Why call it street photography? It sounds ridiculous!

Article Dedication

in Honor and Memory of

Anthony William ‘Tony’ Jones aka Tony ‘Indiana’ Jones

Tony was an early travel mentor of mine. As a young kid starting out, he generously breast-fed me a diet of comisionistas and barequeros on the Avenida Jimenez


Since I have a lifetime ban from the Rangefinder Forum I will discuss the Why Street? topic here. My comments are in green.

From the Rangefinder Forum… 

Devin Bro
B-9's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Michigan
Posts: 1,453

Why? Street

You know what frustrates me?

“It’s not good for shooting street”

“I only shoot street”

“Street photography”

“It will be great for those who do street”

It sounds rediculous!

Hello, My name is Devin, I’m a street carpenter, I only work with wood on the street, my Estwing 16oz hammer is ideal for street carpentry, but my sledge is just to bulky and people really notice how large it is when I’m hammering wood in the street.

I love my cameras (tools) and taking photos is the product of my love. I couldnt care less about anyone’s opinion of my photos. I am not a photographer! I am an Artist with many tools.

This is a fad I see on EVERY video about a new camera. It’s apparently a new criteria for manufacturers.
Why is this such a fad these days? “Street”

The ‘street photography’ designation is not ridiculous. If you were a dedicated street photog you would realize this B-9. It is very small minded of you to think that all photography is the same and uses the same tools. You should know that a rough carpenter is not the same as a finish carpenter or a chair maker. They each have their own skill set and tools.

Zig Ziglar, the wise man from Yazoo City, Mississippi used to ask…”Do you want to be a wandering generality or a meaningful specific?”

Unless we know what our specialty is, how can we become meaningful in our work B-9?


Sad Buskers Times Square

Selection from The Americans…60 years after Frank artist’s book

by Daniel D. Teoli Jr. (Candid infrared flash photograph)

Street photography is popular because it can be participated in right out of our front door. Photogs need something to shoot and street is one of the easiest genre to get into. Street photography is also time honored, empowering and very rewarding to do.

But I take it from your post you are not taking issue with people taking photos on the street, you are just upset with the concept of using street photography as a marketing concept and possibly as a legitimate field of photography.

From the very beginnings of photography, photographers have been fascinated with the candid photo.

Click on image for hi res version

Nowadays, the camera companies need an ever growing customer base to keep buying cameras, so they market to a hopefully growing segment of camera consumers…the street photographer. But, street photography is just one of the many dozens of categories that photography specialties can be categorized in.

Selection from Peephole: Peering Into the World of 1970’s Hollywood and L.A. artist’s book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr. (Candid)

Just because one can produce well in one genre, it does not mean they can produce as well in all areas.  Just like medical specialties, cooking specialties, construction specialties, we have specialties in photography.

Pages in category “Photography by genre” Wikipedia


(Looks like they are missing Infrared Photography and Infrared Flash Photography in the Wiki list.) 

Registered User
Arbitrarium's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2016
Posts: 87

Just another buzzword to draw in the easily-influenced and those desperate to be part of a clique.

But as a genre of photography it’s as good a word as any for urban, people-focused photography.

However, yeah… describing one camera as being better or worse for street (sorry) photography is a load of garbage.


Not true.  Some cameras are more conducive to candid street work. But, what other than misinformation can we expect from someone like this?

Take a look at Arbitrarium’s street work:


This is why I harp on the smug camera fondlers. They think they know everything under the sun when it comes to all aspects of photography and the reality is; they don’t know their ass from the proverbial hole in the ground.

The fondlers dispense the wrong information and the young gun photogs coming up lap it up as gospel. No wonder we have such shitty street photography on the photo forums.

Lost Princess Copyright 2013 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

The Lost Princess (Candid)

Selection from The Americans…60 years after Frank artist’s book

by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

In Weegee’s day the photog didn’t have to worry about being labelled a sexual predator when he shot stranger kids on the street. But nowadays things are very different, especially for an old guy like me in his 60’s that takes pixs of stranger kids on the street. Consequently, if you want to shoot kids on the street, you had better have very good candid skills.

Weegee said there was no such thing as a ‘candid camera,’ there are just candid photographers. I would respectively have to disagree at least half-way with Weegee and say every camera is not the same when it comes to their ability to be good as candid street cams.

But Weegee came from an age where he did it all with a 4 x 5 press camera, so he was used to making due with a 9 pound monster. The flip side of the coin is as Weegee said. Even if you give a small camera to a incompetent street photog they wont be able to do any good with candids.

1936 Temple of Dreams Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Archival Collection m

Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Archival Collection



You never know when your fast, street shooting skills will come in handy. I was driving to the airport and drove past a homeless tent encampment in L.A. No place to stop, already late for my flight…I shot it through my car’s windshield while driving.

