Street photography - a quick comparison between a few photographers, starting with Joel Meyerowitz

Now that I've been working on the exercises of the People - Unaware chapter, I notice more and more that the images you shoot are more a result of what you're looking for than what is happening around you. It's a bit of a 'duh' conclusion, but since I'm just a beginner in looking at art photography, I'm still sort of programmed in the idea that what you see is an objective reflection of what happened and some photographers just happen to see weirder things than others.

But after having visited exhibitions of a bigger range of street photographers I discover more and more that the images shown are most of all the result of decisions and feelings from the photographers themselves. They know what they are looking for when taking the photographs, they know how they can reflect their own inner beings in the images, their sense of composition, their love for colour. The photos  are a direct result of what interests the photographer in the scene that he is seeing. 

When looking at the work of these photographers, I start wondering about the kind of challenges, decisions and moods they had when they were out and about taking photographs. Were they mindful of what was respectful to photograph and what not? Were they out there to picture the subjects in who they are, or did they subject the subjects to their own ideas and prejudices of the subjects? 

Naturally, they all have pre-conceived ideas about their subjects and what it is they want to show. For example, Joel Meyerovitz' work  seems to focus on the subtle expressions and body language that come about in the interaction between people with their environment and each other in different kind of situations. In a stream of anonymous people and happenings, there are expressions that are recognisable and make you connect with and curious about the subject, even though they're passing by. For example in  this image:

Joel Meyerowitz,  (1975)  New York City.  [print] [online image]. Place: Edwynn Hook Gallery, NY. Available from: [Accessed 12 May 2014]. 

Joel Meyerowitz,  (1975) New York City. [print] [online image]. Place: Edwynn Hook Gallery, NY. Available from: [Accessed 12 May 2014]. 

The two ladies on the left seem to be in a hurry, they have a serious look, obviously thinking about something ahead of them, while the lady with the dog is looking up at the sky, catching some sun rays and enjoying the moment it seems. Her look doesn't seem to fit in the scene, which makes it so interesting. But even in an image in which something dramatic seems to have happened, it's the response of the bystanders that I'm most drawn to, the victim is not even completely visible. 

Joel Meyerowitz, (1973)  Paris.  [print] [online image]. Place: Edwynn Hook Gallery, NY. Available from: [Accessed 12 May 2014].

Joel Meyerowitz, (1973) Paris. [print] [online image]. Place: Edwynn Hook Gallery, NY. Available from: [Accessed 12 May 2014].

In every picture I'm wondering what the photographer was trying to tell me, what was he seeing? Like in the image above, was there a conscious decision to show the chaos of the cars and less people on the right? What are his compositional decisions? Was he shocked that the man on the left was running off? 

Joel Meyerowitz seems to find the extraordinary out of ordinary situations and photographs in such a way that its viewers are drawn to these subtleties and start thinking and seeing their ordinary lives in a different way. He's looking for surprises, doesn't try to shock or alienate its viewers, but actually draws them in, let's them dream and wonder about the simple, but most important things in life.