Quote Series: Street Photography Quotes

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If you’re looking for the best street photography quotes then you’ve come to the right place. Below, we’ve listed over 60 of our favorite street photography quotes from the greatest street photographers such as Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, William Klein, and many more.

If your favorite street photography quote isn’t listed then feel free to share in the comments section at the bottom of the article.

Editor Note: If you find this street photography quotes article helpful then we would be grateful if you could share through social media and your own blogs.

The Best Street Photography Quotes

I believe that street photography is central to the issue of photography – that it is purely photographic, whereas the other genres, such as landscape and portrait photography, are a little more applied, more mixed in the with the history of painting and other art forms.

Joel Meyerowitz

I love the people I photograph. I mean, they’re my friends. I’ve never met most of them or I don’t know them at all, yet through my images, I live with them.

Bruce Gilden

I brush aside words and ideas and focus on photography as a means of expressing a message that is both psychological and phenomenological. Without that framework, my approach is very simple – there is no artistry. I just shoot freely. For example, most of my snapshots I take from a moving car, or while running, without the finder, and in those instances, one might say that I’m taking the pictures more with my body than with my eyes.

Daido Moriyama

Photography is essentially an act of recognition by street photographers, not an act of invention. Photographers might respond to an old man’s face, or an Arbus freak or the way light hits a building – and then they move on. Whereas in all the other art forms, take William Blake, everything that came to that paper never existed before. It’s the idea of alchemy, of making something from nothing.

Duane Michals

To photograph is to hold one’s breath when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It’s at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Cartier-Bresson Street Photography Quotes
Henri Cartier-Bresson, Behind the Gare Saint Lazare, 1932© Magnum

Why Street Photography

For me, the camera is a sketchbook, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity.

Henri Cartier-Bresson

I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.

Garry Winogrand

For me a photograph is a page from life, and that being the case, it must be real.

Weegee

I have always felt that a lot of the most interesting work, not just mine but other people’s, falls into [the]nether area, somewhere between the worlds of documentary and photojournalism (two very vague words) and the world of art. I think a lot of street photography falls into this nether area.

Alex Webb

Most people only take snapshots of things immediately around them in their daily life. Fundamentally that means that they’re not going out of their comfort zone. But out on the city streets, everything you encounter is alien and unknown. That’s what taking snapshot photographs of the city streets is: you’re capturing the alien and unknown.

Daido Moriyama

Sometimes I feel like the world is a place I bought a ticket to. It’s a big show for me as if it wouldn’t happen if I wasn’t there with a camera.

Garry Winogrand

Many photographers live in a dream world of beautiful backgrounds. It wouldn’t hurt them to get a taste of reality to wake them up.

Weegee

On the street each successive wave brings a whole new cast of characters, You take wave after wave, you bathe in it. There is something exciting about being in the crowd, in all that chance and change – its tough out there – but if you can keep paying attention something will reveal itself – just a split second – and then there’s a crazy cock-eyed picture.

Joel Meyerowitz

What Makes a Good Street Photograph?

If you can smell the street by looking at the photo, it’s a street photograph.

Bruce Gilden

When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.

Robert Frank

A picture is a secret about a secret, the more it tells you the less you know.

Diane Arbus

A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away.

Eudora Welty

Sometimes photographers mistake emotion for what makes a great street photograph.

Garry Winogrand

It may look like I’m just pointing the camera at what’s in front of me. But I’m trying to photograph what people see, but don’t notice – something that’s mysterious and unknown in everyday life.

Daido Moriyama

To me, a photograph means the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the meaning of an event on the one hand and the exact arrangement of the visually perceived forms expressing that event on the other.

Henri Cartier-Bresson

The difference between a good picture and a mediocre picture is a question of millimeters – small, small difference. But it’s essential. I don’t think there’s so much difference between photographers, but it’s that little difference that counts, maybe.

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Good photography is not about ‘Zone Printing’ or any other Ansel Adams nonsense. It’s just about seeing. You either see, or you don’t see. The rest is academic. Photography is simply a function of noticing things. Nothing more.

Elliott Erwitt
elliot-erwitt-street-quotes
Elliot Erwitt, New York, 2000 © Magnum

Finding your Photos

It’s akin to hunting, photography is. In the same way, you’re using a machine and you’re actually shooting something and you’re shooting to kill. You get the picture you want – that’s a kill. That’s a bull’s-eye.

