Those you who've been reading Shutterfinger for a while know that, among other things, I'm an avid street photographer. It was therefore with great interest that I acquired a copy of Street Photography Now, written by Sophie Howarth and Stephen McLaren, published in 2010 by Thames & Hudson.
The description written on the inside cover describes Street Photography Now as presenting "forty-six contemporary image-makers noted for their candid depictions of everyday life in our streets, subways, shopping malles, beaches and parks." The book measures a generous 9.5 x 11 x 1.25-inches and comprises 240 pages, packed with hundreds of high-quality reproductions of photographs from around the world, in both color and black and white. The book also features four essays with observations about the current state of street photography and its associated challenges.
The primary challenge of assembling a collection like this is to ensure that it is broadly representative, or at least enough that it can make a legitimate claim to representing "street photography now." I think the book does pretty well in this regard, especially for those who value a global perspective. It features photographs not only from the U.S. and Western Europe, but Asia, India, Africa, Australia, Latin America, and the Middle East. You'll see photographs by unknowns as well as better-knowns such as Bruce Gilden, Martin Parr, Alex Webb, and Joel Mayerowitz. Styles range from the now classic Robert Frank/Lee Friedlander/Gary Winogrand/Elliott Erwitt school, to styles that are new and unique yet still consistent with street photography traditions and values.
You may or may not be interested to know that when the book was first released there was some controversy regarding the authors' use of unattributed quotes from a popular street photography blog. This is old news, the interested parties have since reconciled, and I see no value in revisiting the issue here. I'm reviewing the book strictly on its merits as a representation of the current state of street photography.
Where I think the book falls short, particularly for U.S. residents, is that the North American photos the authors chose are exclusively from one city: New York. Now I grant you that New York City is the mecca of street photography in the U.S., but I can assure you that excellent work is also being produced in cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Philadelphia, to name just a few. Rumor has it that street photography is even practiced in Canada.
Another minor issue comes with the difficulty of defining exactly what is and isn't street photography. In my opinion, some of the images seem more photojournalistic or editorial in nature, perhaps because the photographers who shot them are members of the Magnum photo agency. That's alright though; the photos are still excellent and I'd rather the authors err on the side of inclusion rather than exclusion.
At a cover price of $29.95 I regard Street Photography Now as a no-brainer for street photography aficionados. It's also a great reference text for students of the genre who are looking for examples and inspiration. If you have any interest in buying a copy, for yourself or someone else, I'd appreciate it you use any of the links I've provided to Amazon.com. It will save you roughly $10.00 off the cover price and drop a few cents in my pocket at the same time.