Photographers’ Approaches to Photograph the Unaware

Walker Evans:

Walker Evans (1903 – 1975) shot portraits of strangers with a camera concealed under his coat using a shutter release hidden under his sleeve.  He was attracted to people dressed in unusual clothing and to striking expressions.  His photographs were simple, straightforward and precise.  People appear off-center, pushed to the edge and slightly tilted.  His photographs are selections of cropped images and some are even printed parts of two adjacent negatives together.

In Evans photographs some of the strangers he took photos of using his hidden camera stare directly at him or into the lens as if they are aware.  It might be Evans’s way of observing them that make them suspicious.

©Walker Evans

Martin Parr:

Martin Parr, a British documentary photographer, photojournalist and photo book collector goes out into the streets observing people and haunting for the right shot using a sense of humor.  He sometimes creeps up on people with a wide angle either from behind or close at the face and when they notice him; he smiles and cracks a joke and interacts with his victims so they would relax and allow him to take more shots.

Parr did not stick to one type  of camera, he used his 35mm black and white film on a Leica, medium format colour film, 35mm colour film with a macro lens and a DSLR camera.

Tom Wood:

A street photographer, portraitist and landscape photographer born in Ireland.  Wood records the daily lives of people using different format and photographic styles.  He is always on the street taking photos and people got used to see him and know him.  He blends in and becomes part of the place he visits and goes to it week after week.  He knows what lens to use and the camera is always down to his chest or waist.

His work “Looking for Love” was a series that took place at the long-gone disco pub called “Chelsea Reach”, a place close to where Wood lived.  He used to go there regularly till people got used to seeing him there and eventually not paying much attention to him when he started taking their photos.

Philip Lorca diCorcia:

An American fine art photographer born in 1951.  DiCorcia  explains that the people he photograph are strangers that he does not speak to them or even know anything about them.   He is not comfortable photographing people he states; that is why he developed the strategies used which are either capturing the images at the right moment or by just positioning them in the stage he has set using artificial lighting.

His series “Heads” is an example of his creativity and unique ideas.  Creating this series; diCorcia used a strobe light attached to scaffolding on a subway, and used a hidden camera to capture his subjects that happen to pass by and become highlighted by the strobe lighting.  The technique isolates his subjects by highlighting them while leaving the rest of the image in dark giving the photographs a cinematic feel to it.  His photographs are staged but unposed!

This short video talks about his photographs and diCorcia himself explains about them and how he created them:

Lukas Kuzma:

A photographer born in Zatec, Czech Rebublic whose photos are candid.  He captures people going about their everyday life routine.  Here is a link to a short film about Lukas Kuzma, thanks to fellow student Andrew Fitzgibbon who shared the link with all of us to use after emailing the photographer.

In the video we see Kuzma using different approaches like stopping and shooting what he sees directly with a small camera or using the LCD screen on the back of the camera to see the scene, choose it and shoot.  In one of the clips he is shown holding the camera down to his waist.  Kuzma stops, observes then shoot.  He does not see differently; he stares just with more attention he says.




Bibliography / References:

Annie Shephard. Photography: Walker Evans’ NYC Subway Portraits [online]. Untapped Cities. Available from: [Accessed 05 October, 2016].

Charles Hagen.  Review/Photography; What Walker Evans Saw on His Subway Rides [online]. The New York Times. Available from: [Accessed 05 October, 2016].

Eric Kim.  10 Things Martin Parr Can Teach You About Street Photography [online]. Eric Kim. Available from: [Accessed 05 October, 2016].

Jonathan Jones. Subway Portrait, Walker Evans (1938-41) [online]. The Guardian. Available from: [Accessed 04 October, 2016].

Lukas Kuzma. Lukas Kuzma Homepage [online]. Available from: [Accessed 04 October, 2016].

Philip Gefter. A Bygone Time Captured Through the Lens of Walker Evans [online]. The New York Times. Available from: [Accessed 04 October, 2016].

Sean O’Hagan.  Girls (and boys) just wanna have fun: smoke, sticky carpets and snogging in the 80s [online]. The Guardian. Available from: [Accessed 04 October, 2016].

The Photography Blogger.  Famous Photographer Series: Philip-Lorca di Corcia (Heads) [online]. The Photography Blogger. Available from: [Accessed 05 October, 2016].


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