Walker Evans

When I go out into the city, I have no plan. I walk down one street, and when I am drawn to turn the corner into another, I do. Really, I am like a dog: I decide where to go by the smell of things, and when I am tired, I stop.

Daido Moriyama

For me, photographs are taken in the eye before you’ve even thought what they mean. That’s the reality I’m interested in capturing. Daido Moriyama

Daido Moriyama

I am a hunter, I hunt for pictures. I’m not a verbal man. I have nothing to reveal. It’s all in the work, I hope.

Robert Frank

I prowled the streets all day, feeling very strung up and ready to pounce, determined to ‘trap’ life – to preserve life in the act of living. Above all, I craved to seize the whole essence, in the confines of one single photograph, of some situation that was in the process of unrolling itself before my eyes.

Henri Cartier-Bresson

One of the joys of photography is that you never know what will come at you from around the next corner.

Tom Ang

A photographer may not just walk the streets but he/or she does a lot of walking, with a purpose, so the most important piece of equipment after the camera is a good pair of shoes. A writer can do a lot of work from a hotel room but a photographer has to be there, so he/she is in for a hell of a lot of hiking.

David Hurn

You don’t go out to accidentally find something that’s going to make a good picture, but [instead, you find it] in yourself, knowing already what you want to do… at least subconsciously if not consciously; you find the thing in so-called nature or so-called reality which corresponds to this preconceived, this pre-sensitized, concept, which is hidden somewhere in your imagination or your subconscious… You go out and find what you are prepared to see.

Jacques-Henri Lartigue

Observation

I only know how to approach a place by walking. For what does a street photographer do but walk and watch and wait and talk, and then watch and wait some more, trying to remain confident that the unexpected, the unknown, or the secret heart of the known awaits just around the corner.

Alex Webb

You can find pictures anywhere. It’s simply a matter of noticing things and organizing them. You just have to care about what’s around you and have a concern with humanity and the human comedy.

Elliott Erwitt

I like discovery. I’m attracted to it. I like the feeling of going out, being at someplace, looking in at something. Observation is important.

Bruce Davidson

I often think of what I photograph as a soap opera, where I am waiting for the right cast to fall into place.

Martin Parr

That’s how I approach street photography: watching everything. If I think something might happen, then I will hang around. But most of the time I’m rushing from one corner of the city to another, just looking for stuff.

Trent Parke

By temperament, I am not unduly excitable and certainly not trigger-happy. I think twice before I shoot and very often do not shoot at all. By professional standards, I do not waste a lot of film, but by the standards of many of my colleagues, I probably miss quite a few of my opportunities. Still, the things I am after are not in a hurry as a rule. I am a photographer of London.

Bill Brandt
Bill Brandt, Street Photography Quotes
Bill Brandt. Evening in Kenwood. c. 1934 © Bill Brandt Estate

Chance and Happy Accidents

Chance is always there. We all use it. The difference is a poor photographer meets chance one out of a hundred times and a good photographer meets chance all the time.

Brassai

Sometimes, I’d take shots without aiming, just to see what happened. I’d rush into crowds – bang! bang! … It must be close to what a fighter feels after jabbing and circling and getting hit, when suddenly there’s an opening, and bang! Right on the button. It’s a fantastic feeling.

William Klein

I love mistakes in photography. Sometimes they work.

Robert Frank

For me, it’s all about chance, coincidence, mistakes… it’s all about discovery for me, those things that change your perception of where you’re going with the next body of work.

Trent Parke

People are so wonderful that a photographers has only to wait for that breathless moment to capture what he wants on film… and when that split second of time is gone, it’s dead and can never be brought back.

Weegee
The Invisible Street Photographer

Avoid making a commotion, just as you wouldn’t stir up the water before fishing. Don’t use a flash out of respect for the natural lighting, even when there isn’t any. If these rules aren’t followed, the photographer becomes unbearably obtrusive.

Henri Cartier-Bresson

I also don’t like to stand still because you attract attention to yourself. I’ve never been pulled up on the street and it is simply because nobody ever sees me. I’m there and I’m gone. If you spend too much time in a place you tend to start affecting what’s happening around you. And I just want to capture things as they are without influencing the action in any way.

