Streets ahead

Fiona Wallace of Kilmaurs Photographic Club looks forward to exploring the subject of street photography with guest speaker, Stephen Cosh.

The word on the street

The word “photographer” for many summons up the picture of someone meticulously setting up equipment and posing subjects for studio portraits, or out in the countryside waiting for the perfect sunrise or sunset or for the appearance of a shy animal. In both of these common scenarios, the common factor is that the photographer has planned the event in some detail in advance and has given a lot of time and consideration to taking the shot.

But what if there was a type of photography where spontaneity and capturing those instant moments of day to day life is the key ingredient?   Well, there is, and it is called street. So what actually is street and what makes it so exciting?

2 A girls' night out captured by Stephen in his image Cowgirl
2 A girls’ night out captured by Stephen in his image Cowgirl

Street photography is generally accepted to refer to images taken of chance encounters and random occurrences encountered by the photographer in the public spaces that surround our daily life. The photographer does not set out with a particular subject in mind, but instead keeps a sharp eye out for things of interest that can be captured in an instant. The emphasis is very much on capturing a natural, unplanned situation, and the subject and surroundings must not be posed or staged in any way.

Street photography is therefore by nature spontaneous and this allows the photographer to capture an “as it happens” image complete with all the natural emotions being displayed by the subject. The excitement of a street festival on the faces of the performers; the delight on the faces of the spectators; the emotions of the public watching an incident unfold in a town centre; or simply the bored expression on the child’s face waiting with a parent at the supermarket checkout – it is all about seeing the story in that possibly fleeting moment.

And in street, every image tells a story – regardless of whether the subject is a celebrity or a homeless person or a gallus Glasgow dog. The added value lies in giving the viewer a feeling of being there in the moment along with the subjects.

3 Stephen Cosh's Chosen
3 Stephen Cosh’s Chosen

Most street photography involves people and places, and while a lot of it is shot in urban settings, it can equally be taken in more rural environments. It doesn’t even have to involve people – animal subjects in the urban landscape are equally interesting.

So is it difficult to do? Many will tell you that it isn’t, and street photography is often dubbed the “one camera- one lens genre”. This is because the images are not posed and because the photographer needs to be ready at all times to whip out a camera and shoot when the moment arises. Nowadays, the improvements in their technology means the style is almost tailor-made for phone cameras. And of course this makes it far more accessible to most people.

And the beauty of the genre is that we can cover a lot of what in other situations might be deemed mistakes by claiming these as gritty realism. A slight fuzziness of focus that would never do in a landscape can be an added boost to a street image. And while we’d be faulted for not removing litter or items of street furniture such as bins from our posed images of an urban building, in the street scene it in fact adds to the story.


Stephen Cosh – the man on the street

So is it a big thing, this street photography? Yes it is and it has been around for a century and over the years it has thrown up many champions of the genre. On Monday October 29th, Kilmaurs Photographic Club will get their chance to meet one such virtuoso when they will be delighted to welcome Stephen Cosh as their guest speaker.

4 Tourists image by the club's own Donnie Briggs
4 Tourists image by the club’s own Donnie Briggs

Stephen is an internationally published Scottish landscape and street photographer. He is a 47 year old designer who runs his own branding agency in which photography plays a big part.

He spends his time going between landscape and street photography. Stephen’s sees his landscape work as being shot specifically to be hung on walls. He creates beautiful, moody, atmospheric images by blending a deep understanding of light and long exposure skills.

His street work is gritty, personal and often dark and detached, while his street portraiture shows a connection, understanding and respect of his subjects.

Stephen is also at home with both digital and film. Says Stephen: “I shoot mostly digital for my commercial shoots, just because it’s quicker and more commercially viable, but now and again I do use film for client work. However, for my own street work, landscapes and portraits I use film almost all the time unless it is night work.” Stephen also admits to being ‘obsessed’ with the digital process.   He sees the ultimate photographic process as being to shoot in film, develop it then scan the negatives and then work them up digitally.  “It’s the best of both worlds.” He states: “You get that beautiful “real” grain of film and the power of digital processing.”

5 image by club member Robin Patrick
5 image by club member Robin Patrick

In a recent interview in Emulsive magazine, Stephen says of himself: “I started in photography when I was 14 in 1984 on an old Olympus SLR but I gave up photography shortly afterwards and didn’t start again until my 30’s. When I did start again it was landscapes that got me going and soon afterwards, street photography and street portraiture. I’m a creative guy and I suppose that drives me to get out and shoot. It’s an instant creative hit.”

His photography takes him all over the world, shooting both professionally and for recreation.

With several influences on his work (he cites Italian born but Glasgow bred Oscar Marzaroli as a major favourite) Stephen is certainly making his own impact on the world of street photography.  Stephen has kindly agreed to us using some of his marvellous images in this article.


Next Meeting

Stephen will be with us at our meeting on October 29th.  If you would like to come along to this or any Kilmaurs Photographic Club meeting, they are held on Monday evenings in the Masonic Halls, Kilmaurs.  Visitors and prospective new members are most welcome. The evenings start at 7.30pm and end around 9.45pm.

If you want to see what else the club does, the syllabus for the season can be seen on the club website