Candid or Street?

“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.

© Dave Whenham

Down but not out with the pigeons (Fuji X-T10 Samyang 8mm fisheye lens)

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.

© Dave Whenham

A Slice of Life (Fuji X-T10 with XF18-55mm @ 55mm)

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.

© Dave Whenham

South Bank, London (Fuji X-T10 as above)

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.

© Dave Whenham

Covent Garden, London (Fuji X-T10 as above)

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.

© Dave Whenham

Covent Garden, London (Fuji X-T10 as above)

Finally, a vibrant colour image to end this short series, that still manages to maintain the theme of multiculturalism and mobile technology.

© Dave Whenham

West End, London (Fuji X100T)

All images © Dave Whenham