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Of Streets and Zoos 

February 5, 2013 
by Richard Kalvar 
The kind of photography I do for pleasure is generally called “Street Photography”, but no one who actually does it limits himself or herself to the street. We take pictures wherever we find them, and whether it’s on the street or on a farm or at a wedding makes no difference. The key distinction is not between “street and “non-street”, but between “found” and “set up”.

There’s another useful distinction to be made, between situations where it’s acceptable to take pictures and those where it’s not. Walking around sticking your camera in people’s faces when they don’t know what you’re up to is risky business; photographing at a wedding is generally not (although I photographed at a wedding in Naples in 2011 and got an awful lot of funny looks...).

Cartier-Bresson once described the ambiance at the Arles photography festival as being like a safari in a zoo. I think that wonderful expression also applies to these situations where your presence is accepted, and your perceived threat defanged. Then you can dream of putting on the cloak of invisibility, the impossible goal of any self-respecting voyeuristic photographer.

So I do a lot of my slaughtering in zoos; it’s a lot less dangerous, and the meat’s just as tasty. But I do try to sneak around and hunt in the street (and elsewhere), too. There’s more sport in the chase, and what you find can be more unusual.

I’m just back from Davos, a zoo par excellence (in the sense that I speak about above; I hope my friends at the World Economic Forum won’t be offended). I’m buried under the thousands of pictures that I took, and hope to come up for air this weekend. I’ll try to post something then. In the meanwhile, here’s a picture from this year’s annual meeting, another from a wedding, and a third from the street.