I think there is something inside most photographers that loves the idea of street photography. It seems like of the purer bastions of our field, a field where you’ll run across, with such frequency, the term ‘capturing moments,’ to the point where the phrase makes you physically ill. Or is that just me? Regardless, street photography, is very much the embodiment of that phrase, fair to say more so than any other genre.
Many of those past and present that are hailed as greats, were largely street photographers; Cartier-Bresson, Eugene Atget, Robert Frank, and now you have Eric Kim, Danny Santos Jr, and Martin Parr. All of them unique, and all of them uniquely brilliant. Differentiating yourself in that field can be tough, but there’s something about Thomas Leuthard that makes me think he is on his way. Mostly, it’s his use of flash in his street photography. It’s gutsy, and raw, and in this video (below) he shows how he does it, which is equal parts inspiring, and awe-inspiring.
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The thought of taking to the streets of some major metropolis donning a camera, even a small one, and shooting strangers is a slightly terrifying proposal for many, myself included. I can shoot the sh*t with the best of them and go up and speak to about anyone, but photograph strangers with or without them knowing? Not so much. Add to that momentarily blinding them with a bright burst from an SB-900 handheld whilst zoomed and in close proximity for a lens on the wider side? I’d rather walk through Tehran in a Star Of David T-Shirt.
Leuthard though, a Swiss native, doesn’t seem to flinch at the thought. At this point, an experienced street photographer in his own right, he’s travelled to major cities dotted around the globe and managed to develop a unique style, and pushed the envelope of what’s been done before. His images can straddle the line between paparazzi and documentary, but many really evoke emotion. His photos taken with flash are really interesting and add a cinematic flare to the mundane. Seeing him in action, however, really takes the cake. His approach seems to go against almost everything most street photographers will tell you about how to do it. He gets right up to his subjects, takes multiple photos of them, and of course, sometimes showers them in massive bursts of light.
What’s incredible to me is the subjects don’t seem to react poorly, nor get upset, and even give him smiles. Now, I don’t know if this is just a consequence of the cities he photographs, but I would probably warn you that should you try this in North America, there stands a good chance you’ll get your butt handed to you. You’ve been warned. That said, however, Leuthard does offer advice on how to do what he does, and it’s actually practical.
Images are screen captures from featured video