ON STREET PHOTOGRAPHY and other life changing events


How Science Are You? / New Street Agenda

The Staircase © Knut Skjærven

The Staircase © Knut Skjærven

You may ask how science comes into it.

After all, are we not talking the very practical reality of shooting in the streets?

Yes, that is just the thing. But nobody ever told you that street photography has to be ignorant photography.

Look at the real masters and I hope that you find the same as I do: These guys are brilliant and often highly educated. You will never be able to match them if you don’t make a serious effort to catch up.

Street photography, I would say, is the most challenging type of photography since you have to deal with a larger number of unknowns.  You are on the run and so are your subjects.

That is a lot to deal with.

If you look at the image above you will see what I mean. All figures are placed. Not by themselves, but by the photographer.

Back to the question: How Science Are You?

More than you know.

The procedure you use innately when reading a street image, is the same as the procedure that proper science use: looking around, finding interesting cues, testing if it works, continuing with new wisdom.

In street photography this all happens unconsciously. You can’t escape it or make it go away.

Every time you approach a photograph you have already seen it.  Not in detail, but in general terms. When you open a book on street photography, even for the first time, you already know the content of it.

You come with an unspoken assumption or hypothesis of what to expect. When you have the photograph in front of you, you are testing and get to modify your assumption.  The next time you see the picture the perception of it will be different.

We have the same pattern as in science: we look around, establish anticipations or hypothesis’, test them in the meeting with the photograph and get a little wiser.

You can never swim in the same river twice. We already know this.

Phenomenology (there it was again that word) calls this filling up an empty intention.

An assumption is an empty intention. Standing in front of an image is the full intention. If you view it properly, that is. You move from one to the other.

There will be more about empty and full intentions later. Here it is enough to know that even if you are not a scientist, or have no interest in how science works, your share being there for a photograph is an unfolding of fulfilment, and as such it links to the core of what street photography is.

These basics define how you take picture and how you read them.

© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved. 24/01/14

French translation (to come).

This is a draft chapter to the workbook New Street Agenda. There is a workshop connected to it: New Street Agenda, Berlin June 12 – 15, 2014. If you are interested, please ask for more information at mail@theuropeans.eu or use the contact form below.

Good luck with it.

This post is in category New Street Agenda.


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This entry was posted on January 24, 2014 by in New Street Agenda, The Workbook and tagged .

barebones communication

Berlin Black And White

Street Photographer’s Toolbox

At The Gallery © Knut Skjærven

The Europeans

Just In Time © Knut Skjærven

Phenomenology And Photography

© Knut Skjærven


© Knut Skjærven

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