Richard Bram : street photography, reportage, portrait

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On Street Photography

I am an urban man. My adult life has been spent by choice in the centers of cities rather than the suburbs. Being in a city means that I walk, or ride public transport, rather than drive. This enables me to see what is happening around me. These images are my personal visual diary: they are not staged or created artificially. Reality is quite strange enough.

I am a Street Photographer. This is to be, as Max Kozloff put it, a 'professional stranger.' Most of my photographs originate there, in the random chaos of the street, in the ambient weirdness of everyday life. Street Photography may be the single most difficult photographic genre. It is a fierce challenge: to condense from the chaos of reality something visually valid and psychologically revealing about both the subject, the viewer and perhaps the photographer into a rectangle in a fraction of a second. The editing process can be downright heartbreaking: so many frames, so few photographs.

The images here represent strands that have always run through my street work: angst, romance, humor. Some were shot in London, some in New York, some elsewhere, but the same themes recur in all places. Cities are stressful: the pressures of work, social interaction, constant noise, dirt and lack of private space all add to the tension. Yet people manage to live, love, take pleasure in life in the midst of it all, and that's what I'm trying to reflect.

When shooting, I don't know precisely what I'm looking for until it happens in front of me. This is the great difficulty of working the street. Most of the photos happen as I'm walking from one place to another: Generally I'm only briefly in any one spot. Once in a great while there is time to work a situation, to get more than one or two frames of a scene, but rarely.

If some of my images make others laugh, that is a wonderful thing; the world needs more laughter. However, I think my work has shifted over the years. It is moving away from the 'one-liner' visual joke towards images that also operate on a deeper level and are more ambiguous and layered in meaning.

Through most of my career, my personal work was shot on black and white film. I'd always been more drawn to it.I like the level of abstraction it brings: the distilled monochromatic essence of a frame without the distraction of color. 'In black and white you look at the faces; in color you look at the clothes.'

However, in 2010 I began consciously to shoot the streets in color. I had no problem with color per se, having always made color images for commercial work. The digital revolution has returned me to color street photography, as now I can fully control the color and make prints myself, something I was never able to do with color chemistry. Color is much harder to do well because there is so much more that can go wrong. It's like drawing vs. painting: getting the lines and shades right is hard, but when you start putting pigments into it as well it gets really hard. I welcome the challenge, though: it's keeping me awake and re-invigorating my photography.