The Prague Spring brought Viktor Kolář to Canada at the age of 27. He didn’t want to live under the Communist regime that would force him to lie. Though he was already a photographer at the time, as a foreigner, he needed to earn a living with the physically demanding and dangerous work in the molybdenum mines in the mountains 400 miles from Vancouver. A few years later, when he was well on his way to becoming a renowned photographer, he decided to return as an unknown emigrant to his native Ostrava. For the remainder of his life, he left his mark on Ostrava with his black and white images.
Vivian Maier (1926-2009) is one of the 20th century’s strangest photographers. Her pictures inspire with the simplicity and beauty of daily life. And yet, even though today we rank her alongside Diane Arbus, Robert Doisneau and Helena Levitt, she was completely unknown until 2009. She took over 120,000 pictures and left more than 2,000 roll films behind her—and never showed them to anyone. Where can we take inspiration from her for our own street photography?
The days are quickly getting shorter, and so even for us night owls, it’s worth heading into the streets with our cameras just before dawn. That’s because the morningtime city offers a feast for the eyes. In the empty and half-empty streets filled with still-waking light, pictures are a joy to find.
Metropolises are more than just streets lined with glass and steel skyscrapers—they’re also living organisms full of endless motion and commotion. Almost never-ending streams of cars flow through the streets—the urban arteries—and human figures rush by on the sidewalks. Motion is the city’s essence. And you can express it in your pictures using a fairly simple technique—blurring the picture.
Street photography is dynamic and full of surprises, once-in-a-lifetime moments, stories, and faces, as well as unexpected enchanting corners. It throws the cover off of day-to-day life and details that we normally overlook. And meanwhile you can do it practically anywhere. You just pick up a camera and head out into the street.
Photographing people and nature is a classic, but cities are very photogenic too. No matter whether you’re in your hometown or passing through a metropolis while on vacation, if you have a camera handy, you can refine your skill at capturing hidden and public beauty. Here are a few tips for your next urban photo safari.