Chatting to the NY street photographer about a new documentary, technology and whether the camera phone has restored photography Dazed Digital are here to share the goods ...
As part of the Nokia Lumia 925 Low Light Photography Competition, we take a look at the inspiring work of Cheryl Dunn. Street photographer and film-maker too, her work on street photography showcases what's possible with a willingness to get outside and the means to capture what you see. Putting the call out for the next great in the genre Cheryl has mastered, Dazed and Nokia have been inundated with entries. Now it's time for you the public to vote - bid for your choice and give the winner a brand new Nokia 925.
When Cheryl Dunn first got into professional photography, she found herself trying to capture the unpredictable and frenetic action going down in the boxing ring. This experience, coupled with a love for graffiti, would later lead her down the natural route of street photography, a genre that has provided much of the subject matter for her subsequent, successful career as a photographer and filmmaker. Her most recent endeavour is the feature length documentary Everybody Street, a film doubling as a historical portrait of New York City’s street photography tradition and an introduction to some of its most important practitioners, from early hip-hop style chronicler Jamel Shabazz to former Photo League-member Rebecca Lepkoff. We talked to Cheryl on the phone from New York – the city that inspired both the doc and her own images – about history, technology and whether the camera phone has the potential to yield a new photographic sensibility.
DD: What was it that first attracted you to shooting in the streets rather than, say, studio work?
Cheryl Dunn: When I started shooting boxing in the 1980s, I suddenly had a ticket into this really inaccessible world. I used this subject as an opportunity to hone my skills, as it’s very difficult to get great shots of boxing since you’re pinned to certain sides of the ring and have to pick where you’re going to stand. You have to be flexible, instinctual and fast, and that was really the foundation of my photography practice. I also documented a lot of graffiti stuff happening on the street, so I guess two of my early practices led me to do more and more street photography. It was just what made me happy, and I could do it all day, every day.
It’s really hard and it requires so much patience, it’s not like you can create things or make scenes happen. You can anticipate something and put yourself in a place where it might possibly happen, but you can never create it. That’s what I love about it, actually. Photography is not a democratic medium – in the business sense. More so than ever before, because in the past you kind of had to know what you were doing technically, whereas now cameras sort of do everything for you. So the photography business is more of a personality thing, or about who you know. That is not democratic to me – it’s not necessarily about your talent or skills. That’s something that bothers me about many aspects of life... I think street photography is just like, if you don’t put in the time it doesn’t matter if you are rich or privileged or whatever – you’re not good at it.
Everybody Street will be screened at the Raindance Film Festival, 25th September - 6th October 2013.