What Makes a Good Street Photograph? – Take it or Leave it with Bruce Gilden

What Makes a Good Street Photograph? - Take it or Leave it with Bruce Gilden



my name is Bruce Gilligan and I'm a photographer I was born in Brooklyn but you could probably hear me talk and know that right away I started photographing in 1968 I've been a member of Magnum photos for a decade and last year I was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship I do close-up portraits of people on the street with a flash to me beauty is everywhere especially on the street where characters seem to live now I'm going to look at some of the pictures you submitted and tell you what I think because some guys from vice thought it would be a good idea this is take it or leave it with Bruce gilding okay we ready let's go alright which one do you want to some / no I can't discuss a picture like this I mean there's no what this I mean come on that would be insulting to me or that I mean you know this one neither that one's just something out of focus that you take when you're rewinding your role what if you had a hundred like this you know there's strength in numbers I don't think that way but I find myself saying that a lot in workshops well if you did 50 like this you know maybe you'll have a book or a body of work I mean that's where the concept comes in I'm not for you know concepts that aren't realize well now in this picture I love the guy's hat I like the expression on his face I just find that it's totally out of focus and it looks like something that could have been from a movie you know the French Connection or something okay so it has credibility from that standpoint but as a photograph it doesn't have much credibility for me because it looks like an accident and I like accidents and photographs but accidents that go along with something that isn't an accident like there's a conscious way of how one works and then you have the accident that most times spoils that picture but in this instance makes it work so when I look at this I don't know if the photographer wanted to take this you look or it's just a total accident and it's not that good anyway okay so next this photograph here let me stop by saying that it's not a very good photograph this would be very hard unless it was perfectly done to be a good photograph not only is the picture not formed well because as you see here you have the gun here and then there's nothing over here I mean it's just empty dead space but the other thing is there's a line by the philosopher Santayana that says if we don't know anything about history I'm paraphrasing you're condemned to repeat it and this photographer obviously doesn't know much about history because there's a very famous well of photograph by William Klein from his New York book with a little kid in Brooklyn that has a toy gun to his head he's making a face like this and he looks he's cross-eyed so he looks a little bit different okay and if you knew that picture you could learn several things you can learn from the composition of that picture which is much better than this even though that's not one of my favorite William Klein pictures so you would know how to form this picture better and also you would know that if you're going to do something that's evocative of a pretty famous photograph in 20th century documentary photography you'd have to do better next let's go to this one okay I like photographs where you make up a story when you look at the image the viewer wants to make up a story so then this particular image which is I think is relatively well done it could have been a little better I am not sure if I like that he has an apple in his hand I think if he didn't have the Apple and he has a little schmutz on his face here from the eating the Apple but the story here for me is you have a fairly attractive woman right here and here's an older I will lecherous type man or he desires her I would say you know to have some sort of intimate affair with her and he doesn't realize that she's a sorceress because you see in that Apple which she has given him there's actually some sort of drug and if you notice there's a guy here lying in the back totally unconscious so sleeping he could be dead I don't know what she had in the Apple but not that was her victim before because she's very used to having all these older men come on to it because she's relatively attractive and she's relatively nice person so she's easygoing she got tired of it so he had eaten the Apple and this is what happened to him now also to have a good photograph the details are very important even though all the action is the older man looking at the younger woman and desiring her with his eyes devouring her I should say is a better word and is the focus of the picture without the person lying here or I wouldn't go from this couple to him otherwise it would just be sand and the picture wouldn't be as good so that brings your attention back to the central point of the photograph okay so even though that may not be that might not resonate with most people that makes the picture better than if he wasn't there you ready now here we have somebody who's working in the street it's not easy to do these kind of pictures take it from me I was out there for god knows most of my life this one here to me is not organic okay going from here to here to here to here it's not very natural it's not a picture that would make me want to look at it intently and ask what's going on because I don't like how the picture flows now this is not easy to do and this person is talented I believe okay and the thing is here which it works a little better in because the flow goes from here to here to here which is nice that you have people in the background filling the frame but yet the person in the back doesn't add to it it takes away from this organic flow of going like this to this to the air to the other there no matter how complex the situation is no matter what you've chosen to photograph the viewer has to feel that it's organic getting much closer here than here but both in EM aren't there now this one I think is a pretty good picture it's monumental in its scope this person here is neither you focus on him he's there you know there's this movement is his face is almost carved out of stone he could be in Mount Rushmore and then you go into this face which is good in that face he has his eyes closed in the Sun it's very nice I think the only improvement that I could have seen in the picture which is out of really two photographers control is if this woman was in a different place because I think that's what I would have preferred to not have her there at all because when you go to her face here she takes away from this so it's a little blip in the roadmap but otherwise I think it's a a good picture and I'd like to see this printed very large I like this pictures my favorite picture of the three by far oh the fire eater this photograph makes me smile okay it's a photograph that a lot of people would take whether you have any expertise in photography or not because you have a one-line joke here okay it's ultimately not so funny it's very obvious and that's what the weakness in the picture is even though I smile because who the hell is going to ask and allow themselves to have a cigarette lit by a this lighter here I mean look at that that flame can catch your hair burn your face so then I start to think that she almost is drunk or stoned on drugs okay but yet and the lady is very overweight and yet her movement is quite poetic she has a very nice movement very nice flow she flows into the flame so that's all well and good but for me ultimately it catches my eye it's striking but there's really not much in it what does save the picture is look at that flame it's beautiful and it flows so lovely and it goes up it's it's gorgeous it's a it's really nice and our eyes being closed of course you can identify that this is a Lions Club and you have the American flag so it's a take-off on America this could be in a book of sarcastic photographs about America America the Beautiful or America look how look look at us Americans aren't we ignorant or something like that so it has some value but I don't rate it strongly as a photograph right there you can see that you guys are cheating all right anyway obviously this is not a very good photograph this is about the ladies under her chin and who cares about under her chin so did we get something yeah yeah yeah yeah

