Stage 01

Street Photography

In Stage 1 of this visual thinking program, you will focus on developing a more thorough understanding of the personal associations you use to interpret what you look at, and create meaning from what you see.

Getting started

To begin, download all of the available files from the program resources box. There are three downloads provided:

  • The guidelines booklet is a pdf that covers the recommended and minimum requirements for the program
  • The program booklet is a pdf that contains all of the questions you'll need to answer
  • The response journal is a zip file containing an optional blank booklet you can print out to write your answers in, if you choose to follow the recommended requirements.

Although I recommend working through the program booklet either printed out or on a separate device, for your convenience I have made the complete set of questions available below.

Part 1

To begin with, you’ll want to become a little more familiar (or re-familiarise yourself, if you’ve already explored street photography in the past) with the broader, more generalised history of street photography. Feel free to either research each question one at a time, or explore some basic, general overviews of the movement before answering the following questions.

  1. What is the history of this movement?
  2. Where, when, why and how did this movement start?
  3. What characteristics do photographs in this movement have in common?
  4. What is this movement's relevance within the history of photography? Is it important?
  5. Who are the movement's major artists?
  6. What are eight of the most significant photographs of this movement?

Part 2

Set aside copies of the eight photographs you listed for Question 6, and spend some time simply looking at them. If you’re new to photography, or looking at art in general, don’t get caught up on the idea that you should be looking at them a certain way, or looking for specific things within the photographs. Just look at them, individually, one after the other, for a minute or two each. From these eight photographs, make a selection of the four photographs you preferred looking at the most.

  1. Why did you prefer these four photographs over the others?
  2. What did you like about the four photographs that you chose?
  3. What did you dislike about them?
  4. What were the thoughts you had when you first looked at these four photographs?

Part 3

From the four photographs you selected in Part 2, pick out the one photograph that you preferred looking at the most.

  1. Who captured this photograph? Provide their biographical details
  2. What is the subject matter of the photograph you selected? Who is portrayed? What is represented?
  3. When was the photograph made?
  4. Is the photograph a recreation of any older photographs? Is it attempting to replicate an existing work from another medium of art?
  5. Was the photograph made before or after other similar photographs?
  6. Where was the photographed scene captured?
  7. Is the photograph representative of other artworks of the same geographical area?
  8. Was the photograph made for anyone in particular, or a specific purpose?
  9. Where is the photograph currently displayed?
  10. Was it originally displayed elsewhere?
  11. If it is not in its original location, does the viewer see it as the artist intended?
  12. What techniques were used to create the print? What materials is the photograph printed on?
  13. What is the size of the photographic print? Is it larger or smaller in real life than you imagined it would be?
  14. List the ways in which the photograph is representative of the broader movement of street photography
  15. Are there any ways that the photograph makes itself unique amongst other photographs from the street photography movement?

Part 1

In Part 2 of Session 1, you narrowed a selection of eight examples of the most significant photographs from street photography down to four that you enjoyed the most. You then selected one photograph from these four. From the remaining three photographs choose a single photograph for the following questions.

  1. List ten details that you see in the photograph.
  2. What else can you see?
  3. Where is your eye drawn?
  4. Look away from the photograph for one minute, and then look at it again. What catches your attention first?
  5. Why do you think that stands out to you?
  6. What is the subject matter of the photograph you selected? Who is portrayed? What is represented?
  7. Where was the photographed scene captured?

Part 2

Look closely at the photograph you have selected. Look at the lines and shapes in the photograph. Pay attention to the silhouette outlines of all of the objects that are visible in the photograph.

  • Draw a box that resembles the aspect ratio of your selected photograph
  • Inside the box, draw the outlines of all of the forms you see depicted in the photograph. Draw only the outlines.

Part 3

Turn your attention away from the lines and shapes for a moment, and begin to consider the sense of depth in the scene instead.

  1. What is the most prominent foreground element represented in the photograph?
  2. Is this foreground element closer to the bottom of the photograph, or closer to the top of the photograph?
  3. How much larger does this foreground element appear compared to the furthest away element in the photograph?
  4. How far away does the background appear to be?
  5. What context does the background give you about the photograph? Does it give more information on where the scene captured might be taking place?
  6. Do elements in the background appear to have less detail than the foreground elements?
  7. Where are the most details evident in the photograph?
  8. Do you notice anything special about the way the different sizes of objects represented in the photograph relate to each other?

Part 4

Now that you have reflected on both the lines and shapes, as well as the sense of depth in the photograph, it’s time to turn your attention to both the type, and quality, of the light.

