It took root in New York in the 60s and 70s with compelling images of street life that captured the heart of the city. But anxieties about privacy, terrorism, and paedophilia have conspired to make the art of street photography ever more difficult. Sean O'Hagan recalls the movement's heyday and charts today's pioneers
Back in the 1960s, when New York was the centre of street photography, the main practitioners of the form would sometimes cross paths. Lee Friedlander was friends with Garry Winogrand who often met Joel Meyerowitz as they crisscrossed Manhattan and beyond on the prowl for pictures that caught the city's tempo, its myriad everyday dramas, and its citizens at work and at play.
In terms of personality, Winogrand was easily the most aggressive. Friedlander later said of him, only half-joking, "He was a bull of a man and the world was his china shop." Meyerowitz later recalled how Winogrand "set a tempo on the street so strong that it was impossible not to follow it. It was like jazz. You just had to get in the same groove."