26 thoughts on “What Makes a Good Street Photograph? – Take it or Leave it with Bruce Gilden

  • July 12, 2019 at 9:58 am
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    The photo of the guy towards the beginning with the hat, is that the guy on Seinfeld, Kramer?

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  • July 12, 2019 at 9:58 am
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    I like his photos but a lot of the 70s shots are on par with the beach shot. He has taken a lot of pics at Coney Island that are largely interesting for their nostalgia value. His Haiti images are sublime but there must have been many failures on his many trips there as well.

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  • July 12, 2019 at 9:58 am
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    arts is all about making up the biggest bullshit lie and at the same time make everybody fall for it and agree with you and dont even realize they got trolled.

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  • July 12, 2019 at 9:58 am
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    Thus guy is so intelligent

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  • July 12, 2019 at 9:58 am
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    you suck !!!! this video is shit!!!!!

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  • July 12, 2019 at 9:58 am
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    Thanks a lot for tips.

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  • July 12, 2019 at 9:58 am
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    Why did he reject the first two photos?

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  • July 12, 2019 at 9:58 am
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    I made it to two minutes of watching the video before turning it off. Not impressed…..

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  • July 12, 2019 at 9:58 am
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    Love the honest criticism, not just being all polite and positive

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  • July 12, 2019 at 9:58 am
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    ..watch the string..make up a story!…a fairly unattractive, lecherous old man sits in front of a video camera spewing opinions about others' photographs_______and then…..????

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  • July 12, 2019 at 9:58 am
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    This guy really focuses on the content and not the subject matter. He’d be a great modern art critic

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  • July 12, 2019 at 9:58 am
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    I ain’t even see the first 5 he roasted lmfao what was wrong with them

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  • July 12, 2019 at 9:58 am
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    i hate people who write on a picture or on some thing to show a default just use your finger .

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  • July 12, 2019 at 9:58 am
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    Wow, what a snatch.

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  • July 12, 2019 at 9:58 am
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    The main lesson that he is trying to teach is this: tell a story.
    You want the photograph to guide, but not show exactly what to look at.
    The rest is up to the viewer's interpretation.

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  • July 12, 2019 at 9:58 am
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    how am i just seeing this now

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  • July 12, 2019 at 9:58 am
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    This guy pretty much jumps in front of people with a flash and snaps away. He's been decked in the face many times.

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  • July 12, 2019 at 9:58 am
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    Bruce is what Bruce is, hi knows his photography.

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  • July 12, 2019 at 9:58 am
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    I️ hate all these so called “ experts “ who think they know everything about something when they literally say to everyone “ you can never know everything “ so wtf makes you the expert ??

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  • July 12, 2019 at 9:58 am
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    Look At Us Americans Aren't We Ignorant

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  • July 12, 2019 at 9:58 am
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    Probably a good photographer but very poor human qualities

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  • July 12, 2019 at 9:58 am
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    I rolled my eyes when he made those critics on those "Street Photographs". Street photos are supposed to be spontaneous, natural, organic, genuine, not staged – FREE – it is a combination of luck, timing of events, gestures and movements of the subjects and the photographers artistry, creativity. And yet he talked about the alignment of the people's heads, this, this, and that. like duh.

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  • July 12, 2019 at 9:58 am
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    i love the ending scene, hahahaa

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