Street Photography Storytelling: Composition

Street photography storytelling is part of the documentary genre taken in public areas.  It is usually depicting spontaneous moment of everyday life. Henri Cartier-Bresson, amongst others, popularized this type of artistic photography in France.  Today, his pictures are inspiring many photographers in that genre.

Is there any better place to do street photography but Marseille, France?  After all this is where Henri Cartier-Bresson bought his first Leica Camera!  So here I am in Marseille, doing street photography storytelling.  I try to get the most of every moment.  I am looking avidly around me.

Street of MarseilleIs street photography good for storytelling?

Street photography must tell a story or inspire us into a potential story.  Street photography storytelling does not have to tell everything.  I like to leave some questions unanswered.

I really like this picture taken in 2011 while I was in Marseille.  This couple is not in their twenties anymore.  Although we often see young people’s walking holding their hands in public, this is less common for mature adults. They are looking in the same direction, which contribute to our curiosity.  Looking at their attire, backpack and so on, we might think of them as tourist visiting the city.  This is street photography storytelling.  Some might argue that taking them from behind and not viewing their faces and expressions is a downer and I agree.  However, street photography is often about stealing a moment.  I would argue that storytelling is more important than considerations about composition.

Talking about composition, I deliberately tilted the camera while taking the picture to create an extra interest.  This is called a Dutch angle.  We will come back on this later on in this post.

Great subjects for street photography storytelling are these interactions between peoples.  These are great starting point to build a story.  Story that our imagination will leverage some more after seeing the picture.


Using Silver eFex Pro from Nik Software I chose a dark vignette and I framed the picture, which is unusual.  In this case, I found brighter areas at the edge of the frame would lead the viewer away from the subject.  The frame help keep our eyes in the picture.  I add some grain to emulate the Fuji FP4 Film (one of the options of Silver eFex).  This helps create this older look that were typical of Henri Cartier-Bresson pictures.   Feel free to comment on these choices also.

A word of caution

This being said, pay attention when publishing pictures taken on the street.  Although nobody can prevent you from taking pictures, there is a code of conduct that applies to publishing picture of strangers.  Moreover, most countries have legislation that might prevent you to publish a picture depending on various factors.

Since I only use pictures for editorial, journalistic and educational purpose, my code of conduct is the following:  Would I be in that picture, would I appreciate it being published the way I intend to publish it.

I usually limit myself to the above statement.  However, when people could be recognized and I know them, I ask the permission telling them about the purpose before publishing.

Now about the question as it related to this picture.  Do you believe that using a Dutch angle was appropriate and help this picture?  Read more on it on Wikipedia and give me your opinion about tilting the camera that way in Street Photography storytelling.