At a recent talk about my street photography one of the questions I was asked was "Do you crop?" This was clearly the litmus test. Would I be seen as a street photographer true to the code, or was I some kind of imposter? They’d listened to me talk for the best part of an hour. I’d shown my photos; talked about focal lengths, shutter speed; I'd mentioned the greats. Here it was - all distilled to this one moment.
The room was silent. I looked at my shoes. Then, head up, I said it.
Done. It’s out there.
I crop. I know that this can be a crime tantamount to murder in some avenues of street photography. But hear me out.
Today’s cameras are capable of shooting in such amazing detail - look what you can do with 16, 20, 24 megapixels. The detail is incredible, allowing you to zoom in and crop while still retaining great clarity. If I’m carrying a camera with a fixed lens or one camera without a bag full of lenses then the shot I want may well be compromised or impossible with the gear have on me. And there isn’t always time to zoom with my legs and walk closer. Being able to crop in gets round this and brings the shot I envisaged to reality.
The stricter street photographers will say that a photograph should not be cropped or straightened or altered in any way. I disagree. I am not a documentary photographer (even they will turn their focus to the riot at one end of the street and choose to frame an image without the quiet Sunday shoppers at the other end). My aim is not to record every small detail with great accuracy. My aim is to create the feeling of what I experienced on the street. It is subjective. It is how I saw it, how I felt it or, as Bruce Gilden might say, “smelt it.” I don’t see myself as some kind of street scientist, forensically documenting minutiae. No; I see myself as an artist, recreating a scene as I experienced it or as it moved me. Otherwise, I’d get a job watching video screens of CCTV footage.