martin hoffmann

I do cool things. With cool people.

what I learned from street photography

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What to use photography for? Since a couple of years I am trying to figure my way through this maze. Maybe street photography is the way to go? I gave it a try.Ever since I started photography a couple of years ago, I was struggling finding a form of usage for it. How often did I take my camera with me in daily life or even on short trips, without actually using it? Too bulky, too little focus, no inspiration – the list of excuses why I wouldn’t shoot can be very long. Yet, I would have this quite decent equipment in my room, that had cost me not only money, but so much pain to be assembled.

Yet, in all these years, I’ve been using my camera less and less. Usually I would use it as a tool, for documentation mainly, may it be photo or video. That would usually mean that I have a certain purpose in mind, may it be covering an event, or just because I need a audio-visual-product for a project. I would know how to get the most basic stuff done, and that was it. To a certain extend I have understood photography – and can use it directly or indirectly (which is unbelievably helpful if you work in PR and you have to give an assignment to a photo- or videographer).

But what else is there for me? What I understood: if I take photos, I can only take photos. I need to concentrate, ideally being alone. Looking back at the moments when I enjoyed photography the most, it was usually having a lonely walk through a interesting (usually foreign) neighbourhood. Interestingly this sort of resamples my ‘photography as a tool’ approach: observe, focus and document. I never got an interest into portrait photography, nor commercial or landscape. Not saying there aren’t interesting and astonishing pictures out there in this field, but it never grew to be my cup of tea.

A friend of mine, Yvonne Most, whom I got to know through random coincidences in Dresden a while ago, has not only studied the same Bachelor programme in Magdeburg as I did, but also graduated in photography in Halle (besides her Facebook Page, you should definitely check out her website). Since a while she is also offering workshops in different fields: food, people and also street photography. I always wanted to attend one of her workshops, so luckily last week I was able to drop by in Halle for a day and together in a small group of people, we wandered around this lovely little town in lower Saxony-Anhalt.

I discovered the deeper world of street photography around 2009/2010 when I stumbled into Eric Kim. Being a young, aspiring shooter, he also refers a lot to Henri Cartier-Bresson. But not only thanks to the workshop hosted by Yvonne, I got to know a couple of very interesting and more diverse styles, also from Germany, such as Andreas Herzau or Helga Paris. All of these have a captivating mix of spontaneousness and yet purpose, bridging the gap between the moment on the future recipient with visual storytelling. And this might be the key of interest for me, because in almost every project I am working in, I have to tell stories – to clients, to customers or to the public.

I took a lot of inspiration from this workshop. The district I am living in is constantly and rapidly changing. Whether the future will be better or worse, it will definitely be different. And there are various ‘institutions’ and its people that are worth preserving, to a certain extend. So that might be something for me in future. Which reminds me that I still haven’t uploaded my photos from my trip to China in 2011, which has some really nice street shots in there as well. But that is probably another blog entry…

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Author: hoffmann.martin

cultural engineer and education hacker | interested in design, media, politics, learning, teaching, understanding

One Comment

  1. Hey Martin
    it’s good to read that street photography gives you motivation to pick up your camera again! And with Yvonne Most you are in very good hands!!
    On my way to photography I also stumbled about Cartier-Bresson and Eric Kim. But maybe I can throw in another (contemporary) name? You might want to check out Thomas Leuthart – he published several free ebooks on street photography and I found them quite inspirational and good as food for thought.
    So keep up photography!
    P.S. You know I am also very curious about your China pictures, especially since some time has passed now.

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