The movement or discipline of street photography emerged at the close of the 19th century, when technological advancements ushered in portable cameras which enabled early practitioners like Paul Martin to practice ‘candid photography’ on London’s vibrant streets. There is a fascinating, almost improvisational nature present in the street photographer’s work; the chance encounters and unexpected events that spill out on the sidewalks of our cities, and the fleeting moments and fascinating figures that populate the subway carriages and train cars that dissect our metropolises, are often lost in time or to the chaos of our own manic lives. Street Photography often captures these ephemeral moments, distilling individual narratives of life – a person, a place, a found object, a time of day or any combination of all these things – against the looming backdrop of the restless, unceasing city.
It may come as no surprise then, that the near magic-realism of New York proved to be (and in many ways, still is) an especially productive stomping ground for a variety of street photographers both past and present. We’ve compiled a list of six of our favourite, masterful NY street photographers along with a selection of their photos for your delectation. Have a peek below, be sure to visit their respective websites and try not to get to pissy at us for missing out (as we undoubtedly have) some of the unmentioned titans of the form, or your personal favourite. Enjoy!
Arguably one of the best-known photographers of the 20th century, Henri Cartier-Bresson is considered to be a master of ‘candid’ photography and, as such, is largely regarded as one of the forerunners of street photography. The celebrated Magnum co-founder and photographer has an amazing body of work to comb through, covering a variety of different themes, evoking a plethora of emotions and exhibiting scenes of life and nature from across the globe. It is in these early shots in NY however, that we can glimpse the influence he would exert over the emerging street photography movement. The natural geometry, the characters and the timing of his photos (as well as the patience they must’ve demanded) all demonstrate Bresson’s unique eye and his unparalleled ability to capture ‘the decisive moment’.
All images ©Henri Cartier-Bresson
Born in Brooklyn in 1922, Louis Stettner has been capturing snapshots of life on the streets of both New York and Paris for over half a century. His extensive career has seen him document, through his photographs, the social, political, cultural and architectural changes that have unfolded on bustling city streets; though his Subway and Penn Station series’ are particularly cherished for their unflinching and dignified portrayal of working class life. In the eighth decade of his life, Stettner continues to photograph experimenting with still life and landscape photos as well as sculpting and painting.
All images ©Louis Stettner
Born in New York in 1928, Garry Winogrand has been hailed as both ‘The central photographer of his generation’ as well as ‘the most sparsely studied, and least understood of his peers’. Increasingly celebrated for his wide body of work, but particularly for his photographs of New York in the sixties, Winogrand’s photos embody the “attitude [and]…style” of street photography, and possess a remarkable ability to isolate, diffuse and exhibit the individual narratives of human existence that play out in grand, expansive cities teeming with noise, colour and energy. The recipient of no less than three Guggenheim fellowships in his lifetime, Winogrand (who died far too early at the age of 58) leaves behind a body of work that astutely gauged the temperature of his own moment, but continues to resonate with and inspire resonate photographers and art enthusiasts in our present moment.
To call Vivian Maier a prolific photographer would be an understatement; it’s estimated that she took over 150,000 photos throughout the course of her life. This is a feat that becomes all the more impressive when you realise that, for Maier, photography wasn’t a profession but more of a private, near-secretive hobby. Maier never exhibited or published her works, and many of her negatives and rolls of film simply amassed in storage until discovered in the late 2000’s by John Maloof, Ron Slattery and Randy Prow. Of French and Austro-Hungarian extraction, Maier eventually settled in New York in 1951 and, whilst working as a nanny, began her avid photographic documentation of the theatre of life that played out on New York’s gritty, diverse and wondrous streets. Many of her shots were taken with a ‘shoot-from-the-hip’ rollieflex camera, which allowed for greater subtlety when photographing and protected the intimacy and naturalness of her scenes.
All images ©Vivian Maier
A contemporary photographer born in New Zealand but based in New York City, Anna Delany’s work captures the grittiness, honesty and resilience that is to be found in the overlooked and marginal communities of NY that she often wanders through. Unquestionably interested in the stories of the people that populate these streets, but equally captivated by the objects and architecture that frame these environments, Delany’s photographs can be at once both atmospheric and intimate, both hopeful as well as bleak. Check out more of her work on her website.
All images ©Anna Delany
Hailing from Belgrade, Serbia, Boogie cut his teeth by photographing the unrest, turmoil and revolt that gripped his country during the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990’s. Upon Moving to New York in ’98, the city streets of Manhattan and the surrounding area, as well as the people, the detritus and the scenes of life that play out on them, have formed a substantial part of Boogie’s work. As perhaps one of the most accomplished and exciting contemporary photographers however, Boogie’s distinctive eye has captured startling images from across the globe – particularly snapshots of those who reside in the margins of our society. Take a peek at some more of his work on his website.