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The Lost Art of Film Street Photography – By Armando Cabellero

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I know that the title of this article might sound a bit surprising. Specially because nowadays, film photography is experiencing an unprecedented resurgence and also because the number of people practicing street photography has increased significantly in the past 3-4 years. However, in my humble opinion, I do not see much film street photography out there, at least not much as I would like to.

The meaning of Street Photography to me.

I should start by sharing with you what is the meaning of street photography to me. Since street photography is a genre of photography, and photography is an artistic expression of the human mind, it is very difficult, and sometimes even controversial, to define it. But I’m pretty sure what it means to me. In my opinion, Street Photography is the art of capturing a candid/unstaged instant in time of real people, in the real world in a real situation. But this is not enough, it also has to tell a story or trigger some sort of emotion in the viewer. Only if these elements are there, then is a street photograph to me.

A lady on the London underground

A single look can tell a 1000 stories

According to this “very personal” definition of Street Photography, things like staged street portraits, architectural photography, and urban landscapes, are very close cousins of street photography but not quite the same thing. And here is where I feel that the art of documenting emotion-triggering candid photos of people’s daily lives on film is a lost art.

What I can see out there.

Most of the work by analogue photographers that I see out there does not include this type of real candid images. Most of them are photos of empty roads, buildings, nature, cars, the sea, and so on. And this is completely fine, at the end of the day, people should photograph whatever makes them happy. But still, this leaves me wanting to see more film street photographs.

Why this is the case?

I would like to know why this is the case. Why do not too many photographers practice Street Photography using film? My number one guess is that analogue photography can be an expensive and slow process. And since capturing a good fleeting moment on the streets can be very challenging, maybe most analogue photographers feel like using digital for this type of shots is better, and they save the analogue photos only for situations where they can control the subject and composition a bit better. Going through entire photo walks without getting a single “keeper” has always been part of street photography and maybe most photographers feel that is not worth “wasting” the film in this way.

A group pf children playing

Street playground

My recommendation.

I’m not saying that there are no film street photographs out there, I’m just saying that I would like to see more. I’m pretty confident when I say that if more digital street photographers would try to capture the same type and quality of images using an analogue camera, every now and then, instead of a digital one, they would improve significantly their art. If you are reading this and you are a street photographer, I would really encourage you to do so. You will learn and improve a lot. Do not get me wrong though, I use my digital camera for my street photography too, but I try to use my analogue one as much as I can.

Trafalgar square

Different planes, same dimension

What do you think, do you agree with me, or do you think that actually, Street Photography in its candid, purest form is well represented in the amateur/hobbyist film photography community?  I would love to hear your opinion in the comments section below.

All of the photos in this article were taken by me using my Pentax MX and Ilford HP5 Plus or Kodak Tri-X.

Till next time, yours sincerely

Armando Caballero – Street Photographer

Visit Armando’s website here

You can also check his Instagram account here

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