In the Shadow of City Hall

From The Americans…60 years after Frank artist’s book

by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

…and the fast street skills you develop on asphalt are readily transferable when you go indoors on carpet…

Happy Hour

Selection from On the Fly artist’s book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

I’ve been a street / doc photog for 48 years. My photographs are in over 130 museums and curated collections around the world.

Partial Listing:


I’ve got nothing to sell you, no agenda to push, so I am not going to feed you a lot of bullshit. I’m not trying to get you to buy my book or come to my seminar. I’m not pretending to be a ‘rumor mill’ that is secretly funded by the camera companies. You don’t have to PayPal me $5 to support my ever growing family. I am just telling you the truth, as I can best discern it to be, according to my experience as a street photographer.

Yes, you can do street work with most any cam, but if your goal is candid photography, some systems are just not best suited for it. It is like forcing a cook to use a machete to peel potatoes instead of a paring knife. They are both knives, yes you could use it if you must, but they are not really fungible.



Selection from The Americans…60 years after Frank artist’s book

by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.


No Arbitrarium, street photography is not always a clique, for many of us it is our life. Yes, they have meet-ups with hoards of camera fondlers roving the street for photo ops, but these are usually not serious street photogs.

Bikers Mardi Gras #14 Copyright 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Selection from Biker’s Mardi Gras artist’s book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

The gift that photography provides me is a way to make sense of my world. I don’t do photography to make money or to try and ‘change the world’ for the better. I am not a god, I don’t claim to know what is better. But, I can freeze time to get a better look of it at home.

Selection from Peephole: Peering Into the World of 1970’s Hollywood and L.A. artist’s book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

You see,  if freezing time is in your blood, being a do-gooder or making $ does not matter.  If your dedicated to your art, you must produce and keep producing, whether you have an outlet or not to make $…or even have any practical use for your output.


Faces of Gentrification

Selection from The Americans…60 years after Frank artist’s book

by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Art is the way many of us make sense of our world. A wordsmith sifts it all through their brain and writes a book or article, a musician composes a song, a poet pens a poem, an artist sketches a drawing or does a painting, a photog shoots a pix, a sculptor forms a statue, a choreographer creates a dance. We each express what is in us and make sense of our world through our art.

Selection from Peephole: Peering Into the World of 1970’s Hollywood and L.A. artist’s book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Georges Simenon summed up how it is for the writer and this can go for any of the arts as well.

“Writing is considered a profession, and I don’t think it is a profession. I think that everyone who does not need to be a writer, who thinks he can do something else, ought to do something else. Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness. I don’t think an artist can ever be happy.”

Irrespective of recognition, fame and riches, dedicated photogs all have one thing in common…we know photography is our life blood and as long as we can keep pressing the button and freeze time, we feel the better for it.

Weegee on the subject…

“Sure. I’d like to live regular. Go home to a good looking wife, a hot dinner, and a husky kid. But I guess I got film in my blood.”


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css9450's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Chicago
Posts: 642

Originally Posted by B-9 View Post
I like Urban over Street to categorize photos.

Urban works for me. I don’t do “people” photos but I shoot a lot in blighted parts of the big city. I don’t call what I do “street”.

Nikon S2, S3, F, F2, FM2, FA, N90S, D80, D7000, D750, Sony a6000, Canon IIf, Leica CL, Tower type 3, Zorki 4, Vito B, Perkeo II, Rollei 35….

css9450 is offline

Fair enough.  You call your work urban – I will call my work street.

Street work is mainly about candid photography of people on the street. If you ask for permission and pose the subject then it is termed as street portraits. But, just because you are good at street portraits it does not mean you are good at candid street work and vice versa.

Cornered Copyright 1973 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Selection from Peephole: Peering Into the World of 1970’s Hollywood and L.A. artist’s book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr. 

Within this genre we can always mix in a few photos that do not have live people in them. But if someone wants a book on street photography they usually are not looking for a book full of statues and sunsets, which both are also on the street.


Selection from The Americans…60 years after Frank artist’s book

by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Registered User
Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: Des Moines, IA
Posts: 24

I think documentary could be a good way to describe street photos. I see a lot of images labeled street that really don’t have a punchline but do a good job documenting the scene.

NeonKnight is offline

Sure, street is a form of social documentary photography, but a dedicated book on street photography should not be all about interior documentary photography. We can mix in a few with our street work, but don’t overdo it.

