Two notions are crucial for street photography. The first one is denotation, the second one is connotation.
Detonation refers to what is actually there in a picture and that most people can agree on.
Take a photograph of a horse in a field with a house and a mountain range in the horizon. The denoting elements would be horse, field, house, and mountain range.
Move into the city and take a picture of a car and two people in front of Central Station, the denoting elements would be car, two people and Central Station.
Looking closer at the two pictures it just so happens that the horse in the field is running fiercely, and the people in front of Central Station are embracing and even kissing.
In describing this we move into the connotative level. The first image could connote strength, force or freedom. The city shot could connote love, liking, kindness and the like.
While the denoted content of a photograph could be said to be fairly objective, the connoted content have a more subjective flair to it. People might differ in the way they describe connotations.
What interest us here is how connotations is build.
All the images on this site have a denotative and a connotative level. So have all the photographs you have ever taken and will take in the future.
Referring to the photo above it denotes two ladies and a small dog in the foreground, parts of two people in the background. Two pictures on the wall.
When it comes to the connoted message that might be describes as interest, engagement, and curiosity.
Denotation and connotations represent two very different, although tightly connected, worlds.
You might say that the documentary photographer first and foremost deals with denotations e.g. getting things right, while the street photographer deals with connotations e.g. getting things interesting.
I am not saying that street documentation cannot be interesting, only that it is not its prime reason for being.
Likewise, I am not saying that heftily connoted images cannot be pretty uninteresting, but it is not their prime motor for driving.
What I am suggesting, is that documentary street photography and creative street photography are fairly different ballgames.
© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved: Text and picture.
January 16, 2013.