Steve Williams’ talk on Street Photography for the PSCC …. 25.3.2021

Date Published 
Fri 26 Mar 2021

I wasn’t counting so I have no idea how many images Steve showed us on this night but it seemed a constant flow for well over 90 minutes so possibly many hundreds! Pictures from all sorts of places and of varying success but that was the point. By its very nature this genre can be pretty hit or miss. Even he admitted that an eight hours session walking around London might produce no more that half a dozen really worth while images.

He had done a bit of that too as had gone on the last properly organised London 24/24 run by Will Cheung of Photo News. This was a couple of years ago when the traditional mid-summer night coincided with a 34 degree heat wave. Three pm to three pm the next day with no sleep. Great opportunities to get deserted streets of course. However Steve believed that really Street Photography should best include people even though that makes it much more difficult. On the upside when the humans behave they can absolutely make the picture. He illustrated this with some smashing passer-by/wall graffiti interaction. He would often wait by an interesting piece of ‘art’ until someone walked by or through it. However he too had come across the pedestrian who saw the camera and ducked smartly out of the way apologising for nearly getting in the picture as he did so!

His grasp of the rules regarding picture taking outdoors was also spot on. So refreshing to get the actual correct law explained. It allows the photographer much more scope than some of us might have imagined. If you are standing on public or to be more accurate – non private – property then there is no restriction as to what you shoot nor when you shoot your picture. That includes the places with unofficial signs up banning it. Also no one has the right to force or even ask you to erase images from your SD card not even the police.

He was keen to point out that signs in the street saying no photography and stall holders or individuals suggesting similar cannot insist you refrain from photographing them unless you are clearly invading their space or standing on their private property. Shopping arcades, closed malls, inside shops and cafes are private of course and the owners or their staff there can restrict what you do. Also photography on the underground is actually banned but rarely enforced. Worth knowing though. He did also warn against ever pointing a camera towards groups of young children particularly partial clothed ones you might come across playing in fountains in the Summer. Once again simply to avoid friction and misunderstanding. (It is a shame that mass hysteria has brought us to this.)

One very current grey area of course is the recent law against what is commonly referred to as ‘up-skirting’. He showed a picture of a young lady bending over and explained that club members of his had thought erroneously that he could get arrested for taking such a snap. He believed not but he didn’t develop this topic . I would say it would be perfectly legal if the photo had been taken from the usual height and angle that any standard horizontal shot might be made. Illustrating once again the stupidity of hasty law making introducing confusion for want of some logical thought before hand. For instance, what if you are deliberately taking a shot along the ground for dramatic or compositional purposes, as is very common and often useful, and a ‘skirt’ walks by? Perhaps it is convenient that very few females wear skirts anymore. Sad none the less.

Most encouragingly of all he showed us a number of his images that had won large competitions or been accepted into prestigious exhibitions not all fitting the criteria that we may be used to when considering conventional CACC events ourselves . This alone was an encouraging tonic to take with us when we go back out photographing in the streets. The documentary aspect of all photography such as this is important and too rarely championed. A most encouraging and uplifting talk and great fun.

Dave Hipperson.