Stephen McLaren's The Crash - and what street photography can do for citizens
In the age of the ubiquitous cameraphone, we are all potentially “street photographers” now. Even the most trivial selfie can capture something of the “street” about it. The memory cards and photo albums of our devices pile up with snap after snap - from trips, occasions, workplace moments, accidents, collective disasters or triumphs.
In our pockets, we all have the opportunity for reverie before our image history. The flow of sensations in our lives is arrested, just for a moment: we can brood on the details of existence, of how we and other carry ourselves within our environments. We can perhaps make better decisions about what to do next, having allowed our attention to dwell on how the world was framed, and could be otherwise.
Professional street photographers - like Stephen McLaren - know this potential for photography to seize the flow of history, whether objective or personal, and get us to think about how the human universals (of emotion, or physical capacity) exist within the current moment (defined by politics or fashion).
If we develop a street photographer’s eye, we start to see details which open up the wonder, or the intensity, of our local existences. We begin to value our everyday lives in a different way - expecting them to delight, surprise, educate or activate us.
Stephen McLaren is both a practitioner and curator of the form - see his book Street Photography Now - but he’s just brought out an amazing volume on Hoxton Mini Press called The Crash - a collection of photos taken in the City of London in 2008. Here’s a selection:
What is truly affecting about Stephen’s photographs is the way these masters of the universe are only participants in a wider street life. And the street has its own authority - forcing them to drop their papers, or negotiate its street corners, or contend with bathos (the bankers striding past a window of discarded display dummies). For as long as they remain public thoroughfares - and the bylaws still allow public photography - we can still exercise what Richard Sennett once called the “conscience of the eye”.
For more on the philosophy of street photography, see this promotional video below on Stephen’s previous book. The Crash is available on Hoxton Mini Press.