  1. Does the light look like it comes from a natural source, such as the sun, or does it appear to come from an artificial source, like a lamp or a flash?
  2. How do you feel the kind of lighting affects the look of the photograph?
  3. Is the lighting coming from above, below or from the side?
  4. At what angle is the light striking the photographed scene?
  5. Can you see any shadows in the photograph?
  6. Do you think the direction of the light creates an effect of three-dimensional depth?
  7. Would you describe the light as soft or hard?
  8. Do the shadows seem thin or thick to you? Is there any other word you might use to describe them?
  9. Does the light and shadow captured in the photograph make a pattern?
  10. What kind of effect and mood do the light and shadows create in the photograph?

Part 1

In Part 2 of Session 1, you narrowed a selection of eight examples of the most significant photographs from street photography down to four that you enjoyed the most. You then selected one photograph from these four. In Session 2 you selected one photograph from the remaining three. From the remaining two photographs choose a single photograph for the following questions.

  1. What do you see in this photograph?
  2. Can you describe what you see in more detail?
  3. What else do you see?
  4. What is going on in this photograph?
  5. What information in the photograph makes you say that?
  6. Can you clearly tell where the photographer was standing when they took the picture? Were they above the subject? Looking down? Below the subject? Or were they looking up?
  7. Describe the composition. What shapes do you see? What other patterns do you notice?
  8. Can you speculate as to what might not have been included in the frame of the photograph? What elements do you think existed beyond the camera frame when the photographer captured this image?

Part 2

Look closely at the photograph you have selected. Pay attention to point of interest of the photograph, and the sense of sharpness (and softness) visible to you.

  1. What words would you use to describe this photograph?
  2. How would you describe this photograph to somebody who could not see it?
  3. What things do you recognise in this photograph? What things seem new to you?
  4. What can you see clearly in the picture? What is unclear?
  5. How does photographic focus capture your attention in this photograph? Does sharp focus capture your attention as well as blurry focus can?
  6. As a result of focus in this photograph, does you think the subject gains or loses significance?
  7. Does the subject seem realistic to you, or does it seem idealized?

Part 3

Turn your attention away from the point of interest in the photograph for a moment, and rather than think about the sense of sharpness or softness you can see, begin to consider the sense of motion present in the photograph instead.

  1. Is anything moving in the photograph? How can you tell?
  2. Is it blurry or frozen in space?
  3. Can you guess how this effect is achieved?
  4. Describe the sense of time that the photograph offers. Does it seem like a brief moment caught in a snapshot or does it hold a painting's timeless quality?
  5. Consider the photograph's content, style, technique and composition. How do these elements convey the sense of time depicted in the photograph?

Part 4

Now that you have reflected on both the point of interest as well as the sense of motion in the photograph, it’s time to turn your attention to the sense of balance in the photograph. Consider how (or if) all of the previous elements you looked at begin to fit together cohesively to form a whole.

  1. Would you describe the overall balance depicted in the photograph as symmetrical, or is it more asymmetrical?
  2. Does the main subject depicted in the photograph compete for your attention against other elements, or does it stand out clearly to you?
  3. Has the photographer captured as much detail in the background as the main subject, or does it seem like there is less detail?
  4. Is the main subject positioned centrally, with an even amount of space surrounding it on all sides of the frame? Or is it positioned to one side of the centre of the frame?

Part 5

Return to your initial selection of eight photographs you made in Session 1. From the four that you did not select, pick one for the following task. Write a single paragraph on the the image, focusing on the formal visual elements present in the photograph, and the effect you think they have on creating meaning. Consider the following:

  • Focus: Which areas appear clearer or sharpest?
  • Light: Where are the highlights and shadows? Can you guess the time of day? Is the light natural or artificial, harsh or soft, direct or reflected?
  • Tone: Is there a range of tones from dark to light? Where are the darkest and lightest parts of the image? Is there contrast? What is the proportion of greys (mid tones?)
  • Colour: Is colour a significant feature of the image? Are there any complimentary colours? Can you attach any symbolism or meaning to the colours displayed?
  • Texture: If you could touch the surface of the photograph how would it feel?
  • Shape: Do you see geometric or organic shapes? What are they? How do they relate to each other?
  • Form: Do the objects in the image appear three dimensional? What creates this effect?
  • Pattern: Are objects, shapes or lines repeated in the image? Does this create a pattern?
  • Line: What are the dominant lines in the image? Are they straight or curved, thin or thick? Do they create direction, do they outline, do they indicate movement?
  • Space: Is there depth in the image or does it seem shallow? Is there negative space?
  • Composition: Discuss the arrangement of formal elements. Is the rule of thirds integrated? What effect does cropping and framing have on how you perceive the subject? Is there balance between the foreground, middle ground and background elements of the photograph? Or is there tension created by one element being dominant?What is the photographers viewpoint?

Part 1

In Part 2 of Session 1, you narrowed a selection of eight examples of the most significant photographs from street photography down to four that you enjoyed the most. You then selected one photograph from these four. In Session 2 you selected one photograph from the remaining three. In Session 3 you selected one photograph from the remaining two. For the following questions, select the one photograph that remains.