New Year’s Eve…Skid Row Bar

Selection from Peephole: Peering Into the World of 1970’s Hollywood and L.A. artist’s book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr. (Candid)

Here is the Hierarchy of Documentary Photography which I developed:

1. Candid events unfolding as they happen.

2. If it cannot be perfected or obtained as a candid, then the photo must be posed.

3. If it cannot be perfected or obtained as a posed photo, then it must be staged with the proviso it is a recreation of past events, preferably with the actual persons reenacting the events.

4. Figments of the imagination. Varies in documentary value.  Can be based on pure speculation or a recount of events.



1967 photo of Diane Arbus taken by Fred McDarrah

Just because you have documentary talents it does not mean you have great candid street talents. Diane Arbus was a good example of this. She was good at befriending oddball people and taking street portraits, but she was not known for candid street work. Her gear picks were also not the best for candid street shooting.

Arbus was not the only woman ‘street photog’ that bulked up on gear…

Mary Ellen Mark with street camera setup

2010 Internet photo of Mary Ellen Mark

If the photog specializes in street portraits then almost any cam will do. The photog can take their time to get the shot. The criteria is; if the camera can record the scene then it will work. 

26Whoop-Whoop 123 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr (9)

Selection from 180: The Circular Fisheye at Large artist’s book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

The problem with some of the so-called street cams is they do not have fast enough auto focus or you can’t adjust the controls fast enough to get the shot. As a street photog, we don’t have the luxury of retaking missed shots. 


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Join Date: Feb 2017
Posts: 27

So much of street photography seems to me to confuse subject for content, including so-called “masters” like Meyerowitz. Artistically, he has nothing to say. Where Evans’ great achievement was apprehending the distinctiveness of the American vernacular, both its zenith and swift decline, in the built environment — which is to say, figuring the uniqueness of the confluence of a ‘new world’ frontier character, the verve of black culture as it evolved in America and, later, the ascendency of consumer capitalism upon daily lives — well, Meyerowitz and his attendant fan boys then and now give us meaningless compositions of serendipitous emptiness, “moments”, neither decisive nor determined, to reveal more than that which we can see. Which is fine, I suppose. After all, real artists are rare. For the rest of us, the street is where we belong. And as Seinfeld noted, “not that there’s anything wrong with that!”

The thing the art community likes about the Meyerowitz’s, Eggleston’s and Winogrand’s of the world is their work does not offend anyone. It can be shown anywhere. Meyerowitz is also a very good public speaker, so he is in demand for speaking events.

Hakenkreuz in a Dress copyright 1973 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Hakenkreuz in a Dress   (Not staged – an American Nazi in her bedroom)

Selection from Peephole: Peering Into the World of 1970’s Hollywood and L.A. artist’s book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr. 

There is a reason I list myself as an ‘underground’ social doc photog. My work is unacceptable for public viewing, shows and exhibitions. I am snubbed at every turn due to prejudice, censorship and societal conventions. Be that as it may, I don’t do social documentary photography for other’s approval.  So, whether snubbed or loved, I only have to please myself with my work.

BMG Project Infrared Flash 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr mr - Copy


Selection from Piercing Darkness artist’s book

by Daniel D. Teoli Jr. (Candid infrared flash photograph)


From the DP Forum…. (They banned me after a few days.)

“Welcome to the Documentary and Street photography Forum, the place to discuss techniques and share galleries and tips related to documentary and street photography.” 

Techniques and tips related to documentary and street photography sums up why a photog needs to label and be clear about their niche they are specializing in. Street photography, museum quality street photography that is, requires special techniques and skills.

Selection from Piercing Darkness artist’s book

by Daniel D. Teoli Jr. (Candid infrared flash photograph)

Just because I am shooting infrared flash at night it does not mean I am invisible. I still have to have outstanding candid skills to get the photo. Since infrared flash does not work at great distances, using it means I have to work very close to my subjects. 

A lot of the so-called street work produced nowadays is done by camera fondlers.


The camera fondlers can’t produce anything worthwhile since they have never put in the time to develop advanced street skills. Through ignorance they tend to dismiss other’s work, concepts and techniques as we have seen in B-9’s post.

I spent 4 years+ just on developing my infrared flash techniques and street skills. Yes, they are 2 distinct skill sets. One set is for the technical aspects of infrared flash photography, the other set deals with candid techniques for using infrared flash. 

Selection from Peephole: Peering Into the World of 1970’s Hollywood and L.A. artist’s book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

With regards to gear…almost any of the modern day auto focus cams will beat a rangefinder or manual focus SLR for speed of focus. But, few of the modern day cams will beat a manual cam for on the fly, instantaneously, with no shutter lag shooting in bad light.

