“A candid photograph is a photograph captured without creating a posed appearance.”
I’m very cautious with regards to this genre of photography, not least because it seems very loosely defined but mainly because it can be misinterpreted at times. I regularly take photographs of other peoples children in a candid style; unposed but with their full knowledge, and indeed permission. I rarely however take candids “on the street” where the subjects may or may not know I’ve taken their photograph. Every now and then though I do take a camera out with the express intention of making some “street photographs”.
To reference Wikipedia (again):
“Street photography is photography conducted for art or enquiry that features unmediated chance encounters and random incidents within public places. Street photography does not necessitate the presence of a street or even the urban environment.”
My own take on a definition is a little less pretentiously worded, I see it as documenting everyday life and society around me. People are a large part of street photography but not a necessity to my mind; capturing a slice of life can be done without the presence of people. That said, most of my “street” work contains candid images of passers-by.
There are however definite limits to what I will and won’t photograph in the name of street or candid photography. Pictures that exploit a persons situation for the sake of it without making a social (or political) point are in my mind a no-go. I’m not suggesting that a portrait of a homeless man for example is not legitimate, it is, but for me I would only feel comfortable making the portrait with permission. Juxta-positioning wealth with poverty however might be a different matter (I won’t know how I’d react however until the opportunity arises). Similarly, photographing children is an absolute no-no. That is probably a sad reflection of modern-day Britain and almost certainly means that the kind of socially-driven street photography of the immediate post-war years for example will not exist for future generations to see. I love seeing black and white images of the London street urchins in the 1950s East End but in the twenty-first century that is evidently a taboo photographic subject.
However, slices of modern life, such as the example above, are what I look for when shooting candids on the street. Contemporary life in a multi-cultural society obsessed with technology. The next image echoes this theme.
Neither of these two images mocks or exploits its subjects to my mind, both show a slice of contemporary life and would show future generations a glimpse of how we live now. Incidentally, I took two photographs of this young couple and in the second you can see that she was aware of my presence as she is smiling and looking straight at me.
Another “street” image (above), another mobile phone paired with that staple of British conversation – the weather, or more precisely the rain. All of these fulfil the definition of both candid and street photography. I suspect for many “street photographers” the use of candids is their primary approach although I do know of several photographers who actually approach strangers in the street and ask to take their portrait. These are undoubtedly “street” to my mind but definitely not candid. At present I am more comfortable with the candid approach however there have been several occasions when the subject has noticed I was taking their photograph; in some instances they’ve simply carried on walking or turned away but in others they’ve simply smiled, a courtesy I’ve returned before carrying on my way.
Finally, a vibrant colour image to end this short series, that still manages to maintain the theme of multiculturalism and mobile technology.
All images © Dave Whenham