  1. List ten details that you see in the photograph
  2. Where is your eye drawn?
  3. Why do you think that stands out to you?
  4. Can you describe what you see in more detail?
  5. What else do you see?
  6. What is going on in this photograph?
  7. What information in the photograph makes you say that?

Part 2

Look closely at the photograph you have selected. Pay attention to vantage point of the photographer when they captured the photograph, and consider how it shapes the manner in which you interpret the subjects represented.

  1. Where was the photographer when they took the picture?
  2. Was the photographer standing or crouching or lying on the ground?
  3. Did the photographer take the picture from above, below, or the side?
  4. Did the photographer tilt the camera or keep it parallel to the horizon?
  5. Can you guess what the photographer’s attitude is toward the subject?
  6. How does the vantage point affect the way you look at the resulting picture? Do you think it makes you perceive the subjects in a specific way?

Part 3

Turn your attention away from the vantage point of the photograph for a moment, and rather than think about how it shapes the way you interpret the subject, begin to consider the composition of the photograph instead.

  1. What is included in the frame, and what is excluded?
  2. What effect does cropping have on the graphic composition of the image?
  3. How does cropping help draw attention to what the photograph is saying?
  4. How does cropping affect your perception of the subject?

Part 4

Now that you have reflected on both the vantage point as well as the composition of the photograph, it’s time to strip the photograph back to its essential formal elements. Look at the lines and shapes in the photograph. Pay attention to the silhouette outlines of all of the objects that are visible in the photograph.

  1. Draw a box that resembles the aspect ratio of your selected photograph
  2. Inside the box, draw the outlines of all of the forms you see depicted in the photograph. Draw only the outlines.
  3. Next, draw the outlines of what you imagine is outside of the frame.

Part 5

Return to your initial selection of eight photographs you made in Session 1. From the four that you did not select, pick one for the following task. Write a single paragraph on the the image, focusing on the formal visual elements present in the photograph, and the effect you think they have on creating meaning. Consider the following:

  • Focus: Which areas appear clearer or sharpest?
  • Light: Where are the highlights and shadows? Can you guess the time of day? Is the light natural or artificial, harsh or soft, direct or reflected?
  • Tone: Is there a range of tones from dark to light? Where are the darkest and lightest parts of the image? Is there contrast? What is the proportion of greys (mid tones?)
  • Colour: Is colour a significant feature of the image? Are there any complimentary colours? Can you attach any symbolism or meaning to the colours displayed?
  • Texture: If you could touch the surface of the photograph how would it feel?
  • Shape: Do you see geometric or organic shapes? What are they? How do they relate to each other?
  • Form: Do the objects in the image appear three dimensional? What creates this effect?
  • Pattern: Are objects, shapes or lines repeated in the image? Does this create a pattern?
  • Line: What are the dominant lines in the image? Are they straight or curved, thin or thick? Do they create direction, do they outline, do they indicate movement?
  • Space: Is there depth in the image or does it seem shallow? Is there negative space?
  • Composition: Discuss the arrangement of formal elements. Is the rule of thirds integrated? What effect does cropping and framing have on how you perceive the subject? Is there balance between the foreground, middle ground and background elements of the photograph? Or is there tension created by one element being dominant?What is the photographers viewpoint?

Task 1

Make a list of any stories you can see occurring within the photograph. Think about all the events you can see unfolding in the image that are enigmatic, shocking, or puzzling. To explore the many potential tales, guess what could have happened before the photograph was taken and consider what might happen next.

Task 2

Collect all four photographs that you selected in Session 1. If you are able to print them - the resolution and quality of the prints is absolutely not important - print all four of them out. If you do not have access to a printer, simply open each image in a separate window of your preferred photo viewer.

Arrange the photographs side by side in different sequences, as though they were a four panel comic strip. Play with the order of them, and see if you can create a story just by sequencing them a particular order.

  • Write out the story in your response journal.

Task 3

Read through your entries for Sessions 1, 2, 3 and 4. Highlight as many instances of expressive, descriptive words you have used in your answers. Look for words that describe emotions, feelings, moods, and words that evoke a strong sense of time or place.

Read through the list of words, and see if you can connect any of these words to specific personal experiences you've had, or knowledge that you've learned in life.

  • Write a short entry on how these words connect to your own personal experiences and knowledge.

Task 4

Return to the set of four photographs you sequenced together in Task 2. Reflect on what the lives of people your age, living in the same region as the scene depicted, might have been like during the time period each photograph was taken in.

What do you think their daily lives might have been like? What aspirations might they have had? What triumphs and setbacks do you think they experienced? How different do you think their day to day lives might have been to yours?

  • List all of these things out in your response journal.