Book Review: The Street Photographer’s Manual

Review: David Gibson. The Street Photographer’s Manual. London and New York: Thames & Hudson, 2014.

As I said in the previous post, I began doing a little street photography before I knew the terminology for it, and before I saw any books about it. Yes, others were doing it, and they knew what they were doing. Some of them had published books like The Decisive Moment,and The Americans. But I was busy with family and career and was unfortunately ignorant of all that. Now times have changed. There is so much interest in street photography that Facebook has automatically generated a page with the title. (I didn’t know they do that!). The book Street Photography Now was the first I read that was specific to this movement. Now others are being published as interest expands.
David Gibson is one of the founding members of the international collective of street photographers called In-Public, which was founded in 2000. This book draws on his wide personal experience with this genre as well as his acquaintance with its history and with other practitioners. In fact there are pages with representative photos from twenty other photographer interspersed throughout the text. This book would be a wonderful introduction for a street beginner, and I wish I had seen such a book 20 years ago. However, the more experienced and inter-mediate level shooter will also enjoy it both for its suggestions and its examples.
The book is laid out in five chapters with simple one-word titles: Busy, Quiet, Abstract, Still and Subjects. Within each chapter are what he calls Projects. These are the meat of the book. They suggest a wide spectrum of types of photography that suggest the truth of the dictum that street photography is just photography. This is not a book about equipment or the technicalities of the art. Very little is said about cameras after a few brief statements. The pictures, and there are many, do not give f-stops and camera information. Gibson does not consider this a how-to book despite the fact that the 20 Projects in the book provide a good set of starting points for anyone interested or engaged in this genre of photography. Still, there are some technical suggestions offered from time to time. Each Project concludes with practical tips, so the person looking for some how-to advice will not be disappointed, while the person of experience who just wishes to engage more of the community of street photographers will be benefited as well.