Urban scenes have always been closely tied to photography and with offerings such as Humans of New York and now even Humans of Buenos Aires, it has become even more popular. A lot of photographers thrive in the city; capturing candid moments, jaw-dropping skyscrapers, and whatever unfolds on the street while they patiently wait on a corner.
“Street photography” is the term used to describe this type of photography and there’s definitely a wealth of opportunities for budding or pro street photographers in Buenos Aires.
Arnaud Paillard, a photography guide for Foto Ruta Buenos Aires takes us through a few things to think about when braving the streets with your camera…
Shapes and Light
Thanks to its tree-lined streets, Buenos Aires offers a great range of light during the day, from the soft diffused light under the trees to the real hard light at noon in the newly pedestrian streets of Microcentro then softer light come evening. For those who can see them, cities offer man-made objects and shades that can be turned into very interesting shapes by photographers, using hard light to create high contrast. A street photographer will use that contrast to create lines and shapes that draws the viewer’s eye where he wants it to be.
In a few words, hard light makes everything that is lit on a street scene to become a highlight. On the contrary, everything else will stay dark, allowing the photographer to play hide-and-seek with his or her composition. Cities – with their buildings, cars, and all other human artefacts – create shadows and lines that photographers can use to compose a picture, pretty much like a painter would; simplifying and abstracting the photographer’s composition.
This trend in street photography (using hard light), providing shadows and lines to bring about the stillness of street scenes, is still relatively new, and was created by the photographers from the Düsseldorf Academy in the eighties. Inspired by the new-objectivity artistic tradition from the 20s, the photographers from the Academy refused the narration in photography composition. Their aim was not to tell a story, like the French humanistic photographers from the 30s used to do, but to express as purely as possible the state and the shapes of cities.
An urban environment offers what every photographer is looking for: discretion and anonymity. Street photographers do not want to affect their subjects. They rather want to wait for the decisive moment to capture the inner beauty of their fellow urbanites.
Buenos Aires, to that extent, features a never-ending source of different faces in changing lights. When you ask any photographer why they choose to shoot in Buenos Aires, they cite of course the architecture, the avenues… But what inspires them the most is the people.
Lucas Bois, the creator of the Instagram account @peopleofbuenosaires for example, when asked why he chose such a name, said that the diversity of people in the city offers a thousand faces; always changing, always displaying new and interesting stories to capture on camera.
Street photography, at its beginning, was all about people. From Henri-Cartier Bresson’s master work to Robert Frank’s anthology, the pioneers of street photography were most interested in the inhabitants of the city. Sites by themselves were not the focus (at least the urban landscape wasn’t). What they intended to do, especially after World War II, was to display an optimistic point of view of humanity by taking pictures of the humble people of the bustling cities of the 20th century. After the atrocities of the war, those photographers wanted to convey a more peaceful image of the people. The aim of those photographers was to turn mundane street scenes into works of art, to reveal the inner beauty of the cities they lived in, and the one of their inhabitants and their humble work. They were dubbed “peace reporters”, and their movement was called humanistic photography, because its intention was to give a new faith inhumanity.
When you take pictures in the street of any city in the world, try to remember that urban photography is all about giving tributes to the beauty of the sites. On the other hand, try to remember not to steal your pictures. Try to interact with people, always smile, and keep looking for some faces and shapes to shoot.
Foto Ruta Photography tours run photography experiences and workshops in Buenos Aires designed to encourage people to see the city creatively while learning abut photography. Foto Ruta also run tours in Santiago (Chile), London and Barcelona. Email [email protected] or visit www.foto-ruta.com to find out more.
All photos by Arnaud Paillard