is it a painting? street photography and ambiguity

A few days ago I printed and framed an image I’d taken this summer on a hot day in London. Here it is:


When my husband saw it he asked me whether it was a painting. I realised I was pleased that the image had this ambiguity; that it could be perceived of as a painting yet it was a photograph. It fits into the genre of street photography; it is an unconstructed, spontaneous moment, shot in a public space, and contains a passerby unaware of the photographer’s gaze.

Here are some other pictures I’ve taken this year that I feel possess a painterly quality yet are examples of street photography. These images do not include visible people but contain traces of human presence:

Obscured facades in Brooklyn:

Another image from Brooklyn; this one has a view of Brooklyn Bridge overlaid with a graffiti tag. The numerous triangles in the composition and the background texture surrounding the bridge view suggest abstract painting to me,

Reflections and graffiti in Knightsbridge. To me this looks like a mixed-media piece; as if I’d painted over a photograph or collage, but it’s a straight photograph:


A night shot Рa  wild-haired mannequin head with red lips, reflected shop windows and shadows of passersby:


And finally this street photograph of architectural facades and reflections taken in Ginza, Tokyo, which has a cubist, abstract feel:


1 thought on “is it a painting? street photography and ambiguity”

  1. These are wonderful Mish! My favourites are the 1st, which somehow makes me think of Venice, and the last, which is simply a masterpiece – stunning work! X Elaine


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