified street shooters. Some of my students are struggling, some started to "get" it immediately, but the most gratifying experience is to watch a student have an "Aha!" moment. That started happening this week.

(Registration is open now for the June course, which begins on Friday, June 5.)

Here's how my class works: Students read a lesson in which I talk about various aspects of street photography. I share my techniques, provide examples and videos that hopefully help my students get a sense of how to approach total strangers and photograph them in public places without their awareness. Then they get an assignment: walk down a city street, take pictures using my techniques and theories. Each week students submit five photos, and I critique them.

This is where I see students grow. Most start cautiously and become braver as the weeks go by. Some don't really get what I'm asking them to do visually, and have a tough time unlearning the more traditional rules (what rules?) of composition that they've been taught elsewhere.

But by the second assignment, I start to see breakthroughs.

Take Julie Davis, one of my current students. Here was one of the shots she initially posted for critique this week:

© Julie Davis

My comment for this image was: "While this doesn't quite come together, it's a very good attempt. Look at the whole picture, and all of the elements within it: The girl, the three people talking and their body language, the cop in the background on his cell phone, the pavement lines, power lines--everything that tells the story of this image. Watch how these elements either play off each other or create humorous or surprising juxtapositions and contrasts. Develop your peripheral vision and anticipation skills. Notice things going on down the block and anticipate what might happen as you walk towards it, or they walk towards you."

Her response? She posted a different photo from the same day. ("Maybe this is better?" she asked)

© Julie Davis

What a difference! Everything comes together here—the incongruous interplay between the people in the background, the rabbit, the father and son, and the person's picture on the side of the van, all work together nicely. I can't wait to see what Julie submits next week. For her, I hope this is her "Aha!" moment.

More student photos from this week that I really like (all reproduced with their kind permission):

© David Powers

© Elizabeth Combes

© Judith Beupre

Let's see what they deliver next week!

Want to learn street photography? I'm teaching this course again starting June 5, and registration is open now. Go here to register.

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