Trent Parke

If there is any method in the way I take pictures, I believe it lies in this. See the subject first. Do not try to force it to be a picture of this, that, or the other thing. Stand apart from it. Then something will happen. The subject will reveal itself.

Bill Brandt

There are photographic fanatics, just as there are religious fanatics. They buy a so-called candid camera… there is no such thing; it’s the photographer that has to be candid, not the camera.

Weegee

Voyeurism in photography is a necessary and professional sickness. Look at, capture, observe, frame, target. These are the laws of our field. The world is totally different when I look at it through the viewfinder. I always take a step back from what I see through my camera. I use it as a screen.

Helmut Newton

I am not a voyeur, as voyeurs photograph through closed windows, and with me, the window is always wide open.

Nan Goldin

Photography can reveal so much. It’s the invasion of the privacy of the people. I felt like a detective or a spy. Yes! Often I had uncomfortable moments. Nobody gave me a hard time because I had a talent for not being noticed.

Robert Frank
Robert Frank
Robert Frank. The Americans, NY (Fourth of July) 1958 © Robert Frank Estate/Pace/MacGill Gallery
The Visible Street Photographer

If you photograph for a long time, you get to understand such things as body language. I often do not look at people I photograph, especially afterwards. Also when I want a photo, I become somewhat fearless, and this helps a lot. There will always be someone who objects to being photographed, and when this happens you move on.

Martin Parr

Once a woman who does street work said to me, ‘I’ve never photographed anyone I haven’t asked first.’ I said to her, ‘Suppose Cartier-Bresson asked the man who jumped the puddle to do it again – it never would have been the same. Start stealing!’

Imogen Cunningham

The trouble was that when I got out into the street, I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t like invading the privacy of perfect strangers. It seemed such an aggressive thing to do. Also, I have to control what I shoot, and I found that I couldn’t control Times Square.

Richard Avedon

I go straight in very close to people and I do that because it’s the only way you can get the picture. You go right up to them. Even now, I don’t find it easy. I don’t announce it. I pretend to be focusing elsewhere. If you take someone’s photograph it is very difficult not to look at them just after. But it’s the one thing that gives the game away. I don’t try and hide what I’m doing – that would be folly.

Martin Parr

I was very consciously trying to do the opposite of what Cartier-Bresson was doing. He did pictures without intervening. He was like the invisible camera. I wanted to be visible in the biggest way possible.

William Klein

Motivational Quotes

Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.

Henri Cartier-Bresson

The first thing I always tell anyone who asks me for advice is: Get outside. It’s all about getting out and walking. That’s the first thing. The second thing is, forget everything you’ve learned on the subject of photography for the moment, and just shoot. Take photographs – of anything and everything, whatever catches your eye. Don’t pause to think. That’s the advice I give people…

Daido Moriyama

I don’t think you’re ever an objective observer. By making a frame you’re being selective, then you edit the pictures you want published and you’re being selective again. You develop a point of view that you want to express. You try to go into a situation with an open mind, but then you form an opinion and you express it in your photographs. It is very important for a photographer to have a point of view – that contributes to a great photograph.

Mary Ellen Mark

All the technique in the world doesn’t compensate for the inability to notice.

Elliott Erwitt

If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.

Robert Capa

My ultimate goal is to try to make the ordinary look extraordinary.

Martin Parr

Be yourself. I much prefer seeing something, even it is clumsy, that doesn’t look like somebody else’s work.

William Klein
William Klein, Street Photography Quotes
William Klein. New York, 1956 © William Klein Estate

What are your favorite Street Photography quotes?

After reading these street photography quotes, do you have a favorite? Which ones inspire you to pick up your camera and head out on the streets? Are there any street photography quotes you like that we may not have included on this list?

As always, your thoughts, comments, suggestions, and ideas are welcome in the comments section below!

Hopefully, this street photography quotes article has provided some inspiration. If you’ve found it helpful then we would be grateful if you could share through social media, photography forums, and your own blogs.

PS – Don’t forget to check out the related street photography articles below for more inspiration from master photographers.

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Founder of Photogpedia.com. Photography enthusiast, occasional filmmaker, part-time writer and full-time dreamer. Rediscovered photography in 2012 and have been trying to level up my photography skills since (I'm getting there) #chasingthecreative

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