Street Photography and the Great Beyond of Individual Existence

by: Sergio Burns

Street Photography and the Great Beyond of Individual Existence

Light, shadow and colour, not to mention brightly decorated trees, sparkling street illuminations and snow? Well, maybe snow. Okay, you guessed, well done you, yes, yes, yes, it is Christmas.

At this time of year I like to sift through my favourite memories of the previous 11 months and pick out, for me, the best moments. In music, Britney Stoney’s O.D. just oozed class and was featured on the Churchill insurance advert with the skateboarding dog – I actually loved her video too. My favourite book was Brian Merchant’s deep research of Apple : The One Device – The Secret History of the iPhone. The iPhone? Well let me tell you that the iPhone has the best selling camera in the world.

I also had the privilege of interviewing and writing features on some of the best street photographers around in 2019. Great for me, because as well as someone who likes to practice street photography I also like to think quite a bit about it, to let it tick over in my mind, to think about what street photographers are trying to do, and I have a theory they are, in some existential way, all really trying to find themselves. All looking for their own personal Idaho.

Every year I look at a lot of photographs, which, for me, is sheer joy. Each photograph offers a chance to work out who the people are, what they are doing, where are they going to/coming from?

With the above in mind, this year I have curated five photographs which, for whatever reason, resonated with me and I wanted to talk about.

In 2019 I have looked at some really great shots, and those I have listed below are excellent examples of street photography. I am not saying these are the BEST photographs of 2019, but these are five shots which captured my imagination and I want to share with you.

In November I interviewed Yiannis Yiasaris, an astute, thoughtful shooter whose Coca Cola project absolutely captivated me. The documentary-street photography set was centred around a series of shots Yiannis had taken which somehow related to the Coca Cola brand. It is a very…sociological, existential and psychologically corporate project.

The world in motion stalked by powerful representations of a fizzy drink.

The contemporary capitalist world as part of a massive movie set, where one raindrop, frozen in time, is stolen from the biggest ocean in the world.

Copyrightⓒ Yiannis Yiasaris

A bearded man in a blue turban sitting in a Domino’s Pizza is turned toward the street photographer. The world beyond the multinational restaurant chain reflected in the glass. Office skyscrapers, symbolic of corporate success reach toward the heavens, the branded universe reflected in the windows of the pizza house, and in reflection in the top right hand corner of the photograph the word ‘enjoy’.

So, ‘enjoy’ what? Why Coke of course! And then the soundtrack : Holidays are coming…

Copyrightⓒ Adam Miller

Like the solitary man in Yiannis Yiasaris’ photograph, New York’s Adam Miller also chooses a lone figure. A man caught in a blizzard, a newspaper tucked neatly under his armpit, maybe he’s been reading a review of Brian Merchant’s book on Apple?

Who is he? Certainly sharply dressed and young(ish). A hard working executive type, heading home to his wife and kids, or maybe he has just left his mistress and is now cursing staying so long when he knew the weather was closing in? ‘Where are all the New York cabs when you want one?’

This is a super lonely photograph, whoever the man is, wherever he is going to and from is irrelevant. He now finds himself in the teeth of a storm beneath a street light somewhere in New York.

For me he looks as if he is just about to disappear beneath the snow which might be a metaphor related to his job – drowning in work? Help me here, but, for some reason, I always associate this image with Radiohead’s How To Disappear Completely (which is from the band’s Kid A album, 2000)

Copyrightⓒ ILAN BURLA

Ilan Burla can always be counted on to lighten the mood. His photograph of two ladies, I assume, heading from a local beach made me smile. This is one photograph I really like.

His use of the back view, makes me think they are moving away from something – enough sunbathing for one day? But look at the swim costumes? Psychedelic street, acid street, and the low slung…bum bag (literally) and hint of a tattoo on the leg of the woman to our left draws us in. The phone in the palm of the lady to the right – has she read The One Device?

Life.

Notice also how other pedestrians are drawn to the ladies, and the guy to the left, looking at the photograph, with his camera poised ready. Street photographer taking a photograph of a street photographer taking…yeah yeah we get it…too complex…

Copyrightⓒ Gustavo Minas

Equally intriguing is Gustav Minas shot of the girl with an umbrella looking down at her phone – her iPhone? – while a blurry Spiderman swings toward her.

The girl is a meme of contemporary existence. How much time do we spend looking down? An awful lot. It made me wonder how much time we spent on our phones or looking at our phones in any one day?

Her girlfriend, just out of focus is looking over toward her perhaps seeking her attention while the Spiderman is swinging toward her to let her know her friend would like to engage her in conversation.

This is the city as that giant movie set. Light hitting the street is reflected yellowish from the rainwater.

Copyrightⓒ Gonzalo Goméz

Lady Looking Back and Nun Gonzalo Goméz and Gustavo Rosas

Why, is the first word that springs to mind when I look at this photograph. Why is the lady with the knee length sexy boots looking back? What is the nun, to her right as we look at the photograph, thinking or doing, or is she speaking? ‘Dios mio!’ (Oh my God), Spanish because the street photographers this photograph is attributed to are Uruguayan.

Has someone wolf-whistled. Maybe the lady in the boots is part of the ‘Yo Tambien’ (Me Too) movement, maybe the nun is also offended. With one gesture a man (and we presume he is a man) has offended a young liberated woman as well as a woman wedded to Jesus Christ – which somehow seems fitting for Christmas.

The above are a few photographs I curated from the interviews I have undertaken and features I have written this year.

Good as they are I am not claiming they are THE best photographs of the year, only that they intrigued me enough to want to write about them.

Maybe these photographs say something different to you. That’s great…

Right now I am listening to REM’s Shiny Happy People. What else would anyone be doing at 9.30 on a Friday evening only days away from Christmas?