“Street photographs have an imaginative life all their own, one that
seems sometimes quite independent of whatever intentions the
photographer might have had…”
From Bystander: A History of Street Photography by Colin
Westerbeck and Joel Meyerowitz
"The charm of Atget lies not in the mastery of the plates
and papers of his time, nor in the quaintness of
costume, architecture and humanity as revealed in his
pictures, but in his equitable and intimate point of view.
. . . His work is a simple revelation of the simplest
aspects of his environment. There is no superimposed
symbolic motive, no tortured application of design, no
intellectual axe to grind. The Atget prints are direct and
emotionally clean records of a rare and subtle
perception, and represent perhaps the earliest
expression of true photographic art."
That crazy feeling in America when the sun is hot on the
streets and music comes out of the jukebox or from a
nearby funeral, that's what Robert Frank has captured in
the tremendous photographs taken as he travelled on the
road around practically forty-eight states in an old used
car (on Guggenhiem Fellowship) and with the agility,
mystery, genius, sadness, and strange secrecy of a shadow
photographed scenes that have never been seen before on
- Jack Kerouac, from his introduction to The Americans
"Robert Frank, Swiss, unobtrusive, nice, with that
little camera that he raises and snaps with one
hand he sucked a sad poem right out of America
onto film, taking rank among the tragic poets of
Broadway and 103rd Street
American Legion Convention,
Winogrand 's work synthesizes the documentary and photojournalist
traditions. Influenced by Robert Frank's The Americans, he employed a
wide angle lens on a handheld camera, and shot from an intimate
distance. This enabled him to incorporate more of his subjects, and
gave his images an unfamiliar, compositional complexity. He took shots,
he said, "to see how things would look as photographs". The medium of
still photography he described as "the illusion of a literal description of
how a camera saw a piece of time and space".
In many ways these works are social satires of American life. They
dramatise the broad canvas of American society, with its diverse
classes, creeds and races jostling on the street. The formal turbulence
of his images with their dynamic tilted viewpoints, their grainy
immediacy, their frenetic crowds and their temporarily isolated
strangers, matches the political turbulence of the Vietnam years and
provides a defining portrait of a society caught unawares.
For months I followed strangers on the street. For the pleasure
of following them, not because they particularly interested me.
I photographed them without their knowledge, took note of their
movements, then finally lost sight of them and forgot them.
At the end of January 1980, on the streets of Paris, I followed
a man whom I lost sight of a few minutes later in the crowd.
That very evening, quite by chance, he was introduced to me
at an opening. During the course of our conversation, he
told me he was planning an imminent trip to Paris.