21Whoop-Whoop 21 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Selection from Whoop-Whoop artist’s book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

It is not that I am stuck on old SLR manual focus lenses and rangefinder designs for retro snob appeal, but these 2 components are what is required to ‘get the shot’ in many of the situations I find myself in. Couple the manual ability with a compact footprint…and you have a great street cam

In the old days, all our cams were manual design. We never thought anything about it. So the camera companies didn’t go out of their way with promoting cameras as street friendly. You had small cameras, medium cameras and big cameras. But they were all manual cameras and the only choice you had was to decide on size.

12Whoop-Whoop 38 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Selection from Whoop-Whoop artist’s book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

If you have the money, Leica has perfected what is needed in a documentary camera eons ago. Impeccable manual controls, simplicity, reliability and a small footprint.  The compact Leica especially excels at low-light, manual focus and / or zone focus work.

The other benefit of the Leica is straightforward manual controls like shutter speeds and aperture. You can adjust the controls without even looking at the camera, you can just count the clicks.

This is not revolutionary stuff…focus, aperture and shutter speed and the rule of 16 was how it had always been back in the day…until the camera fondling engineers complicated the equipment.

The worst invention they ever made was the shutter program dial. The menu driven cameras are so complex nowadays, I would love to shoot the M43’s if they were Leica-like, but I can hardly figure out how to adjust them.

26 De Wallen Artists' Book Copyright Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr.

Selection from De Wallen: Amsterdam’s Red Light District artist’s book

by Daniel D. Teoli Jr. (Candid)

Another nice thing about the Leica is you can zone focus a Leica by not looking at it. You feel the protrusion on the lens and adjust it to a predetermined spot correlating to the focus scale. 

For those on a budget, a used Fuji-X does offers some of the same benefits as the Leica with limited manual controls. But in low light, the Fuji has terrible low light autofocus and most of their lenses are dumbed down when it comes to manual controls.

Selection from Peephole: Peering Into the World of 1970’s Hollywood and L.A. artist’s book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

If you are not shooting in tough lighting conditions or fast, on the fly shooting, then most any modern day digital cam will produce to one degree or another. Some may be better than others with ‘this or that’ feature, but it usually boils down to the photog, more so than the cam.

Alan Watts used to say we define ourselves by our enemies. He used the beatniks and squares as examples. That is what the opening post by B-9 smacks of. I find this attitude all over the photo landscape…if I can’t compete, then my ego demands I must condemn.


Now, besides cameras, there is another aspect of doing museum quality street work we have not discussed. That aspect is the attitude and personality of the street photog.

Weegee gives us the bottom line

Backup audio link:


There is a high chance the hardcore street photog is going to have a different attitude, personality and ego than an anal landscaper or star trail photog. The street photog may not be as anal as the tripod photog when it comes to technical aspects, but their nature shows a different anal aspect when it comes to their personality.


Grand Central Station NYC (Candid)

The street photog may have to work outside of normally accepted societal conventions if they want to get the shot. As such, that special ‘anal aspect’ the street photog must posses can be summed up in the vernacular thusly…success on the street sometimes involves being an asshole.

The photog usually does not set out to be an asshole, but when you concentrate only on ‘getting the shot’ it is a natural offshoot of the process. And this need to be an asshole only comes about if you insist on in-your-face, candid photography like I do. On the positive side, the better you are at candid work, the less asshole-ish you need to be.


Holy Water Bowl St. Patrick’s Cathedral NYC (Candid)

If you’re OK with doing the garden variety street photography you see on photo forums, the asshole issue should not be a problem for anyone. Just shoot from the hip far away or get a long telephoto lens, stand across the street and blast away.

But the majority of this type of photo forum street work I see smacks of…’Hey look at me, I just shot a mishmash of strangers on the street that don’t mean anything to anyone.’ These photos usually only hold interest to the photog that took them and possibly the people in the photo.

Order Women Like Pizza Daniel D. Teoli Jr. v29 mrOrder Women Like Pizza Copyright 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Order Women Like Pizza – Las Vegas (Candid)

The confused, mishmash of strangers on the street is what I try to avoid…and I avoid it by getting personal with my subjects. And getting personal with strangers is where the need to be an asshole comes in.

De Wallen Postcards copyright 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Selection from De Wallen: Amsterdam’s Red Light District artist’s book
by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

You will have to decide if what I have laid out here is right for you. What I have told you is how I do it, but it is by no means the only way to do street photography.

When I was a young photog growing up in L.A. I wanted to be a fashion / studio photog. One day it sunk in I had no talent for those areas. I decided to move on to street and social doc photography and never looked back. That was a day of enlightenment for me. If you are dissatisfied with your photography you will need your own day of enlightenment to see where your talent lies.

Good luck in finding it!


The Flappers -Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Archival Collection (1)m

Selection from The Flappers

a 6 volume artist’s book series

by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.


A complete listing of artist’s books by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.



De Wallen Graffiti 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.