Imagine a photographic world where all images are pictorial. Lush landscapes, cute puppies and bikini clad beauties are top of the photographic agenda, imagine that your weekly or monthly photographic fix is drip fed by publications like Amateur Photographer who's main objective is to sell you imported Japanese kit rather than challenge the photographic establishment that has failed to recognise street photography as Art ! No, no, this is not now this is the 1970''s, the internet had not yet arrived ! Street photography existed and was practised by the few, while the majority were happy with a sort of Camera Club aesthetic. It should be said that the term Street Photography was rarely used in England at this time.
Street Photography in the UK certainly existed in the 70's although the term used at this time was Social Documentary photography as photography could not be real art , could it ? The Americans already knew it could .
The job of photography was to record and document.
The practice of framing Art photographs was seen as unacceptable at this time as the preference was for block mounting at the few gallery shows that existed. Photography as a pastime was booming and bathroom darkrooms were not uncommon, despite all this the real freedom of expression being offered by this relatively new medium remained dormant for many.
Creative Camera magazine had started beating the drum for a more creative aesthetic in the 1960's but even in the 1970's this was more or less an underground movement which did not make the impression that Punk rock did on the decade but appears to have laid the foundations for what we all now know as Street Photography in the UK.
The image created by Ian Berry of the boy with the box is classic street and was created with the aid of a bursary from the Arts council of Great Britain as part of his "English" project and of course the late great Tony Ray Jones was to have his book " A day off " posthumously published in 1974 which was also aided by the Arts Council. I believe that the economic climate of the 1970's did not create the best environment for British Street Photography to prosper but I must say that England was a very interesting subject as it struggled through a challenging economic climate and great social change.
Looking back it appears to me that the internet and the ability of digital photography has really set Street Photography and Street Photographers free in terms of publishing and costs, we must now try to prove that we are worthy of the great opportunities that lie ahead for us and acknowledge the photographers who were brave enough to shoot street despite being seen as little more than eccentrics by many.
The roots of UK Street Photography are heavily influenced by the social documentary traditions established in the 1970's although many prefer to behave as if Street Photography is the product of an immaculate conception which was born on the net, it was not !
Social documentary photography is not second class street photography, when done well it is meaningful, creative and relevant, much of it is street photography it just lacks the clichés and highly saturated colours adopted by many of those living in denial.
How many of your pictures will be republished on the internet in fifty years time, the challenge for all of us should be to try and create work that is valued by future generations, if nothing else such ambitions will help to motivate us today.
This item grew out of a piece I blogged on my site ukstreet.photography about Creative Camera magazine.